Doctor Foster star Suranne Jones will play ‘first modern lesbian’ in new BBC historical drama Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones at the 2016 BAFTA Awards

BAFTA winner Suranne Jones will play the lead in Gentleman Jack, the BBC’s new show in partnership with HBO.

Jones will play Anne Lister, a historical figure known as “the first modern lesbian” in the show, which will be created, written and directed by Sally Wainwright.

Wainwright is known for her work in To Walk Invisible, Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley.

Jones has previously starred as the lead in police procedural Scott & Bailey and the title character in Doctor Foster, for which she won a BAFTA in 2016.

The show will follow Anne Lister, who in 1832, after a life of travelling and mountaineering, returns to her home of Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Suranne Jones and Anne Lister
Suranne Jones and Anne Lister (photo from BBC, and Wikicommons)

Lister, on a mission to restore her ancestral home, Shibden Hall, to its former glory, must reopen the coalmines and marry rich.

But she has no intention of marrying a man.

Ignoring the convention of women of her time, Lister confidently and single-mindedly pursues what she wants, including wealthy heiress Ann Walker.

Exciting, witty and humorous, Gentleman Jack will be a love story unlike any television has seen before.

“Bringing Anne Lister to life with all her complexity, passion, brilliance and wit is an epic challenge that will require all the boldness, subtlety, energy and humour that I know only Suranne will bring to it,” Wainright says.

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The story is based on historical fact found in Lister’s detailed intimate diaries, that she wrote in a complex code that was not broken until long after her death.

The BBC previously featured Lister in a 2010 BBC2 special called “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister” that starred Maxine Peake.

“I first worked with Sally 10 years ago and I remember the feeling of reading her scripts like it was yesterday. They were scripts for women; fresh, daring and bizarre in a wonderful, modern, fun, complex and challenging way,” Jones said.

“Now I get to once again speak the words of an almighty talent on a show I know she holds close to her heart.”

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The drama will begin filming next year, with further casting to be announced in due course. Suranne will next be seen on BBC One in the second series of Doctor Foster, airing this Autumn.

Gentleman Jack is a Lookout Point production for the BBC, co-produced with HBO.

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