Gentleman Jack

How Sally Wainwright brought her heroine to life in Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones playing Anne Lister and Sally Wainwright (Credit: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

Some 20 years in the making, Sally’s Wainwright’s new television drama, Gentleman Jack, was originally rejected by every broadcaster she took it to. The story of an openly gay woman who farmed in 19th-century rural Yorkshire was considered a non-starter by TV networks. Starting this month, the topic is getting eight hours of BBC One Sunday-night primetime.

It’s common for writers to describe their latest work as a “passion project” – often industry-accepted shorthand for what they hope is infectious enthusiasm for their new offering.

Sophie Rundell joins Suranne Jones in Sally Wainwright drama Gentleman Jack

Jones stars as remarkable Regency landowner Anne Lister in the BBC One drama, which will hit screens in 2019.

Speaking to the RTS in 2017, Wainwright spoke of her attraction to the project. “[She was] this extraordinary woman who lived in Halifax in the 1820-30s. She did some extraordinary things at a time when women just weren’t allowed to do anything really.”