Anna Maxwell-Martin leads ITV Encore drama Midwinter of the Spirit

Cast announced for new supernatural drama

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BAFTA award-winning actress Anna Maxwell-Martin (The Bletchley Circle) is to lead the cast of new 3-part ITV Encore drama, Midwinter of the Spirit.

Anna 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.

BAFTA winning actor David Threlfall (Code of a Killer) will star as Rev Huw Owen, a deliverance ministry tutor and Merrily’s mentor.

Joining Anna and David is Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley), Ben Bailey Smith (Law and Order: UK), Leila Mimmack (Home Fires), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones), Simon Trinder (Without You), Oengus MacNamara (Game of Thrones) and David Sterne (Tommy Cooper; Not Like That, Like This).

Midwinter of the Spirit is based on the books written by Phil Rickman, and will be adapted by BAFTA winning screenwriter Stephen Volk (Afterlife, The Awakening) for ITV Studios.

Merrily 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 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.

Executive producer and ITV Studios Creative Director, Kieran Roberts, said: “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.”

ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November said: “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.”

Midwinter Of The Spirit will begin filming in the Hereford area later this month (April).