BBC Worldwide, BBC Two Commission Convict Drama ‘Banished’

Iain Canning & Emile Sherman - Colin Firth's 50th Birthday - 2010
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The UK-Australian co-production, which stars David Wenham, will be produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning's See-Saw Films and Jimmy McGovern's RSJ Films.

Emile Sherman and Iain Canning's See-Saw Films and Jimmy McGovern and Sita Williams' RSJ Films are joining forces to produce period drama, Banished, the first commission for BBC Worldwide's new flagship premium drama and comedy channel, BBC First.

BBC First will launch in Australia in August with Banished scheduled to air in 2015.

As an official UK-Australia co-production, the seven-part series that is written by McGovern centers on events in the 18th century when Britain established its penal colony on the other side of the world. The ambitious series charts the lives, loves, relationships and battle for survival of a group of convicts, the marines that guard them and men who govern them in the early days of the settlement.

David Wenham (Top of The Lake) stars as Governor Arthur Phillip, the pragmatic idealist who wanted to turn the ramshackle settlement of Sydney from a penal colony into land of opportunity, while his nemesis Major Ross played by Joseph Millson (Holby City) thinks the only chance of survival is to rule with an iron fist.

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Alongside, bonds of love and friendship are forged between convicts: Elizabeth Quinn (Myanna Buring), Tommy Barrett (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and James Freeman (Russell Tovey). But their shared devotion is destined to challenge the doctrines on which the fledging colony has been founded. 

"How the first convicts survived is the best story I've come across in over thirty years as a dramatist. When you've got something like that, you don't worry about the narrative; you just concentrate on the characters. That is what we did. Consequently I don't think I've ever written anything so character-driven." McGovern said in a statement.

 Natalie Edgar, director of television BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand, added: "This is a very exciting first commission for BBC First. It exemplifies all the things that BBC drama stands for with outstanding talent on both sides of the camera. Jimmy McGovern has been responsible for some of the most ground-breaking drama series created over the years and after the huge success of Top of the Lake I'm delighted to be working with See-Saw Films again as well as the talented team at RSJ."

The series starts filming in Sydney this April before moving to Manchester in the UK.

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The tie with BBC Worldwide and See-Saw Films follows their successful partnership making Top Of The Lake in 2013. McGovern and his British based RSJ Films shingle join the series after McGovern  script edited and mentored on three series of ABC TV's acclaimed contemporary indigenous drama Redfern Now.

Banished is written and devised by McGovern. Shaun Duggan (Accused) has written episode five. Sita Williams is producer and executive produces alongside Roxy Spencer and McGovern. Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Jamie Laurenson are executive producers for See-Saw Films. Brett Popplewell (The Moodys) and Simon Hailey are co-producers. Banished directors are Dan Percival (Death Comes To Pemberley), who directs  episodes one to three, and Jeffrey Walker (Jack Irish) directs episodes four to seven.

The series has been co-commissioned by BBC Two in the UK and BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand.

Banished was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, and Janice Hadlow, the outgoing controller of BBC Two and is executive produced for the BBC by Polly Hill, head of BBC Independent Commissioning. Natalie Edgar, leads the co-commission for BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand. The drama will be screened on BBC First in Australia and UKTV in New Zealand. BBC Worldwide is the distributor of Banished.