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Years and Years: everything you need to know about the new Manchester TV show by Russell T Davies


Back in June, the BBC revealed that Russell T Davies would write a gripping new six-part family drama called Years and Years.

Just five months later, production is now underway in Manchester with an all-star cast, including Emma Thompson, Russell Tovey and Anne Reid.

We take a closer look at what’s set to be one of next year’s most talked about shows.

What’s it all about?

Although the story focuses on one Manchester family, the Lyons, the premise is pretty ambitious. Beginning in 2019, we follow the family’s trials and tribulations over 15 years against the backdrop of a tumultuous political landscape and evolving technology.

As Britain withdraws from Europe, America becomes a lone wolf and China asserts itself, a new world begins to form, and we’ll get to watch how this family navigates this near-future.

Although cards are being kept close to production’s chest, it sounds like there’s a lot in store for the Lyons – even changing the world perhaps.

How long has this been in the works?

The announcement was only made this summer, but Russell T Davies has had the idea for two decades. “I’ve wanted to write this for 20 years or so,” he says. “And as the world accelerates like crazy around us, I realised I’d better get on with it.”

It’ll be worth the wait.

As Nicola Shindler, founder of Salford’s RED production company says, “What Russell does so expertly is navigate a potentially dark and fearful story into a compelling drama that is full of wit, warmth and hope, with family at the heart of the show. No other writer could have written such an original, important and entertaining state of the nation drama; with a family at its centre that an audience will want to spend time with.”

Who’s directing it?

Simon Cellan-Jones is the man steering the ship, and also serving as one of the executive producers.

In a career spanning almost 40 years, he’s helmed Our Friends in the North, episodes of Boardwalk Empire and Jessica Jones and most recently the glossy American football series Ballers starring Dwayne Johnson.

Who will Emma Thompson play?

Unsurprisingly, Emma’s casting announcement was made with some fanfare. The two-time Oscar winner isn’t a regular on the small screen and all eyes will be on her powerhouse performance.

She plays the controversial celebrity-turned-political figure MP Vivienne Rook. Described as the new breed of politician – an entertainer, a rebel, a trickster and a terror – her opinions divide the nation as looks to lead the people of Britain into an unknown future.

Who else is in it?

There are plenty of famous faces to keep your eyes peeled for on the streets of Manchester.

Rory Kinnear, who recently appeared in the city’s historical saga Peterloo, stars as Stephen Lyons, a financial advisor and the family’s peacekeeper. He’s married to the ambitious and opinionated accountant Celeste played by Marcella’s T’Nia Miller.

Stephen’s brother Daniel, described as a hard-working housing officer, is played by Quantico’s Russell Tovey and their sisters Edith and Rosie are portrayed by W1A’s Jessica Hynes and Cold Feet’s Ruth Madeley respectively. And then there’s the family’s matriarch, Muriel, an imperial figure played by Last Tango in Halifax’s Anne Reid.

Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, has said, “We’re utterly thrilled with this truly magnificent cast who are set to bring this unique and captivating family drama to life on BBC One.”

And the man who’s penned the story agrees. “This is a dream cast, put together by Andy Pryor, the man who found Jodie Whittaker to be Doctor Who,” says Russell. “I’m very lucky, and very excited to have started filming.”

What can we expect?

The project is the ninth collaboration for Russell and RED. In the last 20 years they’ve created the likes of Queer as Folk, Cucumber, Banana, Bob & Rose and The Second Coming, so expect a beautifully scripted drama that combines poignancy, dark humour and the sort of well-rounded characters you can truly invest in.

Like many of the projects they’ve joined forces on, it’s likely to serve as a reflection of our times and could even provide a glimpse into our future, however scary that might be.

Years and Years is an incredibly exciting story to bring to the screen,” says Nicola. “The script taps into the anxieties of the climate we’re currently living in, speculating how the dynamics of cultural and political change affects our lives – and the lives of our families.”

Years and Years will air on BBC One in 2019.

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