James Norton to play gay painter Duncan Grant in new BBC2 drama Life In Squares

The Happy Valley actor will star in a mini-series about the influential Bloomsbury Group

Three-part drama Life in Squares will follow the complicated relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell and other members of the Bloomsbury Group including British painter, textiles and pottery artist Duncan Grant.


Happy Valley actor James Norton will swap his most recent role as psychotic Tommy Lee Royce, plus his upcoming part as a crime-solving vicar in ITV’s Grantchester, for the gay designer. The Amanda Coe (Room at the Top) written drama is set over a 40 year period from the death of Queen Victoria through to the Second World War.

“The legacy of the Bloomsbury set resonates to this day,” said Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC Two. “I’m delighted that such an incredibly talented team are bringing them alive for a modern audience on BBC Two.”

Lydia Leonard (Ambassadors) will play a young Virginia Wolf and Phoebe Fox (Switch) will star as a young Vanessa Bell, as they both rebel against their strict Victorian roots and find Bloomsbury’s open-minded group of writers, philosophers and artists.

The drama will follow Bell’s open relationship with art critic Clive Bell, which resulted in a her having a child with Duncan Grant, while he was involved in relationships with male writers Lytton Strachey and John Maynard Keynes. Later in the series, viewers will see how Woolf struggled with depression, which resulted in her ending her own life in 1941.

Lucy Bedford, executive producer, said: “Life in Squares gets under the skin of the Bloomsbury group to lay bare the very human and emotional story of a group of people determined to find their own path in life.

“At heart, Life in Squares is about family: about the families we try to escape, the ones we end up creating and the different kinds of damage love can do.”

Life in Squares is set to begin filming in late summer – autumn in London and East Sussex.


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