Suranne Jones will star as Regency superwoman Anne Lister in Sally Wainwright’s new drama Gentleman Jack, previously known as Shibden Hall, a co-production between BBC One and HBO.
Jones will play Anne Lister; the remarkable landowner who returns to her home of Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1932 in order to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall. The series will mark the latest collaboration between Suranne and Sally following their previous work together on Dead Clever, Unforgiven and Scott and Bailey.
To restore Shibden Hall to its former glory, Anne must re-open her coal mines and marry well. But this isn’t just another Regency romance. Charismatic, single-minded, swashbuckling Anne Lister – who dressed head-to-foot in black and charmed her way into high society – 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 a remarkable and unlikely love story, set in the complex, changing world of Halifax – the cradle of the industrial revolution – just as it’s all kicking off. The drama will explore Anne Lister’s relationships at home with her family, her servants, her tenants and her industrial rivals, who will use any dirty tricks they can to bring her down. At its heart is her relationship with her would-be wife, the wealthy heiress Ann Walker. It has all the warmth, wit, humour and complexity that audiences have come to associate with Sally Wainwright’s writing.
Of her casting in Gentelman Jack, Jones said, ‘I first worked with Sally 10 years ago and I remember the feeling of reading her scripts like it was yesterday. They were scripts for women; fresh, daring and bizarre in a wonderful, modern, fun, complex and challenging way. Now I get to once again speak the words of an almighty talent on a show I know she holds close to her heart. To have Sally direct me on this feels like I’ll finally get to work on a project with her where the connection will be immediate, exciting and new each day and we can enjoy that amazing ride together!’
Sally Wainwright added, ‘I am delighted to be working with Suranne once again, not just as a writer this time, but as a director. Bringing Anne Lister to life with all her complexity, passion, brilliance and wit is an epic challenge that will require all the boldness, subtlety, energy and humour that I know only Suranne will bring to it.’
Gentleman Jack will begin filming next year, with further casting to be announced in due course. Suranne will next be seen on BBC One in the second series of Doctor Foster, airing this Autumn.