ITV and Hulu are teaming up for a new period drama, Harlots.
The ongoing, eight-part show has been given a straight-to-series order by the UK broadcaster and US streaming site, who will each air the programme. In America, Harlots will join Hulu’s growing slate of original titles, while British audiences will be able to watch the drama on ITV’s pay TV channel, Encore.
The joint commission marks a growing trend in the TV industry, as traditional broadcasters team up with the new players on the block: E4 and Netflix have already announced several projects together, including comedy horror Crazy Face and gaming series Kiss Me First.
The names in front of the camera for ITV and Hulu’s programme are just as big: it will star The Last Panther’s Samantha Morton, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay and Lesley Manville, who needs no introduction.
Produced by Monumental Pictures, Harlots is set against the backdrop of 18th century Georgian London, Harlots is a powerful family drama offering a brand new take on the city’s most valuable commercial activity – sex. Based on the stories of real women, 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 play 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.
Written by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter, Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, Tamara Drewe) and based upon an original idea by Moira Buffini and Alison Newman, Harlots is the first commission for Monumental Pictures, the independent company founded by Oscar nominated producers Alison Owen (Suffragette, Tulip Fever) and Debra Hayward (Bridget Jones’s Baby, Les Misérables).
It 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 of the series, 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, who will distribute the drama internationally.
ITV Controller of Drama Victoria Fea, who commissioned the drama, describes the scripts as “shocking, fascinating and compelling”.
“In 1760s London there were brothels on every corner run by women who were both enterprising and tenacious. History has largely ignored them, but their stories are in turn outrageous, brutal, humorous and real,” comments Owen.
Maria Kyriacou, President of International for ITV Studios, adds: Written and produced by an award-winning creative team with an all-star cast, Harlots offers a unique perspective of life on the streets of 1760s London with fast-moving and action-packed storylines and strong lead characters. This is a world class drama which is sure to appeal to audiences across the globe as strongly as it will to ITV Encore and Hulu’s viewers in the UK and US.”
The series begins filming in London in June.