EXCLUSIVE: Toby Stephens (Black Sails), Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty), Linus Roache (Homeland) and Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) have been set to star in writer-director Stephen Poliakoff’s (Dancing on the Edge) semi-autobiographical BBC Two drama Summer of Rockets, which is underway.
The six-episode hourlong series is set in the UK during the Cold War period of the late 1950s, a time when the UK, like much of the world, was dealing with the threat of international espionage and nuclear armageddon.
Helen Flint (Patrick Melrose) will executive produce for Little Island Productions and Lucy Richer for the BBC. The drama was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller of BBC Two, and Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and will be distributed internationally by BBC Studios. Filming has begun in and around London and Oxford.
The series follows Samuel (Stephens, pictured at right in a first look at the drama), a 40-something Russian Jewish émigré, inventor and designer of bespoke hearing aids, whose clients include former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. The drama follows Samuel and his family, wife Miriam and children Hannah and Sasha, as he is approached by MI5 to demonstrate his work.
It is not his inventions the operatives require, however. Instead Samuel is tasked with the secret mission of obtaining information about his charming, newly acquired friends Kathleen (Hawes, pictured below left) and her husband Richard Shaw MP (Roache) through whom Samuel also meets the impressive Lord Arthur Wallington (Spall). Writer-director Poliakoff’s Russian-born father was a naturalized British electronics engineer, inventor and businessman.
Rounding out cast are Lily Sacofsky (Bancroft) as Samuel’s daughter Hannah, Lucy Cohu (Ripper Street) as his wife Miriam, Gary Beadle (Grantchester) as his right-hand man Courtney, Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty) as Field, Ronald Pickup (The Crown) as Walter and Rose Ayling-Ellis (Reverberations) as Hannah’s friend Esther. Further casting includes Greg Austin, Jordan Coulson, Matthew James Thomas and Fode Simbo.
Said executive producer Flint, a longtime collaborator with Poliakoff on productions such as Close to the Enemy, Shooting the Past and Perfect Strangers: “This piece set in 1958 is hinged at the pivotal point of world history where the past and future are pulling in equal strength and human beings, young and old have little control over the eventual outcome.”
Stephens added: “It’s great to be working with Stephen Poliakoff again after such a long time. I loved working with him on Perfect Strangers; he’s such a unique and original voice in British television. It’s also good to be filming something back home in the UK for the BBC. It’s been a while.” Said Hawes: “I have wanted to work with Stephen for years, so I’m delighted to be part of such a wonderful cast, and can’t wait to spend the summer with them all.”