Gentleman Jack’s Suranne Jones fears LGBT+ rights will ‘step back’ without ‘important’ conversations

Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack.

Gentleman Jack stars Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle can see troubling similarities between the world of their hit period drama and modern-day Britain.

Speaking to PinkNews to mark the return of Gentleman Jack, Suranne Jones recalled an episode from the show’s first season which saw her character Anne Lister become the victim of a homophobic attack.

The episode aired in 2019, just days after an incident on a London bus in which a lesbian couple were assaulted for refusing to kiss for a group of men.

Jones recalled seeing pictures of the couple after the attack, “and feeling like we’ve come so far with many things and we’re all supposed to believe that we are evolving as a wider community – but [that] shows that if we don’t keep up the conversation, we will step back.”

She added: “I think that’s why this show, it’s entertainment, it’s brilliant, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, it’s romantic, but it’s important culturally as well.”

Her Gentleman Jack co-star Sophie Rundle added that the parallels between life for lesbians in the 1830s and modern day Britain “are staggering”.

“We’re telling this story from the 1830s, and it’s still happening in 2022,” the Peaky Blinders star said.

Sophie Rundle as Anne Walker in Gentleman Jack.

Sophie Rundle as Anne Walker in Gentleman Jack. (BBC/HBO)

“As an actor, it’s quite a useful thing to think: ‘OK, if my character lived now, what might she be like?’ And then you do you see the sort of tragic parallels, that we haven’t really moved on as a society or a culture as much as we might have liked to.

“That’s what makes it relevant and makes it worth telling it again and telling it now.”

Gentleman Jack is a depiction of the genuine coded diaries of the British landowner and industrialist Anne Lister (Jones), who is often referred to as “the first modern lesbian.”

The second season, which premiered on BBC One on 10 April and arrives on HBO Max in the US beginning 25 April, will follow Lister as she embarks on married life following her secret marriage to Anne Walker (Rundle) at the end of the first series.

Speaking of what fans can expect from the upcoming series, Jones teased: “We’ve had the chase, we’ve had the love affair, we’ve had the difficulties of Anne Walker’s mental health, her struggles with her own demons, her religion and homophobia. And now we’re looking at the bravery of these women and how they managed to marry, albeit in secret.

“Now they’re navigating what it is to not have a bond of a child, what it is to not have a piece of paper and all these things that same sex couples have [had] for years.

“I think that looking at that struggle in detail is what marks us out as a different show. It’s so important for the wider community, beyond LGBTQA community, to see it because if you don’t see it, you’re not going to understand it.”