EXCLUSIVE: BBC One’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s classic novel The Pursuit of Love, starring Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again actress Lily James, is poised to be among the first big-budget TV dramas to resume production in the UK.
Deadline can reveal that producers Moonage Pictures and Open Book have been working tirelessly to begin filming in July after having to postpone their original spring shoot because of the coronavirus pandemic. Formal preparation is back underway ahead of production taking place around Bristol, south-west England, according to sources.
And while the Emily Mortimer-penned and -directed project will certainly be among the first to take a leap of faith, it may not be the first. Industry sources have told Deadline that Season 2 of War of the Worlds could get cameras rolling again in mid-July, with producer Urban Myth Films said to be working on innovative safety protocols for cast and crew.
Fox Networks and Canal+ are yet to confirm a second season is even happening, but Deadline revealed the renewal back in January. Interest in the project has risen after Daisy Edgar-Jones’ star power rocketed on the back of Normal People‘s success. She features in the modern-day reworking of H.G Wells’ classic story alongside Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern.
These high-end dramas differ vastly from British soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street, which are already back in production in the UK. The soaps have the advantage of exclusive studio space, established production procedures and the ability to weave coronavirus into the fabric of their storylines. The Pursuit of Love and War of the Worlds are also distinct from the BBC’s Talking Heads and ITV’s Isolation Stories, which were filmed during lockdown with little or no crew.
“Someone has got to take to the water first,” said a source familiar with the drama restarts. It’s a sentiment that sums up the mood among many producers in that there has not been a wild rush to resume shooting since the government lifted restrictions and safety protocols were published by broadcasters and the British Film Commission. “This subject makes my head hurt,” another producer added wryly.
Netflix was the first to stick a flag in the ground, committing to an August 17 restart date for The Witcher, which is filmed at the UK’s Arborfield Studios. The announcement this week was symbolic given that The Witcher was one of the first major UK-made shows to shut down in mid-March.
Deadline understands that other shows derailed at the height of the pandemic are giving themselves more time. This includes Peaky Blinders, Call the Midwife and A Discovery of Witches, which are said to be looking at autumn returns. There’s no word yet either on Line of Duty, though creator Jed Mercurio has not been upbeat about restarts. “Until wider society has the public health infrastructure of test, trace and isolate in place it’s going to be very hard for anyone,” he said last month.
Sources close to The Pursuit of Love and War of the Worlds have caveated their shoot ambitions with warnings that things could change, depending on how contained COVID-19 remains in the UK. There are fears about a second peak in the virus as the government dramatically relaxes social distancing measures on July 4, including halving the 2-meter rule.
Three-part miniseries The Pursuit of Love is based on the first book in a trilogy about an upper-class English family between the First and Second World Wars. The comedy deals with issues of growing up and falling in love among the privileged and eccentric. James plays Radlett family daughter Linda, who falls first for a stuffy Tory politician, then an ardent Communist, and finally a French duke named Fabrice, and her cousin Fanny Logan.
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