Downton Abbey came to an end earlier this year, and the finale has left a void in the hearts of many who had come to rely on the series for period drama. Now, despairing Downton Abbey fans may have a reason to rejoice; a new period drama is in the works, and it happens to star one of the most memorable actresses from the first few seasons of Downton. Jessica Brown Findlay – better known to Downton Abbey viewers as the ill-fated Sybil Crawley – has signed on for a major role in the upcoming series Harlots.
Like Downton Abbey, Harlots will involve the shifting dynamics of a powerful family. Unlike Downton Abbey, however, Harlots will have a great deal of emphasis on the sex trade. The show will be set in Georgian London in the 18th century and follow the exploits of Margaret Wells, who (according to TVLine) must find a way to balance her dual roles as mother to several daughters and the owner of a London brothel. Margaret will have to put her business and her family on the line when a rival madam challenges her position in London.
Jessica Brown Findlay will play Margaret’s eldest daughter Charlotte, who has become the most desired courtesan in all of London. Her job as courtesan and her role as her mother’s daughter will almost certainly lead to conflict as the family brothel faces unexpected complications. Harlots will also star Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells and Lesley Manville as rival madam Lydia Quigley. Interestingly, the actresses will play roles inspired by real women and their stories of the sex trade, so there will be some history to the fiction.
Jessica Brown Findlay actually left Downton Abbey in its third season. Her character Sybil suffered one of the most heartbreaking deaths of the series when she died after complications from a difficult childbirth. Downton Abbey would last for another three seasons, but Sybil was never forgotten.
Aside from brief runs in miniseries Jamaica Inn and The Outcast, Jessica Brown Findlay has stuck to the big screen in her post-Downton career with appearances in Winter’s Tale, Victor Frankenstein, and Lullaby. The eight episodes of Harlots will be her first major television role since Downton Abbey.
Harlots will air on ITV in the UK but will be broadcast in the U.S. on streaming service Hulu. Filming is set to begin this summer and will take place in London. This show may be exactly what fans of period drama need after the end of Downton Abbey, and Jessica Brown Findlay should help with the transition. Hopefully, Charlotte just won’t die in childbirth at any point. Nobody needs that heartbreak again.
Nobody on either side of the pond will be seeing Harlots any time too soon, so check out our summer TV premiere schedule to see what you can watch on the small screen in the meantime.
Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.
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