Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin to lead cast of new BBC1 political thriller Apple Tree Yard

The pair will star in an adaptation of Louise Doughty's novel about the fallout from a married scientist’s unexpected sexual encounter in the Houses of Parliament

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Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin have been cast as the leads in a new BBC1 drama about the fallout from a chance sexual encounter in the Houses of Parliament.

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Watson, seen last year in BBC drama A Song for Jenny, will play Yvonne Carmichael in the four-part adaptation of Louise Doughty’s book Apple Tree Yard, first revealed by RadioTimes.com last year.

Carmichael is an eminent geneticist in her early 50s, and the story begins with her giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee.

On her way out of the building, the happily married Carmichael catches the eye of a man called Mark Costley and they have sex in the crypt chapel – an event that has disastrous consequences for her.

Chaplin, who played Cinderella’s father in last year’s Kenneth Branagh movie, will take on the role of Costley.

Mark Bonnar (Catastrophe, Line of Duty), Adeel Akhtar (Capital, River), Lydia Leonard (Life in Squares), Frances Tomelty (Unforgotten) and Rhashan Stone (Strike Back) have also joined the line-up.

The BBC describes Apple Tree Yard, which is expected to air later this year, as “a provocative, audacious thriller that puts women’s lives at the heart of a gripping, insightful story about the values we live by and the choices we make.

“Yvonne’s downward trajectory is searingly realised; hers is a life ripped apart as the consequence of one, single, spur-of-the-moment decision. A decision any one of us might make. “

Emily Watson said of her new role: “I am both relishing and daunted by the prospect of taking on this role; it’s grown up, steamy and of queasy moral complexity.”

The adaptation has been scripted by Amanda Coe, writer of BBC period drama Room at the Top and the biopic Filth: The Mary Whitehouse story.

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Coe said: “Apple Tree Yard is that rare thing, a perfectly executed page turner that’s also a gripping exploration of the difficult moral choices we face in adult relationships.”