Indian Summers: meet the cast

Channel 4's grand period drama takes us to the Indian Raj in the 1930s – who do we need to know?

69779

Channel 4’s sumptuous new period drama Indian Summers begins this Sunday at 9pm, with an intriguing mix of established and emerging actors.

Advertisement

The British Empire is hanging on in the Himalayan foothill town of Simla, a place of refuge from the summer heat. At the heart of life is the British Club, run by the social queen Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters).

Ahead of the first episode, find out more about the characters and cast.

Ralph Whelan (played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes)

69706

The cool, chiselled private secretary to the Viceroy, Ralph is at the heart of the Raj’s political intrigues. Easygoing yet ruthless. he has risen quickly through the Indian Civil Service – so why in episode one does an Indian assailant call him a “demon”?

Henry says: “As Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India, Ralph knows he has to keep this world going – his job is to keep one step ahead of facts and information, and maintain a sense of business as usual, even when the subtext indicates the opposite.”

Where you’ve seen him before…

Henry Lloyd-Hughes played shaven-headed school bully Mark Donovan in The Inbetweeners. Oh, and if you look hard enough, you might recognise him as Fleur Delacour’s besotted date Roger Davies in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They grow up so fast…

Alice Whelan (played by Jemima West)

69708

Ralph’s younger sister arrives in India in a desperate situation, her young son in tow after the mysterious death of her husband. She falls for the charms of the Indian hill country, but is she a burden on her ambitious older brother?

Jemima says: “Unlike most women in the Raj, Alice comes back to India by choice and alone apart from her baby. It’s not a normal situation and Alice hasn’t quite decided what she’s going to reveal to people and what she wants to keep secret.”

Where you’ve seen her before…

The Anglo-French actress played Isabelle Lightwood in fantasy series The Mortal Instruments. She’s also featured in season two of period political drama The Borgias.

Aafrin Dalal (played by Nikesh Patel)

69709

A low-ranking Indian civil servant, Aafrin is about to be caught up in the political machinations of the British Empire. The Independence movement is growing, and the quietly passionate Aafrin is inevitably caught in the tide of change.

Nikesh says: “He’s quite apolitical at the start. He wants to support his family and, although he can’t help but be aware of the growing cause for independence, to pay too much attention to that would be at odds with his job. As the story unfolds, that sense of duty gets tested time and time again.

Where you’ve seen him before…

Nikesh is a relative newcomer to TV, although you might have spotted him in Sky Living supernatural drama Bedlam opposite Fresh Meat actor Gemma Chan, or starring in British Asian film Jadoo.

Sooni Dalal (played by Aysha Kala)

69769

Aafrin’s sister is as smart as they come, and is jealous of her brother’s ‘golden boy’ image. She wants to be a lawyer, but her political activism (not to mention her distress at her brother’s role in the Civil Service) could get in the way of her ambition.

Aafrin and Sooni also have a younger sister, Shamshad (played by Ashna Rabheru).

Aysha says: “It was great to have such a gutsy, ballsy female character to play, especially because I don’t think this story in history is told very often. It’s nice to have it seen through the eyes of a young female. A lot of characters are fiery, but Sooni has this need to fight for home rule without knowing what to do with it.”

Where you’ve seen her before…

Kala appeared in the 8th series of C4 comedy drama Shameless, but this is her first major role in a primetime drama. “It was amazing: like stepping behind the curtain into India,” she says. “The work that had gone into creating it was unbelievable. It wasn’t pretty, and you finished a day’s shooting feeling completely grubby, but it was as it should be.”

Cynthia Coffin (played by Julie Walters)

69716

The grande dame of British society in Simla, Cynthia owns decadent haunt the British Club. She knows everything that happens in this Himalayan outpost, making her a valuable ally for ambitious Ralph.

Julie says: “To get a part like Cynthia is heaven at my age. She’s a Machiavellian personality, which I found really interesting: her morals are based on her practical needs rather than right and wrong. She does things that aren’t right but utterly believes they are. She knows everybody’s secrets. And I love the entertainer side of her. She’s great fun, as well as having this darker side.”

Where you’ve seen her…

Advertisement

Where haven’t you seen her! From Educating Rita to Harry Potter, Dinnerladies to Mamma Mia!, Julie Walters is the leading lady in Indian Summers. She’s particularly intrigued by her character’s East End background, proof that India wasn’t just full of posh British twits. That’s not to say she’s not worried by the lack of diversity in acting, telling Radio Times it is “shocking” how the flow of ‘working class’ talent “has just stopped.”