Created by Bafta winner Dominic Savage (The Escape), each hour-long film follows a different women as they experience “moments that are emotionally raw, thought-provoking and utterly personal”.
Shot over the summer and autumn of 2018, each of the three episodes is co-authored and developed by its female lead, a collaborative process that Samantha Morton compared to “singing a duet” during a Q&A at the BFI & Radio Times Festival.
The first episode is called I Am Nicola, starring Vicky McClure, while the second is called I Am Kirsty, which stars Samantha Morton (Minority Report). The third, starring Gemma Chan, is called I Am Hannah.
Here’s everything you need to know about the I Am… series:
When is I Am Nicola on TV?
The hour-long films begin airing on Tuesday 23rd July at 10pm on Channel 4, starting with I Am Nicola.
I Am Kirsty and I Am Hannah are expected to air over the following weeks.
Is there a trailer for Channel 4’s I Am… series?
There is indeed — showing the ups and downs of McClure, Morton and Chan’s characters, it offers an intriguing glimpse into the dramatic heft of the films.
What is I Am Nicola about?
I Am Nicola will star Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure and Perry Fitzpatrick, telling the story of a dysfunctional and coercive relationship. The two actors have actually known each other since they first began acting together as kids, and the whole story came together as a collaborative effort with plenty of improvisation.
McClure’s character Nicola is a hairdresser “dissatisfied with her life and envious of her customer’s exciting new experiences.” But her partner Adam (played by Fitzpatrick) “views her desire for a change as a personal attack, sending their relationship into a downward spiral of arguments, guilt and reconciliation.”
“It’s not a carbon copy of an experience I’ve had, but it’s moments from experiences I’ve had from past relationships, it’s moments I’ve seen my friends go through,” McClure told press. “You hear stories, you see stories. It’s a real amalgamation of being in a relationship that’s not working.
“In some ways, it can come across as mundane because someone’s not having an affair and there’s not big scenarios, it’s the little things that cut deep and when they’re happening to you it feels like your world’s going to fall apart. And that’s what it was, it was predominantly what we wanted to create.”
The duo spent ten days in a rented house with a stripped-back film crew, working with a story structure but creating dialogue together.
It’s not the first time “coercive control” has been represented in TV drama, but Fitzpatrick said: “I think we approach it from a different angle than perhaps we’ve seen before on screen so much. I’d say that the spectrum of abuse is so wide and we often see the extremes and their easier warning signs perhaps, red flags for people to notice in relationships that things aren’t right or they’re not happy.
“But unfortunately there are a lot of situations where they’re not entirely sure why they’re not happy, on both sides, and that’s where we’ve tried to focus on, the real subtlety of it.”
“It’s not a campaign film, it’s a character piece,” McClure added.
What is Channel 4’s I Am Kirsty about?
In I Am Kirsty, Samantha Morton stars opposite Paul Kaye’s Ryan, who’s described as a menacing presence in Kirsty’s life.
Kirsty is struggling to keep afloat and protect her two young daughters. Working as a cleaner, she is having difficulties paying off debts and, after a frank conversation with a colleague, she contemplates sex work as a means of earning money. The film explores the sacrifices she makes for her family — and how far she’s willing to go to ensure their survival.
“Kirsty’s story is deeply influenced by my own experiences and is autobiographical at its heart,” Morton said.
“Sadly, the issues explored in this show – poverty, austerity, desperation – are all too real for so many people and I feel strongly that it’s so important that we can speak openly about that.”
Series producer Krishnendu Majumdar said, “Dominic Savage’s work always speaks to the most contemporary and urgent of questions, taking a scalpel to modern life.”
Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Festival about how she conceived of Kirsty, Morton, who spent many of her early years in care, said: “As a child I was around two women who — two different women — who were forced into sex work through poverty or a man forcing them to do it for money.
“And that was, when I played Tracy in [British TV series] Band of Gold, that was my source material for that, all those years ago. And also living in children’s homes and around children who were exploited into sex work.”
Speaking at the same event, Dominic Savage said: “It was interesting because, looking into it I met some women who had done this [worked as sex workers]… I knew that what we were dealing with is something that is real and is happening. I was very keen to try and describe what these things feel like, what the harshness of it and really the devastation and the impossibility of the situation.
“[While filming on] the estate that was in the film, the amount of people who I met living with kids, single parents, that were very close to the edge and had actually had this experience as well.”
What is I Am Hannah about?
“Series finale” I Am Hannah marks a return to Channel 4 for Humans star Chan, and deals with a woman in her 30s struggling with societal and family expectations.
“Like many women I know, Hannah is struggling with the anxiety that comes with living in a society that constantly reminds women about their ‘biological clock,’” Chan said.
“At its core, her story is about someone trying to free themselves from expectation, both internal and external.”
Who stars in the I Am… series?
You’ll no doubt recognise I Am Nicola actress Vicky McClure from her starring role as Kate in the long-running BBC1 Line of Duty series. She’s also starred as Lol in the This Is England film and television series.
Gemma Chan plays Hannah, a 30-something woman facing societal pressure. She’s starred in Humans, Captain Marvel, Crazy Rich Asians, and recently played Bess of Hardwick in Mary Queen of Scots alongside Margot Robbie.
Two-time Oscar-nominee Samantha Morton plays Kirsty, a single mum struggling to keep her family afloat after her partner walks out on them. Morton has starred in numerous Hollywood films, including Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, Minority Report, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She’s also appeared in various television series, including The Walking Dead, The Rosie Project and Harlots.
Samantha Morton (Getty)
Co-starring with Morton is Paul Kaye who plays Ryan, a parent at the same school where Kirsty’s two daughters attend. He runs into Kirsty after she receives some difficult news.