From Doctor Who to a grumpy patriarch… the story behind Christopher Eccleston’s new role

Writer of new BBC1 autism drama Peter Bowker explains why he has cast the former Time Lord in his new six-part series

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It doesn’t seem that long ago (well, just over a decade) when Christopher Eccleston was playing an energetic young Doctor in the BBC1 Time Lord reboot. 

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Fast-forward ten years and he’s been cast as a grumpy “patriarch” in BBC1 drama The A Word, due on screens next year.

In the new drama, written by Marvellous scribe Peter Bowker, Eccleston plays the father of the Hughes family who struggles to come to terms with his youngest son’s diagnosis with autism.

And writer Peter Bowker tells RadioTimes.com that Eccleston was the actor he had in mind from the off. “I thought it would be very interesting to have a patriarch who was my age, I’m 56.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting if not only was he the most annoying Dad in the world but also if he was Chris Eccleston. He would have vitality and a bit of danger and also be physically intimidating and a know-all. When Chris plays comedy and throws it away he’s very funny and I knew he could embrace that too.”

Also set to appear in the drama are Lee Ingleby (Our Zoo), Morven Christie (Grantchester), Greg McHugh (Fresh Meat), Vinette Robinson (Sherlock) and newcomer Max Vento as the young boy.

Announcing the project the BBC said that the Hughes family “work and love and fight like every other family. Then their youngest son is diagnosed with autism and they don’t feel like every other family anymore.”

The Corporation’s statement added: “They realise that if their son is ever going to communicate, they are going to have to learn how to communicate themselves. It’s a funny and thought-provoking series about parenthood and childhood.”

Eccleston said of the project: “I’m very proud to be reunited with writer Peter Bowker on The A Word. This is a special job for us all. We hope the audience take us to their hearts.”

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Filming will continue until early 2016 and a late spring broadcast is expected.