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Penal Colony story inspires new Jimmy McGovern series


BBC Two has announced Myanna Buring (Ripper Street), Russell Tovey (Being Human), Julian Rhind-Tutt (The Hour) and David Wenham (Top Of The Lake) are to lead a strong ensemble cast in Jimmy McGovern’s epic new 7-part series, Banished.

The fictional series is loosely inspired by events in the 18th century when Britain established a penal colony on the other side of the world and charts the lives, loves, relationships and battle for survival of a group of convicts, the soldiers who guard them and the men who govern them in the early days of this settlement.

Jimmy McGovern says: “How the first convicts survived is the best story I’ve come across in over 30 years as a dramatist. When you’ve got something like that, you don’t worry about the narrative; you just concentrate on the characters. That is what we did. Consequently, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything so character-driven.”

The fast-paced series, written and devised by Jimmy McGovern, and Shaun Duggan (Accused) opens at dawn in New South Wales, Australia, 1788. Tents are pitched and there is a scattering of timber buildings on a strip of land between the impenetrable bush and the mighty Pacific Ocean.

It is here that the convicts transported on the First Fleet and their masters are waking up to another sweltering hot day in a place where anything can happen and death stalks everyone. With supplies running out and the group ill-equipped for life on this inhospitable shoreline, who will survive the next 10 days?

Australian actor David Wenham (Top Of The Lake) plays Governor Arthur Phillip, a pragmatic idealist who hopes to turn this ramshackle settlement from penal colony to land of opportunity for all, while his nemesis Major Ross, played by Joseph Millson (Holby City), thinks the only chance of survival is to rule with an iron fist.

Yet all that seems unshakeable are the passionate bonds of love and friendship forged between convicts: Elizabeth Quinn (Myanna Buring), Tommy Barrett (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and James Freeman (Russell Tovey). But, before long, this shared devotion is destined to challenge the very doctrines on which the fledging colony has been founded.

Also featuring in this epic series about human courage and endeavour, love, loss and impossible choices are Ewen Bremner (Accused) as the pious Reverend Johnson, with Genevieve O’Reilly (The Honourable Woman) as his selfless wife and Brooke Harman (Dance Academy) as Deborah Governor Phillip’s housekeeper. Orla Brady (Strike Back) plays intuitive convict Anne Meredith and Joanna Vanderham (The Paradise) is the dangerously beautiful convict Katherine McVitie.

Rory McCann (Game Of Thrones) is the formidable felon Marston, whose skills as blacksmith are indispensable. Soldiers are played by Adam Nagaitis (Inbetweeners 2) as the loathed Private Buckley; Sergeant Timmins is played by Cal MacAninch (Mr Selfridge); Ryan Corr (Wolf Creek 2) is Private MacDonald and David Dawson (Peaky Blinders) is Captain David Collins.

Other convicts are played by Nick Moss (The Mill) as hard man Spragg, David Walmsley (The Smoke) as Stubbins with Ned Dennehy (Blitz) as Letters Molloy, whose rare literacy is both a blessing and a burden.

The drama is co-produced by award-winning independent production companies RSJ Films (Accused, The Street) and See-Saw Films (Top Of The Lake, The King’s Speech, Shame), and co-commissioned by BBC Two and BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand.

Sita Williams is producer and she also executive produces alongside Roxy Spencer and Jimmy McGovern. Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Jamie Laurenson are executive producers for See-Saw Films. Brett Popplewell and Simon Hailey are co-producers. Banished directors are Dan Percival (Death Comes To Pemberley), who directs episodes one to three, and Australian director Jeffrey Walker (Jack Irish) directs episodes four to seven.

Banished starts filming north of Sydney this April for broadcast on BBC Two in 2015. The series is due for broadcast on BBC First in Australia and on UKTV in New Zealand in 2015.

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