Mayflies — release date, cast, plot, trailer, first looks, interviews and all about the emotional drama adaptation with Martin Compston and Tony Curran

First look! Mayflies arrives on BBC1 in December 2022 with Martin Compston and Tony Curran starring.
First look! Mayflies arrives on BBC1 in December 2022 with Martin Compston and Tony Curran starring. (Image credit: BBC)

Mayflies on BBC1 will take us back to the heady days of the music and vibes of the 1980s as Scottish friends look back on their magical weekend in Manchester in 1986. The two-part drama is an adaptation of the famous novel by Andrew O’Hagan by writer Andrea Gibb (Elizabeth Is Missing) and stars Line of Duty actor Martin Compston, Tony Curran (Ray Donovan) and Agatha Raisin's Ashley Jensen, playing the characters James, Tully and Anna.

So here's everything you need to know about Mayflies on BBC1 before watching in December 2022.

Tony Curran and Martin Compston as Tully and pal James reflecting on their lives in Mayflies.

Tony Curran and Martin Compston as Tully and pal James reflecting on their lives in Mayflies.  (Image credit: BBC)

Mayflies release date

Mayflies is a two-part drama that starts on BBC1 on Wednesday December 28 at 9pm and finishes on Thursday December 29 at 9pm. Mayflies will also be available on BBCiPlayer and we'll update here with any US or international air dates.

* How to watch Mayflies online from anywhere in the world.

Is there a trailer for Mayflies?

Yes a Mayflies trailer has now been released by the BBC which shows the amazing friendship between Tully and James. Take a look below...

What's the plot of Mayflies?

In the summer of 1986 in Mayflies, and James (Martin Compston) and Tully (Tony Curran) have been best mates since leaving school in the summer of 1986, when they bonded over films, music and a rebellious streak at he height of Thatcher's Britain. With school over, they organise a magical weekend of youthful excesses in Manchester played out against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded. And there a vow is made: to go at life differently. Yet when Tully calls his old pal 30 years later to reveal he has terminal cancer and only months to live, he makes a request that tests their friendship to the limit. After sharing his devastating news, Tully asks his old pal for help ending his own life, yet James isn’t comfortable keeping their plan a secret from Tully’s partner Anna (Ashley Jensen).

James and Tully’s journey is told against a separate timeline set in 1986 and a summer that defined their friendship, with Rian Gordon (Vigil) and Tom Glynn-Carney (House of the Dragon) taking on the lead roles of the pair 30 years previously. Having just finished school, the two teenagers bonded over films, music and a once-in-a-lifetime trip from their small Scottish town to the bright lights of Manchester. 

There's a soundtrack packed with iconic 1980s bands such as The Fall and New Order

Mayflies goes back to the 1980s when James and Tully finish school.

Mayflies goes back to the 1980s when James and Tully finish school. (Image credit: BBC)

At the heart of Mayflies is a love story.

At the heart of Mayflies is Tully and Anna's love story. (Image credit: BBC)

Mayflies cast — Martin Compston, Tony Curran and Ashley Jensen as James, Tully and Anna

In Mayflies, Martin Compston plays older James while Tony Curran is older Tully who 30 years after their wild weekend in Manchester in 1986 look back on what happened.

Martin's breakthrough role was playing a troubled teenager in the Ken Loach movie Sweet Sixteen. He's now known best for his role DS Steve Arnott in the crime thriller series Line of Duty. Last year he also starred in the hit series Vigil while this year he was in Our House on ITV. He has also starred in Traces, The Nest, Mary Queen of Scots and Death in Paradise. Martin played Ewan Brodie in Monarch of the Glen from 2003 to 2005. He's about to host the BBC2 documentary series Martin Compston's Scottish Fling while in 2022 Martin can be seen in Prime Video thriller The Rig set on a Scottish oil rig.

Tony Curran played Sgt. Mikey 'Rad' Radulovic in Ray Donovan, Brett Swann in SEAL Team Frankie in Your Honor and Despero in The Flash. He's also starred in Roots, Crazyhead, Elementary and Defiance.

Agatha Raisin and Extras actor Ashley Jensen also stars in Mayflies as Tully's wife Anna. 

Ashley says: "At the beginning of Anna’s journey in the script, they have not long found out that he has advanced cancer. She will do anything and everything to keep him with her for as long as she can. Her strong moral code is challenged when she discovers what Tully’s intentions are but also that his best friend Jimmy has formed an alliance with him and they have been plotting together without her knowledge. She is faced with a life changing choice. Does she go along with it or oppose it? The story follows a lifelong friendship that is put to the test and how we can navigate love and marriage and also love and friendship together."

Martin Compston as James.

Martin Compston as James. (Image credit: BBC)

Tony Curran with Ashely Jensen as Tully and Anna.

Tony Curran with Ashely Jensen as Tully and Anna. (Image credit: BBC)

Line of Duty cast.

Martin Compston as Steve Arnott (centre) in Line of Duty. (Image credit: BBC)

Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin.

Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin. (Image credit: Sky/Acorn)

Who else is starring in Mayflies?

