Masterpiece has released the first images of its latest collaboration with the BBC, Ridley Road. Inspired by a true story, the series is adapted from Jo Bloom's best-selling novel of the same name. Set in the U.K. in the late 1960s, newcomer Aggi O'Casey stars as protagonist Vivien Epstein, a Jewish girl who falls in love with a member of the militant anti-fascist "62 Group," who gives up her comfortable life in Manchester to go undercover in London.
Though both the BBC and Masterpiece are known for having done multiple shows about World War II and the Jewish experience of the Holocaust, the initial period of Nazi resurgence has only recently started showing up in British dramas. Series like Endeavour and other late 1960s-set shows have done episodes touching on the virulent rise of nationalism during this era and stretching into the early 1970s. But this will be the rare series that centers that uprising (and the anti-fascist backlash) as the primary focus.
The series took getting the historical details right seriously, with press releases noting that writer Sarah Solemani "undertook extensive research into the period" ahead of the BBC greenlighting production. From the looks of the first images, that period accuracy will extend to the sumptuous look of the four-part series as well.
Here's Masterpiece's official synopsis of the upcoming series:
Ridley Road tells the story of Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish woman who, after falling in love with a member of the '62 Group', rejects her comfortable middle-class life in Manchester and joins the fight against fascism in London. Inspired by true events, Ridley Road follows Vivien as she goes undercover into the NSM, a neo-Nazi movement which is becoming increasingly prominent in London.
When the series was initially commissioned, executive producer Nicola Shindler said in a statement: "I loved the book, and Sarah's script has brilliantly captured the passionate love story coupled with the social tensions amid the rise of fascism and the vivid wonderment of the swinging sixties. While it's set during a relatively unknown part of British history, Ridley Road echoes what is happening today with the growing rhetoric against people of a different race or nationality, and it feels like a really timely drama to bring to audiences."
O'Casey is joined by Tom Varey (Game of Thrones) as her co-star, who plays her lover, Jack Morris. Other topline cast includes Rory Kinnear (Catherine the Great) as Colin Jordan, leader of the NSM; Eddie Marsan (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) as Soly Malinovsky, the leader of the 62 Group. Tracy-Ann Oberman (It's A Sin), Samantha Spiro (Sex Education), Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders), and Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey) also co-star.
The series was initially commissioned by the BBC back in the summer of 2019, from Red Production Company and BAFTA-winning executive producer Shindler (Happy Valley). But pandemic delays prevented it from getting off the ground until the fall of 2020. Masterpiece and executive producer Rebecca Eaton boarded the series as a co-producer in September of that year, and filming began in November 2020.
Production recently wrapped, but there's no set air date in either the U.S. or U.K. as of yet.