Jessica Brown Findlay, Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville to become Harlots in new ITV brothel drama

Lady Sybil is a long way from Downton Abbey...

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You might know her best as the youngest of Downton Abbey’s Crawley siblings, but Jessica Brown Findlay’s taking on a very different role in ITV Encore and Hulu’s new period drama Harlots.

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She’ll play 18th Century Georgian London’s most coveted courtesan, Charlotte, the daughter of a brothel owner who begins to “grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family”.

Samantha Morton will star as Charlotte’s mother, Margaret Wells, whose business comes under attack from Lesley Manville’s Lydia Quigley – and she’s quick to fight back against the rival madam with a ruthless streak, even if her family has to face the consequences.

Based on the stories of real women, Harlots is described as a “powerful family drama” and will begin filming in London in June 2016. It will air on ITV Encore in the UK and exclusively on streaming service Hulu in the US. 

Written by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, Tamara Drewe) and directed by Coky Giedroyc (What Remains, Penny Dreadful) and China Moo-Young (Thirteen, Humans), Harlots is based on an original idea by Moira Buffini and Alison Newman, and is the first commission for Monumental Pictures, the independent company founded by Oscar nominated producers Alison Owen (Suffragette, Tulip Fever) and Debra Hayward (Bridget Jones’s Baby, Les Misérables).

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“Harlots is an exploration of family, power and brutal economics in a vibrant booming world full of colour and noise,” said ITV Controller of Drama Victoria Fea. “We’re delighted to be commissioning the series for ITV Encore. Moira and Alison’s scripts are shocking, fascinating and compelling.”