HBO, BBC Drama From 'Happy Valley' Writer Finds Its Star

Suranne Jones has been cast in 'Gentleman Jack,' formerly known as 'Shibden Hall.'
Suranne Jones

HBO and BBC One's upcoming drama from Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright has found its star.

Suranne Jones, the British actress known for Coronation Street and Doctor Foster, has been cast as the lead in Gentleman Jack, formerly known as Shibden Hall. The eight-part series will tell the story of lesbian English landowner Anne Lister and how she set out to marry a wealthy heiress during the Industrial Revolution.

The drama focuses on Anne and her determination to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, by marrying well. Anne is a charismatic, single-minded, swashbuckling landowner who charms her way into high society, ignores convention and sets out to marry a wealthy woman. The story examines Anne’s relationships at home with her family, her servants, her tenants and her industrial rivals — and, most importantly, with her would-be-wife, the wealthy heiress Ann Walker.

To restore Shibden Hall to its former glory, Anne must reopen her coal mines and marry well. But she has no intention of marrying a man. True to her own nature, she plans to marry a woman. And not just any woman: The woman Anne Lister marries must be seriously wealthy. Every part of Anne’s story is based in historical fact, recorded in the four million words of her diaries that contain the most intimate details of her life, once hidden in a secret code that is now broken.

Gentleman Jack is set to start filming next year in Yorkshire. The project was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content, and Piers Wenger. Executive producers include Wainwright, Faith Penhale for Lookout Point and Wenger for BBC One.

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