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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Billie Piper leads top British cast boasting Sue Johnston, Alun Armstrong and Frances Barber in Kay Mellor's poignant love story, A Passionate Woman, for BBC One

Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, The Shadow In The North) returns to BBC One to star as Betty, a young wife and mother who falls deeply in love with a Polish neighbour with disastrous consequences, in Kay Mellor's A Passionate Woman.

A Passionate Woman is made by Rollem Productions and is adapted from Mellor's worldwide smash hit stage play.

Filming starts in Leeds this month and the drama will screen on BBC One next year.

Set in Leeds in the Fifties Cold War period, Billie Piper stars as Betty, a young wife and mother who reluctantly falls passionately and hopelessly in love with her charismatic Polish neighbour, Alex Crazenovski, played by Theo James (new Woody Allen film, as yet untitled).

But little does Betty know that some 30 years later, in Eighties Thatcherite Britain, her affair will implode on her beloved son Mark's wedding day.

Mark as an adult is played by Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval).

Sue Johnston (The Turn Of The Screw, Waking The Dead), stars as Betty in the Eighties opposite Alun Armstrong (New Tricks) who plays her devoted, if dull, husband, Donald.

The younger Donald is played by Alun Armstrong's real-life son Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood).

Frances Barber (The Street) plays Betty's sister, Margaret, who is always there for her sibling through thick and thin, and in her younger years aided and abetted Betty's affair.

Rachel Leskovac (Coronation Street, Holby City) plays Margaret in the Fifties.

Kay Mellor, one of Britain's leading TV writers, has penned numerous hit dramas including The Chase, Fat Friends, Playing The Field and the seminal Band Of Gold. She was awarded on OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2009.

Kay Mellor says: "Mum and I were washing-up one day when she confided in me she'd had an affair before I was born, when she and my dad lived in the poorer area of Leeds. The affair ended when her lover was suddenly killed. I realised she'd kept this secret for 30 years and that she still loved this man.

"Years later, my younger brother was getting married and I saw that same pain on her face. I knew these two periods of mum's life were intrinsically linked and I was compelled to write the play A Passionate Woman for the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

"It transferred to the West End and there was lots of interest in the film rights, but I feared it would become Cher on a roof-top in Detroit so I held onto them. Now, with the BBC and British money, it's the project I want it to be.

"Three years ago mum died and I suppose the film is a way of bringing her back for me."

Polly Hill, BBC Commissioning Editor, Independent drama, England, adds: "I am thrilled that we are bringing this beautiful drama by Kay Mellor to BBC One.

"It has its roots in something very personal for Kay, but it's also an epic love story that is played across four decades.

"We are delighted that the script has attracted such a wonderful cast led by Billie Piper and Sue Johnston and we are sure it will prove a real treat for the audience."

A Passionate Woman is co-directed by Kay Mellor (Fanny And Elvis) and Antonia Bird (Cracker, Rehab, Safe).

The producer for Rollem Productions is Yvonne Francas (The Chase, Fat Friends, Strictly Confidential) and the executive producer is Nicola Shindler (Sunshine, Hillsborough, Queer As Folk) and Polly Hill at the BBC.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One, commissioned A Passionate Woman.


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