“Harlots” stars Samantha Morton (J.K. Rowling’s upcoming “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “The Last Panther,” “Rillington Place,” “Minority Report,” “Cider with Rosie”), Lesley Manville (“Mum,” “River,” “Maleficent”) and Jessica Brown Findlay (“Victor Frankenstein,” “The Outcast,” “Downton Abbey”). The series will be produced by Monumental Pictures.
The series follows Margaret Wells (Morton) and her daughters, as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner. When her business comes under attack from Lydia Quigley (Manville), a rival madam with a ruthless streak, Margaret will fight back, even if it means putting her family at risk. Brown Findlay will star as Charlotte, Margaret’s eldest daughter and the city’s most coveted courtesan, who begins to grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family.
“Harlots” is written by playwright and screenwriter Moira Buffini (“Jane Eyre,” “Tamara Drewe”) and based on an original idea by Moira Buffini and Alison Newman. It’s the first commission for Monumental Pictures, the independent company founded by producers Alison Owen (“Suffragette,” “Tulip Fever”) and Debra Hayward (“Bridget Jones’s Baby,” “Les Misérables”).
“In 1760s London, there were brothels on every corner run by women who were both enterprising and tenacious,” said Owen in a statement. “History has largely ignored them, but their stories are in turn outrageous, brutal, humorous and real.” Hayward added: “Moira and Alison’s writing doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to sex and violence, but it’s the juxtaposition of these things and the domesticity of the ‘houses’ that makes ‘Harlots’ so compelling.”
The series will begin shooting in London next month and will be directed by Coky Giedroyc (“What Remains,” “Penny Dreadful”) and China Moo-Young (“Thirteen,” “Humans”). Lawrence Till (“Mr. Selfridge,” “Shameless”) will serve as producer, and Alison Owen and Debra Hayward serve as executive producers alongside Alison Carpenter, Moira Buffini and Alison Newman.
The deal was negotiated by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which will distribute the drama internationally outside the U.S. and U.K.
Pictured above: Samantha Morton