Hot on the heels of Victoria, Dark Angel is the latest ITV period drama to be filmed in Yorkshire and the North East.
It stars Joanne Froggatt as real-life miner’s daughter Mary Ann Cotton, who poisoned her four husbands and her children with arsenic, and got away with murder for years.
Froggatt was still filming Downton Abbey when she was sent the script, but didn’t take much persuading. “The script was so good and I was hooked straight away,” she explains. “Although Dark Angel is a period drama, Mary Ann could not be more different from Anna Bates.”
“I’m trying not to play her as a psychopath, because the story spans over 15 years where we see where she starts and then what she becomes.”
For Froggatt, who hails from Whitby, it was also nice to be back on home turf.
“It’s been lovely to film here. Although Downton Abbey was set in Yorkshire, it was filmed down south at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios. We’ve been based in York a lot of the time and I’d forgotten how beautiful it is. We also had a couple of days at Saltburn, which is very close to home. So I got to stay with my parents for a few nights.”
Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a seaside resort in North Yorkshire about 20 miles north of Whitby. In Dark Angel, it doubles as Seaham, Mary Ann Cotton’s hometown in County Durham. Look out for The Butcher’s Arms pub and a row of period mining and fishing cottages against the cliff and sea.
Joanne Froggatt as Mary Ann and Jonas Armstrong as Joe Nattrass
Viewers will also spy Saltburn’s fine Victorian pier – one of the best in England – across the fabulous beach where a lot of the action is set.
Saltburn’s Victorian pier at sunset
“I would say it’s one of the more challenging location projects I’ve worked on and I’ve worked on a lot of period dramas,” explains producer Jake Lushington.
“It’s very easy to film in a big country house, because most of them still exist. A lot of working class and middle class locations don’t exist. They’ve been re-developed, done up. Go to the real West Auckland, it’s a rather shiny Farrow and Ball town. Which you would have to dirt and dampen down.”
“For the other mining village we went to a place called South Dalton, near Beverley in Yorkshire, where we turned farm buildings into a miners’ village. Because actually it was easier to turn old agricultural buildings that hadn’t been changed for 150 years into a mining town. That gave us a 360 degree set with a lot of dressing.”
They also filmed at Beamish Museum, an open-air museum in County Durham where visitors can see what life was like in the North East in the 19th and early 20th century. Dark Angel made use of its real pithead and one of the working general stores.
Paul Brennan as Mr Riley in Dark Angel
Sunderland doesn’t play itself because it no longer has any period streets. Instead viewers will see one of Hull’s and a very posh street in York.
As for the jail, it’s usually open to the public because it’s part of York Castle Museum, which is housed in 18th century prison buildings.
Dark Angel begins on Monday 31st October on ITV at 9pm
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