Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay heads the cast of BBC One’s new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel, Jamaica Inn.
The actress will star as Mary Yellan alongside Matthew McNulty (The Paradise, Room At The Top), Sean Harris (The Borgias, Southcliffe), Ben Daniels (Wiper’s Times, House Of Cards), Joanne Whalley (The Borgias, Gossip Girl) and Shirley Henderson.
Set in 1820 against the forbidding backdrop of windswept Cornish moors, the story follows the journey of young and spirited Mary (Brown Findlay) who is forced to live with her Aunt Patience (Whalley) after the death of her mother.
Mary arrives at the isolated Jamaica Inn to discover her Aunt is a shell of the carefree woman she remembers from her childhood, and instead finds a drudge who is firmly under the spell of her domineering husband Joss (Harris).
The Inn has no guests – the rooms are locked and kept for storage – but it soon becomes clear that it’s a cover, as Joss is the leader of a smuggling ring, and Jamaica Inn the hub of his ‘free’ trade.
As Mary gets drawn into the dangerous world of smuggling, she finds herself attracted to Jem Merlyn (McNulty), Joss’s roughly handsome younger brother.
But he stands for everything that Mary despises and worse, she fears that he’s involved in Joss’s gang. Mary’s morals and loyalties become deeply conflicted. Who can she trust? Can she even trust herself?
Seeking guidance, Mary visits the parish vicar, Francis Davey (Daniels), and his sister Hannah (Henderson). But can they help her to navigate this dangerous new world and do the right thing, or will she lose herself in everybody else’s criminality?
When Mary finds herself in peril for her own life, she is tested to the core and she’s forced to find out what she’s really made of….
The three-hour adaptation is being written by Emma Frost and directed by BAFTA-winning director Philippa Lowthorpe (Call The Midwife, Five Daughters).
Frost said it had been “a lifelong dream to adapt Jamaica Inn”.
She added: “I hope I have done justice to this wonderful tale of morality, survival and desire. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to adapt it for the screen, and I’m tremendously excited to see how our talented cast and director bring the scripts to life.”
Lowthorpe added: “I love Jamaica Inn because it is an exhilarating adventure story set in a wild landscape with brilliant characters, and at its heart is Mary Yellan – a fantastic female heroine.
“I am delighted that Jessica Brown Findlay is going to play this bold and opinionated, courageous but naive young woman, whose curiosity and fiery nature get her into big trouble. To have Jessica, along with such talented actors as Sean Harris, Joanne Whalley and Matthew McNulty – it’s my dream cast.”
Filming begins this week on location in Cornwall, Yorkshire and Cumbria and has been supported by investment from Screen Yorkshire.