Charles Dickens is one of those authors whose works manage to be both a part of popular culture while still proving highly threatening to students everywhere. You could probably reel off a list of the man’s works with precious little effort, but – and maybe this is just me here – I still get a chill and a nasty flashback when someone asks me, “Have you read ‘David Copperfield’?” That’s probably why, even at the age of 38, I’d still prefer to watch an adaptation of one of Dickens’ novels rather than actually read one of them. (I know. I’m a philistine. But I’m comfortable with it.)

PBS, of course, has never been afraid to take the work of Dickens and transform it into a major production, so it’s no surprise to find that they’re to be airing three such adaptations – “Oliver Twist,” “Little Dorrit,” and “The Old Curiosity Shop” – as part of what’s being called “The Incomplete Dickens.”

When you look at Timothy Spall, known to “Harry Potter” fans around the world as the man who plays Peter Pettigrew, you have to admit: the guy was born to play Fagin in “Oliver Twist.” And when you see his performance, you’ll be hard pressed to avoid using the word “creepy” when describing him.

That might sound like an insult, but let’s call it more of a left-handed compliment, shall we? Besides, it’s not like Spall isn’t aware of a recurring thread amongst many of the characters he has played.

“They’re sort of all repulsive,” he admitted. “They are somewhat divine, and they are repulsive, aren’t they? Looking at what I do and standing the way I stand and acting the way I do, I’ve always thought it’s part of my job to give people who are undesirable a really good crack at the game. And then I laugh at trying to turn the tables on characters that are perceived as being pariahs or outcasts or repulsive or repugnant in some way and make you realize that even the most reprehensible and undesirables of characters are human beings. If I get a chance, I try to give it a go and make you feel bad about hating them as well.”

He’s amused, however, by how much one of the smallest parts he’s ever played – Peter Pettigrew – is the one that has become one of his signature roles.

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