Joanna Lumley is The Making of a Lady for ITV

ITV has cast Joanna Lumley in a star role as matriarch Lady Maria Byrn in their television movie the Making Of A Lady.

She will be joined by Linus Roache who assumes the role of her nephew and wealthy widower, Lord James Walderhurst. James D’Arcy will play Walderhurst’s unscrupulous nephew Captain Alec Osborn.

“There’s a real depth and complexity to the characterisations within The Making of a Lady. Kate Brooke draws beautifully upon the richness of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel and we’re delighted to have commissioned such a classic and powerful story.” says ITV Drama’s Victoria Fea.

Making Of A Lady is an adaptation of a ‘forgotten’ classic novel by celebrated playwright and author Frances Hodgson Burnett by acclaimed writer Kate Brooke. The one off film, will be produced by Runaway Fridge TV for ITV.

Lydia Wilson is to play the heroine, Emily while Hasina Haque will take the role of Captain Alec’s exotic wife Hester. The classic tale tells the story of the well born, educated but penniless Emily who grew up hoping she would marry for love, but has come to realise that her priority must be survival. Opening in late Victorian London, initially in a shabby part of town, The Making of a Lady depicts genteel Emily struggling to make a living.

Fine featured but at pains never to look pretty or attract attention, Emily works for Lady Maria Byrne, a domineering, acerbic older woman who lives in a very smart house on the other side of town. During her daily duties as a lady’s companion, Emily comes into contact with her employer’s wealthy widower nephew, Lord James Walderhurst. Weary of Lady Maria’s relentless match making, Walderhurst cuts a rather distant figure, but he treats Emily with a great deal more respect and kindness than his aunt.

When Walderhurst realises that a favour he asked of her has lost Emily her position he is mortified. It occurs to him that the two of them could come to a practical if unromantic agreement – marriage. He admires the fact she is dedicated and hard-working and appreciates her undemanding nature which he imagines would not impact too much on the life he has chosen. He realises that he can offer her a secure home and a true independence born out of his wealth. He and Emily aren’t in love, but he clearly hopes that one day affection may blossom. Emily is shocked and sad to give up her hopes of marrying for love but without other means of support her situation is such that she has little option and she finds herself accepting.

His family disapprove of the marriage, but undaunted Walderhurst marries his Cinderella and they move to his beautiful stately home.

With a ruby ring glowing on her finger, Emily is the new lady of the manor but while her relationship with her new husband very slowly starts to blossom the staff, especially the butler Litton and his housekeeper wife are less than welcoming and eye her suspiciously.

The only friendly faces in her life are Walderhurst’s handsome nephew, Captain Alec Osborn and his beautiful Indian wife, Hester. They seem very much in love, which is the antithesis of Emily and Walderhurst’s still unformed relationship, and she is fascinated by their passion. Significantly, Walderhurst intensely dislikes his nephew and his frequent requests for money. Osborn is Walderhurst’s sole heir as long as he and Emily remain childless and Emily realises belatedly that Walderhurst’s sudden proposal was hastened by the family’s concerns about Alec’s marriage to Hester.

Emily and Hester quickly develop a friendship and when Walderhurst decides to rejoin his regiment in India in response to an emergency, Emily is grateful for the company that she and Alec offer. Sad and insecure, with her husband having abandoned their home just as they were growing in warmth towards each other, Emily is delighted when Alec and Hester arrive to stay with her, but butler Litton is obvious in his disapproval and very suspicious of their motives.

All is not what it seems as an increasingly contented Emily has no inkling her life is actually in danger. Whilst Walderhurst risks his life overseas, his wife is in peril and she seems powerless to avoid the threat that begins to encircle her. The arrival of Hester’s servant, the mysterious Ameerah only serves to heighten the jeopardy surrounding Emily.

“We’re thrilled that Runaway Fridge TV is making this film for ITV and lucky to have such a wonderful script from Kate Brooke,” said Executive producer Stevie Lee.

Joanna Lumley has a long history with drama productions on ITV starring in their serials General Hospital and Sapphire and Steel for ATV, Coronation Street for Granada, The New Avengers for Thames TV and more recently Class Act for Carlton and Marple for ITV Studios.

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