Louis Lester – a bandleader on the run played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (the troubled cop in The Shadow Line)
A young jazz musician and, crucially, a legal UK resident, Louis struggles to keep his band safe from the immigration authorities that threaten to deport them. His calm and friendly demeanour ingratiates him not only with influential music journalist, Stanley Mitchell, but also a band of wealthy socialites searching for the latest ‘new’ thing. But most interesting of all is Louis’ relationship with society photographer Sarah with whom he crosses racial boundaries to form a passionate bond. But unlike many of his starry-eyed band mates, Louis’ feet remain firmly on the ground amid their meteoric rise to fame.
Stanley Mitchell – an ambitious music journalist played by Matthew Goode (Brideshead Revisited’s Charles Ryder)
If there’s one thing cheeky chappy Stanley knows, it’s music. As deputy editor and chief writer of The Music Express (which later went on to become The New Music Express or NME) he is put in charge of finding exciting new bands to play at the unpopular Imperial Hotel. He takes a punt on the Louis Lester Band and uncovers the next big thing – promising band leader Louis that he will get them a number one record. Despite harking from a lower class background, Stanley charms his way into upper class society, attracting the friendship of influential socialite Lady Lavinia Cremone and the charms of glamorous blonde Pamela Luscombe. With his fingers in multiple pies, Stanley knows what he wants and how to get it…
Pamela Luscombe – an upper-class bombshell played by The Paradise’s Joanna Vanderham
Immaculate society girl Pamela was born with every opportunity a girl could want, but she is bored. Fed up of living with her straight-laced parents, she and her brother Julian belong to London’s fast young set who use their connections to elevate the profile of the Louis Lester Band. Always present at the most exclusive of gatherings (and a dab hand at charming the nation’s young Princes), Pamela sets her sights on smooth-talking music journalist, Stanley. But will she be able to ease her fears for her rogue brother when he falls under the sinister spell of wealthy American, Mr Masterson.
Sarah – a society photography played by Spies of Warsaw actress Janet Montgomery
Daughter of a Russian immigrant, Sarah wasn’t born into aristocracy like her close acquaintances, but uses her photography skills, fashion flair and wicked sense of humour to capture their attention. Coming from a different background to her London set, Sarah connects with band leader Louis Lester and her progressive views on liberated society mean the pair break with convention and embark upon a passionate relationship.
Julian Luscombe – a rich and dangerous young man played by Silk’s poor and gentle trainee, Tom Hughes
Brother of glamorous Pamela, Julian hails from an aristocratic background and wants for nothing. Handsome, charming and keen to occupy the centre of attention, Julian only frequents the best places to eat, drink and party with his well-heeled pack of society regulars. He soon becomes infatuated with the Louis Lester Band’s beguiling lead singer, Jessie, whom he impresses with expensive gifts and grand gestures. But it is not long before he begins working for mysterious American mogul Mr Masterson, opening doors to a world of unlimited wealth and sinister undertones. Will Julian be able to keep his head above water?
Donaldson – an influential jazz promoter played by Anthony Head (Little Britain’s PM and Merlin’s Uther)
A jazz connoisseur with important connections, Donaldson is one of the first to spot the Louis Lester Band’s potential – and gives them the crucial guidance to hire a singer. Armed with Jessie’s knockout vocals the group know no bounds, and Donaldson helps mastermind their rise from performing in shabby jazz clubs to playing in front of royalty. Armed with his book of contacts, the influential promoter keeps young company as he combs the music scene in search for fresh acts to back.
Lady Lavinia Cremone – an aristocratic aficionado played by Hollywood royalty Jacqueline Bisset
Elegant English aristocrat Lady Lavinia is not the likeliest champion of jazz music, but after being approached by Stanley to further the cause of Louis and his band, she pulls some very influential strings to secure the band a whole new audience. Mourning the loss of all three of her sons during World War I, the reclusive Lady Lavinia has finally found a reason to vacate her drafty northern mansion and return to the London music scene she knows and loves.
Mr Masterson – a billionaire mogul with a dark aura played by another Hollywood alumnus, John Goodman
As one of the richest men in the world, American businessman Mr Masterson buys his way into the wealthy young London set. But his mysterious character and shady behaviour add a sinister undertone to the grand excursions he plans for the group and before long he has young Julian working for him. His creepy commands – plus a flagrant obsession with gold – lend a dark counterpart to the gang’s carefree socialising.
Jessie and Carla – best friends and the Louis Lester Band’s two vocalists played by Merlin’s Angel Coulby and Wunmi Mosaku (I Am Slave)
Jessie sings lead vocals for the Louis Lester Band alongside her best friend Carla whose soulful voice adds the perfect accompaniment. The pair’s all-important vocals lend the group the extra charisma they need to break the big time. Jessie’s beguiling looks and stunning vocals have her male audience falling at her feet, while Carla’s shy demeanour soon ebbs away to reveal a true performer who never loses her steady grip on the reality that preceded the band’s success.
Rosie Williams – Stanley’s secretary (and occasional bedfellow) at The Music Express played by Doctor Who’s latest sidekick Jenna-Louise Coleman
Always on hand at the offices of The Music Express, Rosie supports Stanley’s one-man band magazine by waiting on his every beck and call. Reliable and efficient, she and Stanley’s flirtatious relationship transfers to the bedroom (or, to be more specific, a bed in their shared office). But Rosie’s charms are unable to withold Stanley’s attention from the amorous advances of wealthy Pamela Luscombe and she’s soon left smarting when her colleague’s wandering eye lands elsewhere.