Death and Nightingales on BBC2 – What’s it about, who’s in the cast and when’s it on TV?

Jamie Dornan in reuniting with The Fall writer Allan Cubitt for BBC2's gripping, "twisted love triangle" set in nineteenth-century rural Ireland

Ann Skelly as Beth and Jamie Dornan as Liam in Death and Nightingales (BBC)

Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan is trialling another rugged look in BBC2 drama Death and Nightingales, from The Fall writer Allan Cubitt.


A “gripping drama” based on Eugene McCabe’s book of the same name, the show takes place in one 24-hour period in 1885 and has a “twisted love triangle” at its heart.

Set in the Irish countryside, the three-parter sees Beth Winters trying to escape her limited life and strict, protestant stepfather Billy, with the help of the charming Liam Ward.

When is Death and Nightingales on TV?

Death and Nightingales airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC2. has launched a new campaign – Women’s Words – celebrating female screenwriters and asking why there aren’t more women’s voices on British TV

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Who’s in the Death and Nightingales cast?

Dornan, who played serial killer Paul Spector in The Fall, has been cast in the part of Liam Ward.

He’s joined by Matthew Rhys (The Americans), who plays Billy, Ann Skelly (Red Rock) as Beth Winters, and is reunited with his The Fall co-star Valene Kane, who plays Beth’s Catholic mother, Catherine.

Click here for full details of the Death and Nightingales cast

Matthew Rhys plays Beth's stepfather, Billy Winters, in Death and Nightingales (BBC)
Matthew Rhys plays Beth’s stepfather, Billy Winters, in Death and Nightingales (BBC)

What is Death and Nightingales about?

Death and Nightingales (BBC)
Death and Nightingales (BBC)

If you thought this might be a sweet, coming-of-age story, think again — the synopsis sounds pretty ominous: “As decades of pain and betrayal finally build to a devastating climax, Death and Nightingales is a powerful and gripping drama that follows a woman struggling to control her own destiny and will illuminate tensions that tear both families and nations apart.”

Although when a show has ‘death’ in the title, that might be an initial clue.

“It’s a complex novel that has at its heart a kind of twisted love story and triangle,” explains writer and director Cubitt.

Death and Nightingales. Picture Shows: Liam Ward (JAMIE DORNAN) - (C) Night Flight Pictures Ltd 2018 - Photographer: Teddy Cavendish
Death and Nightingales. Picture Shows: Liam Ward (JAMIE DORNAN) – (C) Night Flight Pictures Ltd 2018 – Photographer: Teddy Cavendish

“Billy Winters is… a very troubled man,” Rhys adds, “who lost his wife ten years ago in a horrific accident and raised his step-daughter on his own, sadly we’re not quite sure when, but his feelings for his step-daughter have crossed over into a slightly dark place.”

Death and Nightingales, BBC
Death and Nightingales – Billy Winters (MATTHEW RHYS), Beth Winters (ANN SKELLY) (BBC)

On joining the cast, Dornan says: “I’m thrilled to be reunited with Allan and his brilliant scripts to play such an intriguing character like Liam Ward.”

Skelly added: “Playing such a strong character as Beth Winters is truly an actor’s dream, and a fantastically intense challenge to be given the opportunity to play. And to get to work with such brilliant actors like Matthew and Jamie, and a director like Allan Cubitt, is just surreal to me. I can’t wait to start!”

Where was Death and Nightingales filmed?

Set in County Fermanagh, the landscape is almost its own character in both Cubitt’s BBC2 series and McCabe’s original novel.

“Beth has a huge attachment to the land,” Ann Skelly told, “because I think she associates [it] with her mother… That becomes a huge conflict for Beth in the plan she and Liam hatch together, because Billy is also associated with that [the land], and I think Beth has a huge tie and bond with Billy, even if they don’t like each other sometimes.”

So when it came to filming, “half the trick to pulling [the series] off was finding locations that would really work,” according to Cubitt, who was keen “not make it dark, cold, Northern Ireland”.

Springhill House (Getty)
Springhill House (Getty)

The Winters’ home, where Beth and Billy live along with their servant Mercy, was mostly filmed in Springhill House Moneymoore. The seventeenth-century Northern Ireland property, owned by the National Trust, was closed for much of May and June to accommodate the show’s filming schedule.

Filming took place across a range of locations, including Myra Castle in Strangford, Downpatrick, and the National Trust-owned Mid Island, near Portaferry.


Is there a trailer for Death and Nightingales?

Yes! And it’s pretty eerie…

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