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Ex-Downton Abbey and Hollyoaks favourites join new BBC1 drama, Man In An Orange Shirt

laura carmichael, charlie wernham, downton abbey, holloaks

The BBC has revealed the cast for their production of the first screen drama from British best-selling novelist Patrick Gale, called Man In An Orange Shirt

Best-selling novelist Patrick Gale’s first TV drama, Man In An Orange Shirt, will star Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, the BBC has announced and feature familiar faces from Downton Abbey and Hollyoaks.

The two-part drama tells two love stories, 60 years apart, stories linked by family, and by a painting that holds a secret that echoes down the generations.

vanessa redgrave

Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave leads cast in BBC's Man In An Orange Shirt (Image credit: ABACA/PA Images)

Starring alongside Vanessa are Julian Morris (New Girl), James McArdle (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Joanna Vanderham (One of Us, The Go Between), Oliver Jackson Cohen (Mr Selfridge), and David Gyasi (Containment, Interstellar).

oliver jackson cohen

Mr Selfridge's Oliver Jackson Cohen also stars in the new BBC drama (Image credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Further cast includes Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael, Hollyoaks' Charlie Wernham, Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Killing Fields), Angel Coulby (Merlin, The Tunnel),  and newcomer James Godden.

angel coulby

Merlin star Angel Coulby will appear in the BBC's upcoming drama (Image credit: Piers Allardyce/REX/Shutterstock)

In 1944, British Army Captain Michael Berryman (Cohen) meets war artist Thomas March (McArdle) in Southern Italy while chaos reigns all around them. Despite having a young fiancé, Flora (Vanderham), waiting at home for him, straight-laced Michael finds himself falling for Thomas’ bohemian charms.

james mcardle

James McArdle plays one of the love interests in the story

In 2017, an ageing Flora (Redgrave) looks on as her grandson, Adam (Morris), tentatively forms a relationship with his client Steve (Gyasi) in a more accepting world.

julian sands, david gyasi

Julian Sands and David Gyasi also play lovers in Patrick Gale's drama

But while the external obstacles have fallen away, a minefield of internalised issues and dangerous temptations still line the road to happiness.

Patrick Gale says: “This was an incredible commission for a novelist unused to writing for television and I seized it with both hands.

“As a writer who has long celebrated and explored alternative sexualities and hidden lives in his fiction, I’d been impatient for the BBC to do something similar for a mainstream audience.

“I hope I’ve come up with a story that finds the universal resonance in the marginalised. To then see it fleshed out by such a five star cast, including one of my lifelong heroines in Vanessa, is incredible. I’ve only watched two days’ shooting, but already I’m getting that fizzy feeling. Here’s hoping it starts a national conversation.”

The series is being directed by Michael Samuels (Any Human Heart), produced by Lisa Osborne (Little Dorrit) and made by Kudos for BBC One.