Casting announced for WWI drama The Ark

Oona Chaplin, Suranne Jones and Hermione Norris

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Oona Chaplin, Suranne Jones and Hermione Norris will play nurses on the frontline in new BBC One drama The Ark.

The six-part series will focus on the lives of medical staff working in a tented field hospital during World War I and will air in 2014.

Written by Sarah Phelps, it draws on primary research and is part of the BBC's programming to mark a centenary since the conflict.

Production details: The Ark

  • Executive producers: Anne Pivcevic (Great Expectations) and Sarah Phelps
  • Producer: Annie Tricklebank (The Lady Vanishes)
  • Directors: David Evans (Downton Abbey), Richard Clark (Doctor Who) and Thaddeus O'Sullivan (Silent Witness)

Phelps adapted Great Expectations for the BBC in 2011 and said she was "bouncing off the walls with excitement at having such an extraordinary talented cast".

Chaplin, who featured in The Hour and Game of Thrones, commented: "In The Ark we follow men and women on their journey of survival, their struggle with meaning and love, and the small victories that mean so much."

Suranne Jones added that The Ark would be her first period drama. "It's an important period in history not just because of the war but because it was a transitional period for women, liberated in some respect but still shackled by the conventions and hierarchies of the past."

War dramas

They will be joined in the cast by Downton Abbey's Kevin Doyle, Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave) and Marianne Oldham (WPC 56).

Kate (Emilia Fox) and Roberts (Ben Chaplin) in The Wipers Times Emilia Fox and Ben Chaplin feature in BBC Two's The Wipers Times

The drama, which is produced in-house by the BBC, starts filming this month.

Hermione Norris said: "It's a privilege to be involved in this BBC production 100 years on, bringing the drama of World War I into the hearts and minds of this generation. Lest we forget."

The Ark was commissioned by BBC Drama controller Ben Stephenson and Danny Cohen, when he was in charge of BBC One.

It will also be distributed by Endemol Worldwide.

Earlier this summer, BBC Two announced filming had started on the single drama The Wipers Times, based on the true story of a satirical newspaper produced by soldiers in the trenches.

Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, it features Julian Rhind-Tutt, Emilia Fox and Michael Palin in his first on-screen acting role in more than two decades. The Wipers Times will be shown on BBC Two later this year.

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