Jenna Coleman — the Victoria star recently seen as a serial killer’s accomplice in BBC/Netflix miniseries The Serpent — is set to lead upcoming TV drama The War Rooms, telling the untold story of the women that worked in Winston Churchill’s secret Whitehall bunker during World War II.
The series — created by David Chidlow — is being produced by Oscar and BAFTA winner David Parfitt (Shakespeare in Love), marking his first project since his multiple Oscar-nominated The Father, for his Trademark Films, and Jamie Carmichael (Fish Tank, Black Book) for Atlantic Nomad.
The War Rooms centers on the real-life story of Joan Bright (Coleman), who started the war as a secretary and ended it organizing the great Allied conferences. Along the way, she lived life with passion and integrity. Professionally, she was indispensable. Privately, Ian Fleming was her friend, and it’s rumored that she became the inspiration for the iconic Miss Moneypenny. Bright’s memoir The Inner Circle: A View of War at the Top has been optioned.
In addition to starring, Coleman will executive produce the series alongside Simon Mirren (Spooks, Criminal Minds, Versailles) and Chidlow (Amazon Studios’ All or Nothing: Manchester City).
“Joan Bright was never going to live a conventional life — a young woman who lived her war days under the official secrets act, undercover and underground in the war rooms,” said Coleman. “This story is so compelling not only because of her unique and liberal mind, wryness of spirit and curiosity to live, but because of the opportunity to examine this endlessly fascinating period of time through an intimate and human lens. The closeness and proximity of days and nights lived within this small space, the carriers of the truth amidst the oblivion of propaganda above. The beauty and fragility of human connection when living through a time when no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”
The War Rooms is a co-production between Atlantic Nomad and Trademark Films. Casting is being overseen by Orla Maxwell of Casting Pictures. Imperial War Museums (IWM) — the British museum organization — will come on board as a series consultant. The Churchill War Rooms in central London is one of five IWM branches in the U.K.
“Jenna is one of the U.K.’s most loved and lauded actresses, whose career has seen her constantly stretch and redefine herself. As our lead actor and executive producer, she has been instrumental in bringing The War Rooms to life,” said Parfitt and Carmichael. “Our intention is to build a series that takes a truly fresh view on a significant part of our collective history. A show that isn’t polite or reverential, but raw, confronting and offers fresh experiences, perspectives, narratives and faces. Ones that speak directly to our current, turbulent times and, critically, to an audience thirsty for tales of hope that help frame and make sense of today and tomorrow.”
Each season of the show is set to cover 12-18 months of World War II — from the shock of the war’s outbreak to sustaining the fight to the final push for victory and the battle to shape modern Britain.