EXCLUSIVE: ITV is heading back into the past with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. The British commercial broadcaster has commissioned a series based on his novel Belgravia, a tale of secrets and scandals set in 1840s London.
Downton Abbey indie Carnival Films is producing the series, which I hear is being lined up for an initial six-part run that is set to start production in the next few months.
The series is set in the 19th Century, around seventy years before Downton, when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders the emerging industrial nouveau riche. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when the Duchess of Richmond throws a party in Brussels for the Duke of Wellington. Among the guests are James and Anne Trenchard, who are living on the profits of newfound trading success. Their young daughter Sophia has caught the eye of Edmund Bellasis, the son and heir of one of the richest and most prominent families in England. Twenty-five years later, when the two families are settled into the newly developed area of Belgravia, the events of the ball, and the secrets, still resonate.
The book, which was published in 2016, was originally published online in a serial format, similar to that of Charles Dickens’ novels, albeit originally via an app that also included an audiobook narration by Truly, Madly, Deeply star Juliet Stevenson.
Fellowes is adapting his own novel and the drama is being directed by John Alexander, who has directed series such as BBC thriller Trust Me and Sky’s Jamestown. It is exec produced by Carnival Films Executive Chairman Gareth Neame, Nigel Marchant and Liz Trubridge and produced by Killing Eve producer Colin Wratten.
2019 is likely to be a busy year for Fellowes, who is finally set to launch his NBC period drama The Gilded Age after originally scoring the order in 2012, as well as projects including soccer drama The English Game for Netflix and Five Arrows, a drama about the Rothschild banking dynasty in association with Jemima Khan’s Instinct Productions, as well as a royal drama based on the Queen’s art collection with The X Factor producer Syco.