Michael Sheen on recording Philip Pullman's The Secret Commonwealth

Philip Pullman’s new Book of Dust book is almost here, and Michael Sheen is helping bring it to life.

The award-winning actor, currently starring on Amazon’s Good Omens, records the audiobook for The Secret Commonwealth, which publishes Oct. 3. It’s the second volume in Pullman’s Book of Dust trilogy, an expansion of the author’s beloved His Dark Materials world, which is set to be adapted into an HBO series of the same name; it’ll unveil the next chapter in the life of indelible heroine Lyla.

“I am very much in the Pullman bubble — both exhilarated and exhausted,” Sheen says in an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the recording process, which you can watch above. “I’m in control of it all, in a way. I love being able to play all the parts, because I’m essentially a control freak. There are parts I’d never be able to play on film or stage.”

Here’s the official synopsis to the sprawling Secret Commonwealth: “Lyra Silvertongue’s adventures in the North are long over — the windows between the many worlds have been sealed, and her beloved Will is lost to her. She does still have the alethiometer: the truth-telling device given to her by the master of Jordan College, which guided her journey. Lyra doesn’t know the full story of the alethiometer, though. Or the role that young Malcolm Polstead played in bringing both the instrument and baby Lyra to Jordan. She’s now a 20-year-old undergraduate at St. Sophia’s College. To her, Malcolm is Dr. Polstead, an overly solicitous professor she would prefer to avoid. But intrigue is swirling around Lyra once more. Her daemon Pantalaimon is witness to a brutal murder, and the dying man entrusts them with secrets that carry echoes from their past. They learn of a city haunted by daemons, of a desert said to hold the secret of Dust.”

Says Sheen: “It’s just eight hours a day of me doing it…. It’s unlike doing anything else that I’ve ever done. But there’s something wonderful about that as well: to be so in the world of the piece.”

The actor also notes the challenge of recording such an epic piece, and having to stray at times from Pullman’s intention. “Sometimes I have to make a decision about what a character’s going to sound like — not necessarily what Philip intended in the writing of it, but also what’s going to work best for the audience, listening to it, or things that will differentiate characters from each other that maybe wasn’t Philip’s intention,” he says. “Trying to find that balance is quite difficult.”

Watch the full video above. The Secret Commonwealth is available for pre-order.

Related content:

  • The stars of HBO’s His Dark Materials reveal what their dæmons would be
  • Michael Sheen will narrate Book of Dust Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage audiobook

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