Sally Wainwright

BBC One’s Happy Valley to return for a third and final series

(credit: BBC)

After a five-year hiatus, Wainwright has written six new episodes of the West Yorkshire set police drama, with Sarah Lancashire returning to her iconic role as Sergeant Catherine Cawood.

James Norton (McMafia) will reprise his role as Tommy Lee Royce, the murderer and sex-offender who assaulted Catherine’s daughter. Siobhan Finneran (Alma’s Not Normal) will also return as Catherine’s sister, the recovering addict Clare Cartwright.

Winners of the RTS Yorkshire Awards 2020 announced

The creator of the hit BBC period drama received the Outstanding Contribution award. Wainwright, who also wrote Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, said: “It’s very nice that the award has come on the back of Gentleman Jack, which I’ve been working on for over 20 years. It’s the project that’s always been most close to my heart.”

BBC One’s Gentleman Jack commences filming for series two

(credit: BBC)

Suranne Jones will be reprising her role of Anne Lister, with Sophie Rundle returning as Ann Walker.

The series will pick up in Yorkshire, 1834, where Anne Lister and Ann Walker are enjoying married life together at Shibden Hall. Determined to combine their estates, Anne Lister’s entrepreneurial zeal when paired with her unconventional love life begins to stoke fear and fury in the locals.

With Halifax on the brink of revolution, Lister’s refusal to fade into the background becomes dangerous and provocative.

Sally Wainwright: The people’s writer

It is doubtful whether Sally Wainwright’s writing has ever been described as inauthentic – her TV drama is populated with real people, speaking natural, colloquial English. “My imagination doesn’t seem to click in if what I’m writing doesn’t feel real, or if it’s phoney, or if something feels a bit cheesy or sentimental,” she told Endemol Shine UK COO Lucinda Hicks, who hosted an RTS webinar with the writer in May.

Sally Wainwright discusses Gentleman Jack series two and life in lockdown at the first RTS lunchtime event

Sally Wainwright

She is now penning the second series of the hit BBC drama, which is based on the diaries of a 19th century landowner exploring her lesbian sexuality.

Progress, however, has been slow. “I’ve got tons of work to do, but I’ve found it very hard to concentrate,” admitted Wainwright. She has turned out one episode during eight weeks of lockdown, a slower pace of writing than usual.

Normally, she said, “I take my deadlines very seriously”, but the coronavirus outbreak has put back filming of the new series from June to September.

Suranne Jones on Gentleman Jack, Jane Couch and singing ABBA for binmen

“I was a bit talkative and mischievous in school,” she says, “and one of my teachers said to my Mum, ‘there’s this theatre workshop where she could go to...expel her extra energy.’” 

In Gentleman Jack, Jones brings a bountiful energy to the role of Lister, who, often described as the first modern lesbian, had to constantly draw on hers to overcome the pervasive inequalities of the era.

Loud and proud: Gentlemen Jack creators celebrate the drama's success

O’Hooley & Tidow , Anne Choma, Sally Wainwright and Dr Finn Mackay (Credit: Dee Robertson)

Gentleman Jack wowed critics and audiences alike when it aired on BBC One earlier this year. This was a Sunday-night period drama with a difference – based on the diaries of early 19th-century landowner, industrialist and traveller Anne Lister, it revealed a woman determined to explore her lesbian sexuality.