Other casting for Mayflies includes Tracy Ifeachor (Showtrial), as Iona, Tom Glynn-Carney (Domina, House of the Dragon) as young Tully, Rian Gordon (Vigil) as young Jimmy (aka James), Elaine C Smith (Rab C Nesbit, Two Doors Down) as Barbara, Shauna Macdonald (The Descent) as Fiona, Cal MacAninch (Time) as Tibbs and Colin McCredie (River City) as Scott.

Pals in the 1980s.

Pals in the 1980s. Rian Gordon and Tom Glynn-Carney as the younger Tully and James. (Image credit: BBC)

Tom Glynn-Carney as the younger Tully.

Tom Glynn-Carney as the younger Tully in 1986. (Image credit: BBC)

Mayflies star Tracy Ifeachor and Celine Buckens as Cleo and Talitha in Showtrial.

Mayflies star Tracy Ifeachor and  Celine Buckens as Cleo and Talitha in Showtrial. (Image credit: BBC)

Interview: Martin Compston and Tony Curran on Mayflies

We caught up with Martin Compston, 38, and Tony Curran, 54, to reveal more about Mayflies...

What made you want to work on Mayflies
Tony says: "The characters really jumped off the page immediately, plus the relationship between Jimmy and Tully was so moving. It was full of tender moments, none more so than when Tully tells James he has terminal cancer in the opening scenes of the first episode. It’s a poignant, beautiful story and I was excited by the challenge of telling it."
Martin says: "For me it was a no brainer! The book is so well-loved and from the first scene these guys are on this journey together. This is the most emotionally present I’ve ever been on a job and every day we were filming it felt like tears were coming, so shooting those powerful scenes with Tony, who’s a dear friend of mine, was really special."

Mayflies follows two timelines, one in the present day and one in 1986, where Rian Gordon (Vigil) and Tom Glynn-Carney (House of the Dragon) play James and Tully. Did you guys compare notes? 
Martin says:
"We didn’t see a lot of them actually, but watching their story unfold was amazing because it’s a happy tale about young lads with their whole lives in front of them. Our tale is a bit more depressing, so James and Tully’s friendship-defining summer lifts the whole piece. 
Tony says: "I loved watching those scenes set in the 1980s, because I was very similar to them at that time, especially the music they listened to. I love bands like New Order and The Fall, so at the end of the shoot they gave me some of the t-shirts we used for filming, which was brilliant!"

There’s a bit of an age difference between you, how did the director handle that?
Martin says: "Tony and I go way back, but he’s actually got 12 years on me, so we decided to age me up a bit rather than age him down. I’m in my late 30s and he’s in his early 50s, so we settled on 45. Tony might be in his fifties, but he lives in LA and the LA 50s are very different to the Greenock 50s, so hopefully it worked!"

These two friends are very open with each other, was that something you enjoyed playing? 
Martin says:
"I definitely think it’s good to see two men discussing their feelings, like James and Tully do. I grew up in West Scotland and we were often quite closed emotionally, only ever hugging our friends and family when Celtic or Scotland scored at football! But these two are in an end-of-life scenario where they need to make a decision about assisted dying, so it’s really important for them to get everything out. Hopefully this makes that whole debate a bit more mainstream as well.  
Tony says: "I definitely think it’s good to bring that topic into the conversation as an option. Someone once used the phrase “to grab death by the throat” when they were talking about taking control of when they finish their own life. In a sense death doesn’t take you, you take it."

There's a wedding for Tully.

There's a wedding for Tully.  (Image credit: BBC)

Behind the scenes and filming locations on Mayflies

Mayflies is filming during autumn 2022 in and around Glasgow and Ayrshire. It's a Synchronicity Films production for the BBC in association with All3 Media International, with support from Screen Scotland. It will be produced by Brian Kaczynski, written by Andrea Gibb and directed by Peter Mackie Burns. Executive producers are Andrea Gibb, Claire Mundell for Synchronicity Films, Gavin Smith for BBC Scotland and Gaynor Holmes for BBC Drama.

Andrea Gibb, Screenwriter and Executive Producer, says: “Adapting Andrew O’Hagan’s magnificent novel has been one of the highlights of my career. Andrew tells his story of enduring male friendship with love, truth, tenderness and a searing humanity. There’s not an ounce of sentimentality. It’s very funny and deeply moving. The characters of Tully and Jimmy are instantly recognisable and totally unforgettable. Both are so alive and vibrant they leap off the page. It’s been a joy and a privilege living with them.”

Andrew O’Hagan, novelist, says: “For a while now, I’ve admired the work of Synchronicity Films - Scottish in its bones and international in complexion - and it's a thrill to see them bringing Mayflies to BBC One. The story is a very personal one to me, and it’s amazing to see the characters come to life in Andrea Gibb’s wonderful adaptation. Director Peter Mackie Burns has a singular vision, and I look forward to seeing what he makes of the Ayrshire landscape and the emotional reality of this story.”

Much of Mayflies was filmed in and around Glasgow.

Much of Mayflies was filmed in and around Glasgow. (Image credit: BBC)
Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.