'Rules of the Game' — cast, plot, and everything we know about the new thriller

Rules of the Game
Maxine Peake plays the manager of the family business in the four-part drama. (Image credit: BBC)

Maxine Peake leads a top-notch cast in Rules of the Game, a new four-part thriller from BBC1 about sexual politics in the modern workplace. 

Writer Ruth Fowler says the drama was partly inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the ensuing #MeToo movement, and "many women's experiences". 

Speaking about the project, director Jennifer Sheridan adding: "I feel the show’s strength is that it doesn’t ram anything down your throat, it allows you to make up your own mind about people and then challenges that perception. By the end of it I want the audience to be thinking about what these characters might’ve learnt and what, if anything we can learn from them."

Here's everything we know about the upcoming show, which will be produced by The Forge, whose previous work includes hits such as Roadkill and BAFTA-winning National Treasure...

'Rules of the Game' release date

The first two episodes of Rules of the Game will air on BBC1 on Tuesday Jan. 11 and Wednesday Jan. 12 at 9pm. The final two episodes air the following week.

Rules of the Game will also available on BBC iPlayer after transmission. There is no news on when the show might be released in the US yet. 

What's the plot of 'Rules of the Game'? 

Rules of the Game is a four-part thriller about sexual politics in the modern workplace, starring Maxine Peake as Sam, a hard-headed manager at a family-run business in the North West. 

However, when Sam arrives at work one day to find a dead body in the office reception she is forced to reckon with not only murky behaviour in the present, but murderous secrets from the past as well.

Meanwhile, Maya, a new HR director who’s intent on dismantling the "old-fashioned lad culture" within the company, begins investigating historic cases of misconduct in the organisation, yet is met with resistance. Sam refutes the suggestion of institutional bias against women, believing such behaviour is all in the past... 

Teasing the plot further, star Maxine Peake said: "I think the show keeps us hooked in because it’s got a great cast of characters, especially the women. The women are fully-rounded and they’re funny and flawed. Each woman within this, whatever the size of the part, has a journey. 

"I’m a big fan of character-based drama, you will engage with these people, there’s a lot of toing and froing about who’s side you’re on. It’s very clever in that it’s got such a strong theme and it’s very relevant, but it’s also a whodunnit story. I think it’s got so many elements to it, not just “let’s guess who the killer is”."

Rules of the Game

Alison Steadman plays Anita, a member of the firm's board. (Image credit: BBC)

'Rules of the Game' cast

Maxine Peake (Silk, Three Girls) plays Sam, while Rakhee Thakrar (Sex Education, EastEnders) plays Maya, the new HR Director who tries to shake up the old-fashioned lad culture.

Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey, Life) plays Anita, a member of the board and the cold, hardened widower of narcissistic company founder Harry. Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes, Truth Seekers) plays DI Eve Preston, an immensely driven, thick-skinned, no-nonsense detective who is investigating a case centred around the company.

A stellar cast is completed by Kieran Bew (Warrior), Ben Batt (Scott & Bailey), Callie Cooke (The Stranger), Katherine Pearce (Three Girls), and Zoë Tapper (Liar).

Maxine Peake says: “What a glorious cast. Working alongside my fellow sisters each day, with their commitment and understanding towards Ruth Fowler’s script about sexual politics in the workplace, with Jennifer Sheridan directing, has reminded me once again why we need to keep fighting for more women to have a voice in the filmmaking process.”

Rakhee Thakrar adds: “It's been pure joy working with this cast, who all bring such authenticity, heart and humour to any scene. Maxine Peake in particular has been an absolute highlight as our lead.”

Rules of the Game

Rakhee Thakrar plays the firm's now HR director Maya. (Image credit: BBC)

What inspired 'Rules of the Game'? 

“Many women’s experiences, including my own, inspired this fictional show," says the show's writer, Ruth Fowler. "With the added benefit that in the retelling no women were harmed, maimed or exposed to Harvey.”

“When we conceived this show it was during the Weinstein scandal, and I was concerned it might have dated in the interim. How sadly wrong I was, and I’m honoured the BBC and everyone else championing this story did not let it fade away as its relevance has become even more acute.”

What happened in episode one?

The first episode opened with police and ambulance crew outside Fly Dynamic, a fictitious family-run sportswear firm, after the shocking discovery of a dead body by Peake's character Sam Thompson.

It also introduced  HR director, Maya (Rakhee Thakrar) who was brought in to replace a man called Hugh but she soon discovers he is is still on the payroll despite no longer working for the company.

Disturbingly, the dead body in the atrium isn't the only death linked to the company as it is revealed that 16-year-old former employee, Amy died after a company night out 10 years ago.

On top of this, the company is further revealed as being shady as Maya's plans to dismantle the "old-fashioned lad culture" within the company is protested against, especially when she begins investigating cases of misconduct within the place.

Plenty of dark secrets have been teased so far in episode 1, and fans will have to tune in to the next one to unravel the mysteries within Fly Dynamic.

Is there a trailer for 'Rules of the Game'? 

Yes! The trailer shows HR director, Maya, arriving for a new job and quickly unearthing some dark and mysterious secrets that have been long buried deep in the office. Her arrival soon kickstarts a murky sequence of events... but will she get to the bottom of what is really happening?  

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and whattowatch.com

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.