Castings for ITV’s latest drama, Midwinter of the Spirit, have been announced.
The three-part series is to be produced for the ITV Encore channel with the TV script written by screenwriter Stephen Volk, the stories are being adapted from the books written by novelist, Phil Rickman. Anna Maxwell-Martin will play Merrily Watkins, a single mother who isn’t your average country vicar. Merrily’s newly acquired training has put her on the dark side of the pulpit. She’s become one of the few women priests working as an exorcist – a job increasingly mistrusted by the modern Church and rarely talked about, even though it operates in virtually every diocese in the UK.
“We’re very excited to be going into production on Midwinter of the Spirit, especially with such an amazing cast. We’re also thrilled that Stephen Volk’s superb adaptation of Phil Rickman’s gripping and chilling novel is one of the first original commissions for ITV Encore.” -Kieran Roberts, executive producer
Joining Anna will be David Threlfall who will take on the role of Rev Huw Owen, a deliverance ministry tutor and Merrily’s mentor. The saga will also feature Siobhan Finneran, Ben Bailey Smith, Leila Mimmack, Kate Dickie, Simon Trinder, Oengus MacNamara and David Sterne.
Featuring Merrily Watkins as the central character she is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder. Merrily has been through the mill emotionally of late, losing her unfaithful husband Sean in a car crash and seeking refuge in a job despised by her 16 year-old daughter, Jane, whose rejection of her mother’s beliefs leads her into the path of danger. When a man is found murdered in the most horrific circumstances imaginable, Merrily becomes convinced that Satanists are operating in the city. In the early hours of the next morning she’s called to Hereford General Hospital to perform an exorcism. The atmosphere is palpably toxic, as nurses treating a chronically ill man known for cruelty to animals and his abuse of women believe the ward has become polluted by his vileness.
“They believe when he dies, that evil won’t die with him,” Sister Cullen tells Merrily before she begins to pray for his soul. As the life force in the shrivelled body begins to ebb away, Merrily feels the force of his depravity. Shaking and feeling violated by her experience, Merrily begins to wonder if the two deaths are connected. Local police team – DCI Annie Howe and DS Frank Bliss – investigating the murder of the crucified man seek Merrily’s expertise. Merrily assists the police as their investigation take them into a very dark and dangerous world.
The drama has been commissioned for transmission on ITV Encore by ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea.
“Midwinter of the Spirit is a contemporary and edgy drama which draws upon dark, pagan forces which are intriguing and spiritually frightening. We’re delighted to commission three episodes of a potentially returnable crime drama with a supernatural twist,” he added. Filming will begin in the Hereford area later this month. – Steve November