Former Downton Abbey star Robert James-Collier and ex-Emmerdale resident Charlie Hardwick are swapping the countryside for the classroom as they join the third series of school drama Ackley Bridge.
James-Collier, who played under-butler Thomas Barrow in Downton, and Charlie Hardwick, known to Emmerdale fans as Val Pollard, will be new members of staff set to “serve up a few hard lessons” when the show returns later this year, according to Channel 4.
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The new series will see Ackley Bridge College being taken over by The Valley Trust, and James-Collier’s new deputy head teacher Martin Evershed and Hardwick’s director of behaviour Sue Carp have been brought in to “whip the pupils into shape”.
James-Collier said he was “thrilled” to be chosen for the role and added of the young cast: “Such fearless and talented young actors bring a special spirit and energy on set and I hope I can learn from that and add to it in my own way.”
Hardwick commented: “I'm absolutely over the moon to be joining Ackley Bridge, I was already a fan. It has fantastic characters and brilliantly sharp story-telling which tackles the desires and concerns of a diverse school of young people and their community head on, in full-beam.”
Jo Joyner’s Mandy will reprise her role as the school’s headmistress and will be joined by returning cast members including Sunetra Sarker, Poppy Lee-Friar and Amy Leigh-Hickman.
Ackley Bridge has begun filming in Halifax and will return to Channel 4 for eight new episodes later this year.