With season two of BBC1 period drama Call the Midwife approaching the end of the 1950s, ITV’s upcoming medical series is almost perfectly timed to pick up where it left off.
Written and executive produced by Casualty co-creator Paul Unwin, upcoming ITV series Breathless is set in 1961 and follows the lives of doctors and nurses working in a busy London gynaecology unit. The new six-part series sees Britain on the brink of the 1960s sexual revolution, with women still struggling to assert themselves at a time when abortion was illegal and the contraceptive pill only available to those who were married.
While Call the Midwife attracted acting talent including Miranda Hart, Jenny Agutter, Jessica Raine and Helen George, Breathless is gearing up to compete with a stellar cast of its own. Following the announcement back in February that Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smash) was to star as brilliant and charismatic surgeon, Otto Powell, Natasha Little (Davenport’s former This Life co-star) has been cast as his wife, Elizabeth.
Otto and Elizabeth appear to have a perfect marriage, living the consumerist dream that others aspire to, but in reality the couple are concealing a devastating secret about their marriage which could shatter their carefully constructed public image.
Experienced anaesthetist Dr Charlie Enderbury, who works closely with Otto as his oldest friend, will be played by Shaun Dingall (Above Suspicion). He is married to ex-nurse Lily (Gavin & Stacey’s Joanna Page). The couple enjoy a warm and loving marriage, with Charlie harbouring dreams of a promotion to secure them a better life together.
However, the arrival of Dr Mehta (Ronny Jhutti) thwarts his hopes when the newcomer is appointed Chair of Anaesthesiology. And, in an added twist, the overlooked Charlie knows the powerful secret that could destroy Otto’s reputation…
Oliver Chris (Bluestone 42) will play junior consultant Dr Richard Truscott who sets about charming his medical students, whilst experiencing frustration at Otto’s superiority. His fiancé Jean (Downton’s Zoe Boyle) is a fiery character – a nurse who is trying to convince herself that she aspires to become a doting, submissive housewive, living a life of luxury.
Jean’s sister Angela (played by The Tudors actress Catherine Steadman) is another new arrival to the hospital, having recently transferred from her job in Portsmouth. A dynamic young nurse with a strong moral compass, she takes her responsibilities seriously. But when she meets dashing surgeon Otto, the pair feel a mutual attraction that each struggles to repress.
ITV Studios executive producer Kate Bartlett said “Breathless is an exhilirating and charismatic character drama, set against a glamorous London backdrop.
“The medical stories and events are there to illuminate and complicate the lives of our key characters and 1961 is a fascinating time in which to explore the changing role of women in society.”
Breathless is co-created by Paul Unwin and Peter Grimsdale and will be filmed in London with further casting details yet to be announced.