Joanne Froggatt’s next project after Downton Abbey is kind of…a bit against type. Best known for playing the beloved, long-suffering Anna Bates, Froggat will next take on the role of infamous Victorian poisoner Mary Cotton in an upcoming two-part drama entitled Dark Angel.
The series will be aired on ITV in the UK, and will come to America shortly thereafter on PBS stations nationwide as part of PBS’s 2016 Masterpiece slate.
Inspired by the book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by David Wilson, the series dramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.
Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coal fields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner's family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving. Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.
Taking advantage of a society that was unable to conceive of a woman being capable of such crimes, Cotton insinuated herself into unsuspecting families, marrying and creating new families of her own before killing them and absconding with their money.
Though Cotton’s total body count is uncertain, the best estimate indicates that she killed anywhere from 13 to as many as 21 people, including three husbands and several of her children and step-children.
Froggatt herself recognizes that the role of Mary Ann Cotton is very different from that of Downton’s beloved head housemaid.
"People kept saying to me, 'What did I want to do after Downton? I jokingly kept saying, 'Oh, I don’t know. Something completely different. Play a murderer or something," the actress told reporters at the recent Television Critics Association winter press tour. "Then this script came along and I thought, 'Oh, I better put my money where my mouth is.'"
Froggatt is joined by an exceptional cast, including Alun Armstrong, Sam Hoare, Jonas Armstrong, Thomas Howes, Laura Morgan and more.
Dark Angel will premiere on Masterpiece later this year.
Thoughts? Anyone else excited at the thought of seeing Froggatt in such a very different sort of role?