The Radio Times logo

Three Families release date: Cast, trailer and latest news

The two-part BBC drama explores Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws through the eyes of three families.

Three Families
Published: Tuesday, 4th May 2021 at 4:17 pm

From the producers of harrowing real-life drama Three Girls comes a new BBC One drama focussing on the issue of strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland.


Gwyneth Hughes (Doing Money) pens the compelling two-part series, and (as the title suggests) it follows three families whose lives are impacted by the Abortion Act of 1967, which legalised abortion in the UK but did not extend to Northern Ireland.

Based on real people, the characters include a mother and daughter whose lives are upended by an unwanted teenage pregnancy, and a married couple whose much-wanted first child will die of a fatal foetal abnormality.

The BBC synopsis states the series "explores the emotional background to a controversial campaign, which culminated in the UK government forcing a liberalisation of the law in Northern Ireland".

Here's everything you need to know about real-life drama Three Families.

When is Three Families released?

Three Families airs on BBC One and is stripped across two consecutive nights, Monday 10th May and Tuesday 11th May at 9pm.

What is Three Families about?

The drama series focuses on three real-life women (whose names have been changed): Theresa, a mother of two whose teenage daughter Orla gets pregnant, and Hannah, a young newlywed desperate for a baby. We also meet Rosie, an older, wealthier woman whose unborn baby has a genetic condition.

Screenwriter Hughes says, "When executive producer Sue Hogg first asked me to write Three Families, I was amazed to discover that thousands of women from Northern Ireland still had to get on planes and ferries and go to England in search of terminations they could not access at home. I’d simply never understood that the 1967 Act excluded Northern Ireland."

Three Families
Three Families (BBC) BBC

She continues, "Classically the abortion debate is presented as two opposing and immoveable camps – “pro Life”, and “pro Choice”. But as I discovered, it’s not as simple as that. What about people like our character Theresa, who thought she was against abortion until her own 15 year old daughter fell pregnant?

"I’ve changed Theresa’s name, and other details about her life, to protect her anonymity and her privacy. I did the same for all members of the Three Families, who generously shared their time and their stories with me. The real “Hannah” is a spirited, funny, vivid young married woman from a small town; I loved her positive attitude and the joy she managed to retrieve from her terrible ordeal.

"The real “Rosie” is a warm, beautiful, elegant older woman, who thought the chance of a baby had passed her by, and whose mental and physical suffering was extreme. The real “Theresa” chose her daughter over the traditions of her faith, and had to find reserves of courage and endurance, which almost broke her. I tell their family stories as closely as I can to the accounts they gave me, and want to thank them all from the bottom of my heart for their welcome and honesty."

Who stars in Three Families?

The central three characters (all inspired by real people) are played by Sinéad Keenan (as Theresa), Amy James-Kelly (as Hannah) and Genevieve O’Reilly (Rosie).

Three Families
Three Families (BBC) BBC

Theresa's teenage daughter Orla is played by Lola Petticrew, while Merlin star Colin Morgan plays Hannah's new husband, Jonathan.

The cast is rounded out by Owen McDonnell as Mark, Prasanna Puwanarajah as David, Vanessa Emme as Rachel, and Kerri Quinn as Louise.

Is there a trailer for Three Families?

Yes, you can watch the trailer for Three Families here:


Three Families starts on BBC One on Monday 10th May at 9pm. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub for more TV news.


Sponsored content