Joanne Froggatt to Star in 'Breathtaking' in 2024

Joanne Froggatt as Dr Abbey Henderson in pandemic standard hospital clothing in 'Breathtaking'

Joanne Froggatt as Dr Abbey Henderson in 'Breathtaking'


When will it no longer be too soon to dramatize the COVID-19 pandemic? That question has been one TV and movies have struggled with since March 2020. Some shows dove right in and made the current lockdown situation part of the ongoing storyline, especially hospital dramas and true-to-life soaps. Others have simply existed in a world where that version of 2020 never happened. Recently, BritBox aired This England, about the early months of 2020, which our reviewer decried as far too soon. However, it's not stopping networks from making new series, like ITV, which will release Breathtaking in 2024.

Penned by uber-hit maker Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty), co-writing with Prasanna Puwanarajah (The Crown) and Rachel Clarke, the author of the 2021 novel that the show is based on, the drama focuses on Clarke's experiences as an NIH doctor during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was first revealed in the summer of 2023 as the series wrapped filming, along with the announcement that Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) stars as the fictionalized version of Clarke, Dr Abbey Henderson. 

It should be noted that Mercurio and Puwanarajah trained as medical professionals before making it in television and were junior hospital doctors in the U.K., making all three writers on the project knowledgeable about the inner workings of the NIH.

Here is the series synopsis:

Set in a fictional big-city hospital, the drama narrates how frontline medical staff endured fear and frustration as they desperately tried to save the lives of coronavirus patients. A mother of two small children and known for her calm approach in a crisis, Abbey witnesses first-hand the virus begin to take hold, overwhelming the NHS and creating conditions of unprecedented adversity. 

Against a backdrop of news footage from the early months of 2020, the drama will follow Abbey in her daily work whilst weaving together the stories of her fellow doctors, nurses, patients and the paramedics whose ambulances were queued outside hospitals as the NHS tried to cope with a tsunami of devastating cases. All of human life is present, and in parts it’s an uplifting account of resilience and fortitude. 

The rest of the cast has not been revealed. All three episodes were directed by Craig Viveiros (Endeavour). The drama is produced by Brian J. Falconer (Derry Girls) and executive produced by Mercurio, Clarke, and Puwanarajah. The drama was produced in association with Northern Ireland Screen.

Breathtaking will premiere on ITV in 2024. The series does not have an American distributor yet, but if it doesn't wind up on BritBox, I'll eat my hat.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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