Suranne Jones to star in new Sally Wainwright drama set in Calderdale

Suranne Jones will portray Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack
Suranne Jones will portray Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack
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Doctor Foster star Suranne Jones will lead the way in the next Sally Wainwright drama set in Calderdale.

The Scott and Bailey star will portray Anne Lister, a 19th century Halifax woman who embarked on a determined and passionate courtship with another woman.

Set in 1832, Gentleman Jack, originally called Shibden Hall, is the epic story of landowner Anne Lister.

Returning after years of exotic travel and social climbing, Anne determines to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, in Halifax.

To do this she must re-open her coal mines and marry well. Charismatic, single-minded, swashbuckling Anne Lister - who walked like a man, dressed head-to-foot in black, and charmed her way into high society - has no intention of marrying a man. Anne plans to marry a woman. And not just any woman - the woman Anne Lister marries must be seriously wealthy.

Every part of the 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. The drama will explore Anne Lister’s relationships at home with her family, her servants, her tenants and her industrial rivals.

Suranne 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 once again get to 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! I'm thrilled to be back at the BBC with this role and to be joining the Lookout Point and HBO family.”

Sally Wainwright, who also created Calderdale-based and filmed Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, said: “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.”

The series will start filming next year. It’s a Lookout Point production for the BBC and co-produced with HBO.