Belgravia’s Ella Purnell: ‘We’re seeing more feminist narratives in period dramas’

"[Series creator] Julian Fellowes is a feminist, he doesn't just write sexy, vapid characters," says the Ordeal by Innocence actress

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Pictured: ELLA PURNELL as Lady Maria Grey.

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Belgravia star Ella Purnell has praised the current trend for period dramas like Gentleman Jack and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women to include “progressive female characters” and feminist narrative arcs.

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Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, the Sweetbitter actress said: “This [more feminist period drama] is what we are seeing at the moment. If you think about Little Women, which I loved, these kinds of progressive female characters are definitely being written, partly because of this feminist trend that is happening… [and] because that is what people want to see: truth, real life.

“Fifty-two per cent of the audience will want to see themselves, their gender, represented on screen. There are still a ton of other genres to consider like war movies, but I’m enjoying the kinds of things we’re seeing in terms of period dramas at the moment.”

Asked whether she believes her Belgravia character Lady Maria Grey is a ‘modern’ period drama woman, she said: “Yes. A large selling point or arc that my character goes through is this forbidden love and this arranged marriage that she’s thrust between, but I think the most interesting relationship for my character is the one between her and her mother. Maternal relationships are really difficult, very tense, and often there’s a lot of pain involved… [Series creator Julian Fellowes] is a feminist, he doesn’t just write these sexy, vapid characters.”

Adam James and Alice Eve in TV drama Belgravia
Adam James and Alice Eve in TV drama Belgravia (ITV)

In the series, set among London’s upper classes in the 19th century, Purnell’s character Lady Maria Grey is a spirited young woman of excellent birth, while her mother Lady Templemore (Game of Thrones’ Tara Fitzgerald) has identified an eligible match for her: the snobbish and selfish John Bellasis (Adam James).

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The six-part series will begin on Sunday 15th March 2020 at 9pm on ITV, and will air weekly.