The Confessions of Frannie Langton arrives on ITV1 tonight and is sure to hook viewers with its gripping story, which shatters conventions of the period drama sub-genre, replacing them with something original and highly compelling.


"No doubt you'll be thinking that this is just another one of those slave stories, all sugared over with misery and despair," says lead character Frannie (played by Karla-Simone Spence) as the series gets underway.

Those expectations would be misguided, however, as while The Confessions of Frannie Langton does go to some very dark places narratively, it also contains an intimate romance that really tugs at the heartstrings.

Some viewers may be left wondering if The Confessions of Frannie Langton is based on a true historical case – here's everything you need to know about what inspired the ITVX and ITV1 drama.

Is The Confessions of Frannie Langton based on a true story?

While the events that unfold in the new ITV drama veer as close to historical accuracy as possible, the series is based on the novel of the same name by Sara Collins.

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Collins's debut novel was released in 2019 and like the series, the events of the book pick up in 1826 when Frannie is standing trial for the Benham's murders. As well as scooping up the Costa Book Awards First Novel prize in 2019, the book has been revered by publications and writers alike. Margaret Atwood, writer of The Handmaid's Tale, even stated that it was "Wide Sargasso Sea meets Alias Grace ... deep-diving, elegant."

Speaking about the decision to adapt her novel for the small screen, Collins admits: "I knew straightaway that I didn’t want to write yet another period drama where the only thing that happens to the Black characters is slavery."

madame and frannie lying in the bath together, with madame reading a book
The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

While the events in the series and novel are fictional, they're born out of a real-life desire to see and read about authentic and multifaceted Black characters in historical fiction. Collins continues: "My life-long irritation with the depiction of Black characters in historical fiction as nothing but victims of that institution was the reason I’d written the novel in the first place.

"But I also wanted to avoid the sort of colour-blind fantasy about interracial romance that seems to be in vogue nowadays – deliciously anachronistic, but occasionally guilty of indulging the audience’s self-serving reasons for pretending slavery never happened at all. Instead, I wanted to dramatise a passionate love affair between a Black woman and her white mistress in Regency London.

"We’ve been led to assume this kind of thing would never have happened, which is precisely why it’s the story I wanted to tell."

Of course, the depiction of slavery – including the depiction of brutal experiments on her enslaved peers – is based on real history. But it is also a drama that isn't your "typical" tale about slavery, as Frannie herself states to the viewer at the start of the series: "No doubt you'll be thinking that this is just another one of those slave stories, all sugared over with misery and despair."

Similarly, when talking to about her leading role, Spence revealed that Collins's deviation from the widely understood slavery narrative was a refreshing draw to her in this series. "We don't really want to see Black trauma on screen. We're multifaceted. We're not a monolith. We love and we cry, and we want to see new stories that aren't entrenched in sadness and pain.

"While Frannie is set in this time period and she was born into slavery, while she can't escape from that, it's a story about her. It is showing all the different parts of her life."

The Confessions of Frannie Langton premieres at 9pm on ITV1 on Monday 21st August 2023. Stream on ITVX. You can purchase The Confessions of Frannie Langton on Amazon here.

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