Jodie Comer Among Stars in BBC 'Talking Heads' Remake Shooting Under Lockdown

Jodie Comer accepts the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award - Getty - H 2019
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"The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other," says Nicholas Hytner of the 12-part remake of Alan Bennett's acclaimed monologues, which will also stars Martin Freeman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Imelda Staunton.

The BBC is remaking Alan Bennett's critically acclaimed and award-winning monologue series Talking Heads, which the U.K. public broadcaster first aired in 1988 and 1998, with shooting now underway under social distancing guidelines.

Killing Eve star Jodie Comer is among the cast assembled for the 12-part series, one of the few shows currently being produced in the U.K. amid the coronavirus crisis, alongside Martin Freeman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Harriet Walter and Monica Dolan. 

The BBC said 10 of the original pieces will be remade and two new ones, written by Bennett last year will be added. They will be produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader and will air in the coming months on BBC One.

"In such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads and produce two entirely new ones is a comfort and a huge compliment," said Bennett. "I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago."

Hytner, Bennett's long-term collaborator and the show's lead director and producer, described Talking Heads as "among the masterworks" of one of the "very greatest writers" in TV, film and theater history. 

"It has been a profound and fascinating experience to work out a way of making them again, this time with a company of phenomenal actors who are the equal of those who first made them; with a group of leading theatre directors, colleagues and friends of long standing; and with a team behind the camera that represents the best of the British TV and film industries," he said.

"It is a wonderful bonus that two of the 2020 Talking Heads are totally new, written only a short time before the current crisis began. And everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, entirely rethinking ways of filmmaking that until a few weeks ago seemed routine. The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other, but I hope that in every other way it will reach out and touch millions of viewers. We are all of us beyond grateful to the BBC for setting us this challenge."

Filming is currently taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets, with the production team following the latest government guidelines on COVID-19. Talking Heads will be produced by the London Theatre Company for BBC One, with BBC Studios providing the studio facilities.

"COVID-19 has laid waste to drama production in the UK, but it has also posed a challenge: how do we adhere to restrictions while still offering British viewers the chance to lose themselves in great stories at this time of national need?" said BBC Drama controller Piers Wenger. "Full of insight, wit, daring and compassion, these are stories of individual lives, but of great resonance. I am so grateful to Alan, Nicholas Hytner, Kevin Loader and the whole team for the caution, ingenuity and wisdom which they have shown in bringing these stories to the screen."

The original Talking Heads starred Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Julie Walters, Thora Hird, Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself. They won two BAFTAs and an RTS award and have also been included on the English literature syllabus in British schools.