ITV has announced the commission of Harlots, a new period drama set in 18th century Georgian London.
A co-production between ITV and Hulu, the eight-part series will star Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Samantha Morton (Minority Report) and Lesley Manville (River).
Written by playwright and screenwriter Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, Tamara Drewe), Harlots is described as “a brand new take on the [Georgian London]’s most valuable commercial activity – sex” and is based on the stories of real women.
The official synopsis reads: “The series follows Margaret Wells (Morton) and her daughters, as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner. When her business comes under attack from Lydia Quigley (Manville), a rival madam with a ruthless streak, Margaret will fight back, even if it means putting her family at risk. Brown Findlay will star as Charlotte, Margaret’s eldest daughter and the city’s most coveted courtesan who begins to grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family.”
Executive producer Alison Owen commented: “In 1760s London there were brothels on every corner run by women who were both enterprising and tenacious. History has largely ignored them, but their stories are in turn outrageous, brutal, humorous and real.”
Fellow executive producer Debra Hayward added: “Moira and Alison’s writing doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to sex and violence, but it’s the juxtaposition of these things and the domesticity of the ‘houses’ that makes Harlots so compelling.”
ITV’s Controller of Drama Victoria Fea said: “Harlots is an exploration of family, power and brutal economics in a vibrant booming world full of colour and noise. We’re delighted to be commissioning the series for ITV Encore. Moira and Alison’s scripts are shocking, fascinating and compelling.”
Harlots begins filming in London in June. It will air in the UK on ITV Encore and will stream exclusively in the US on Hulu as part of the Hulu Originals slate.