Jessica Brown Findlay stars in the 18th century set drama
Harlots is a new BBC2 period drama, with a cast including Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay, set in a London brothel.
The racy drama - e.g there’s quite a lot of sex in it! - was first shown in 2017 on ITV Encore and is now on iPlayer to watch. See our BBC dramas 2020 guide for more great dramas to enjoy now on iPlayer.
Harlots plot: What’s in store?
Set in 18th century Georgian London, Harlots follows brothel owner Margaret Wells (Oscar-nominated actress Samantha Morton) and her family as they battle to climb the social ladder. But, her business is under attack from rival madam Lydia Quigley (played by Mum star Lesley Manville (opens in new tab)).
Amazingly, in this period of history one in five women in London were making their living as prostitutes. We soon meet Margaret’s daughter, Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown Findlay), who is London’s most coveted courtesan. But she is struggling with her position in the world and within her own family.
“Our desire was to write an epic story, where a large cast of women drove the action,” says the shows co-creators, Moria Buffini and Alison Newman.
Who stars in Harlots?
Leading the cast are Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville and Jessica Brown Findlay. Downton Abbey fans will remember Jessica as Lady Sybil Crawley, who died in the hit drama.
Who’s who in Harlots
Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton)
The show’s central character, who’s risen from the streets and wants to continue her rise in society. She runs a middle-class brother in London’s Covent Garden. She is very ambitious for her two daughters
Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville)
Margaret’s rival, who wants to drive her opponent out of business. Billed by the Beeb as “The Lady Macbeth of brothel keepers,” she runs a brothel in Soho. She keeps her girls locked up and is the villain of the piece.
Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown Findlay)
Margaret’s eldest daughter is something of a London celebrity. Fiery and rebellious, she has a dangerous destructive streak.
Lucy Wells (Eloise Smyth)
Margaret’s youngest daughter, who struggles with the family business. But what else can she do with her life?
Nancy Birch (Kate Fleetwood)
Margaret’s oldest friend and in their youth they both worked for Lydia. She can’t stand the way Lydia operates. She tries to save the girls from the dangers of the streets.
Is there a trailer for Harlots?
Yes! And it looks, well, racy!
Harlots is available on iPlayer (see our TV Guide for more shows to enjoy).
David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.
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