The hit drama Gentleman Jack returns

Sunday: Gentleman Jack; (BBC One, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Saturday, 9th April 2022, 5:00 pm
Mariana Lawton, Anne Lister  and Ann Walker
Mariana Lawton, Anne Lister and Ann Walker

Tommy Shelby’s TV antics are over, and he’s about to be replaced in the schedules by another tough-talking period character because Peaky Blinders is making way for Gentleman Jack.

When the first series concluded, we were looking forward to a quick return due to the fact a second run had already been commissioned. What none of us realised is we’d have to wait almost three years for it to appear – and there are no prizes for guessing what caused the delay.

“I’m more thrilled than I’ve ever been about anything that we’re returning with a new series of Gentleman Jack,” said the drama’s creator, Sally Wainwright, when filming eventually began. “We’ve had such an extraordinary response from so many viewers all over the world about the first series, and I can’t wait to show them what we’ve come up with this time. Their excitement for the show has been a joy, and an inspiration. I’m so excited and happy for this series, I hope people love it as much as they did the first. I’m utterly delighted that we’ve been recommissioned, because there are so many more big, bold stories to tell about Anne Lister and Ann Walker.”

Big things were certainly expected of the drama before it began back in 2019 thanks to the people involved. Wainwright was coming off the back of a run of extraordinary success, which included the Bronte sisters drama To Walk Invisible, two series of the amazing Happy Valley, four runs of Last Tango in Halifax and Scott & Bailey, her second project with Jones, who had previously appeared in Wainwright’s three-part drama Unforgiven.

The duo clearly work well together, and Jones is particularly impressed with Wainwright’s approach to her work as writer and director.

“She knows everyone’s names on set, says please and thank you and appreciates everybody, which sets the standard,” remarks Jones. “Her notes are always so on point and she just makes me perform better; I strive to be better when I’m working with Sally.”

She adds: “I’m so thrilled that I will be joining Sally Wainwright on the second part of Anne’s journey. We always dreamed there would be more and now we get to play it all out. I love working with the brilliant and talented Sophie Rundle and can’t wait to create some more Lister and Walker moments with her too.”

When we catch up with the two Anns again, it’s 1834 and they’ve set up home together at Shibden Hall, having committed to each other in a marriage ceremony. Their plan is to combine their two estates and become Yorkshire’s power couple, but Lister’s entrepreneurial spirit is beginning to concern some of the locals, while her private life and refusal to keep a low profile look set to bring her unwanted attention.

Wainwright has once again used Lister’s diaries, which were written partly in code, as the basis for her scripts, which means that what we see on screen really did happen.

Gemma Whelan and Lydia Leonard also return as Marian Lister, the quiet sister of the main protagonist, and Mariana Lawton respectively, and look out too for recent Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan. She joins the cast as Lister’s outrageous former lover Isabella ’Tib’ Northcliffe, who is all-set to make a big impression.