ITV commissions new eight-part drama series Jericho
Starring Jessica Raine, Hans Matheson and Clarke Peters
ITV has commissioned an eight-part series, Jericho, starring Jessica Raine, Hans Matheson and Clarke Peters.
Set in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1870s, the drama from production company, ITV Studios, will focus upon the shantytown of Jericho, home to a community that will live, thrive and die in the shadow of the viaduct they’ve been brought together to build.
Rough, rustic and remote, yet with a wild west, carnival atmosphere, Jericho is a community of pioneers, settlers and outcasts, people with secrets to hide and those looking to start again.
One of the central characters is Annie Quaintain, played by Jessica Raine (Fortitude, Wolf Hall, Call the Midwife), a woman who refuses to let tragedy define her. Shattered by her husband’s death and penniless as he has gambled away everything they owned, Annie is turfed out of her home and shunned by former friends and neighbours. Together with her two teenage children, Annie leaves for Jericho in the hopes of re-building their lives.
Disembarking from the train at the end of the line, they carry their meagre possessions across a wild terrain. As they reach the brow of a hill a sprawling collection of awnings and huts, bustling with life, lies before them. Beyond that, rising up from the floor of the valley the first two arches of a magnificent railway viaduct teeming with muscled workers. The backbreaking work looks surprisingly majestic as they blast the foundations for the next two arches.
Among those Annie first meets in Jericho is Ralph Coates, played by Clarke Peters (The Wire, Notting Hill, Marley & Me). He is a self-styled railway agent whose finest skill is reading other people and seeing beneath their façade. The truth is he has a past that keeps him looking over his shoulder. He offers Annie a helping hand, and although reluctant, she accepts. It is Coates who makes Annie realise that Jericho is a rare place of opportunity and relying on her only skill as a homemaker, she opens a boarding house for the navvy labourers. She and her children will be sharing a home with rough-handed, dirt ingrained men, with a deservedly formidable reputation, who toil to construct the viaduct.
One of Annie’s first tenants is Johnny Jackson, played by Hans Matheson (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Doctor Zhivago, The Tudors); a dark and handsome navvy who, despite only just arriving in Jericho, has already got himself into a fight. In the aftermath of an accident on the line, events will bind Annie and Johnny together. Events they will both wish to try and forget, but that will haunt them forever.
Typical of the men toiling at the bedrock is gang leader ‘Happy’ Jack Laggan, the burly, craggy faced, cracked voice navvy labourer played by Dean Andrews (Last Tango in Halifax, Ashes to Ashes). ‘Happy’ Jack takes no prisoners and works hard for his money.
Jericho’s resident prostitute Lace Polly, played by Lorraine Ashbourne (The Syndicate, Public Enemies, The Street) is also a neighbour. Her lace and fineries will dazzle Annie’s daughter Martha, played by Amy James-Kelly (Coronation Street) and her choice of livelihood will give Annie something to struggle with.
Annie’s new neighbours include Joe and Lizzie Capstick, who run the town’s Tavern. Their pretty daughter Alma’s irresistible charms have ensured hard working and loyal navvy Davey Sharp has followed them to Jericho.
Across the Dales lives Charles Blackwood, played by Daniel Rigby (Eric and Ernie, Big School, From There to Here) he is the visionary behind the viaduct. His dream is to fill a previously impassable gap that falls between railway lines. Railways are the future and Charles hopes his viaduct will bring prosperity to the area. He has invested his family’s wealth in the venture and, together with engineer Ezekiel Shaw, he runs the company responsible for the construction. If the railway thrives Charles stands to reap the rewards, but he has taken an almighty risk and he has everything to win or lose. His mission to find investors for the next stage of the build brings feisty Isabella Lambton, played by Jeany Spark (Wallander, Man Down, Da Vinci’s Demons), a woman he’s not seen for nearly ten years, back into his life.
The terrain is hostile and if the land doesn’t break the colourful community of men and women – navvies, entrepreneurs, street urchins, prostitutes, families, wives, girlfriends and lovers – it will take seven years to complete.
Jericho is created and written by Steve Thompson (Sherlock, Doctor Who) and executive produced by ITV Studios Director of Drama Kate Bartlett (Vera, Marchlands). BAFTA nominated director Paul Whittington (Cilla, Mrs Biggs, The Widower) will direct the series. Lisa Osborne (Little Dorrit, South Riding, Quirke) will produce.
The drama will go into production later this month (May 2015) in North Yorkshire.
“We’re delighted to be embarking on the production of Jericho, an epic character driven drama set in the visually striking landscape of a frontier community. We’re also thrilled that we have a wonderful cast with Jessica Raine, Hans Matheson and Clarke Peters in the leading roles,” said Executive Producer Kate Bartlett.
Jericho has been commissioned for ITV by Director of Drama Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea.
“Jericho focuses on the creation of a community from nothing and the human stories and epic struggles of survival that will emerge,” said Steve. “We’re grateful to Steve Thompson for creating such wonderful and intriguing characters and to Kate Bartlett and her production team.”
ITV Studios Global Entertainment will distribute Jericho internationally.