Disney+ today announced the stellar casting line-up for the much anticipated eight-part series, “Rivals”, based on the celebrated novel by Jilly Cooper. The drama is being produced by Happy Prince, which is part of ITV Studios.
“Rivals” is part of Cooper’s bestselling Rutshire Chronicles, the iconic literary series packed full of wit, romantic entanglements, sex and unforgettable characters. The story is set against the backdrop of the drama, excess, and shocking antics of the power-grabbing social elite of 1980s England.
The series dives headfirst into the ruthless world of independent television in 1986. In the fictional county of Rutshire, a long-standing rivalry between two powerful men is about to boil over. Alex Hassell (‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, ‘The Boys’) plays dashing ex-Olympian, Tory Member of Parliament and incorrigible rake, the dangerously charismatic Rupert Campbell-Black. David Tennant (‘Doctor Who’, ‘Good Omens’) plays Rupert’s single-mindedly ambitious and egotistical Rutshire neighbour Lord Tony Baddingham, controller of Corinium Television. A long-simmering power struggle between them threatens to boil over when the two men lock horns over the future of Corinium.
Caught in the crossfire is TV presenter Declan O’Hara, played by Aidan Turner (‘Poldark’, ‘The Suspect’). Fiercely intellectual, with an even fiercer temper, he is wooed to Corinium TV from the BBC by Baddingham himself, but feels he’s been swindled when Tony refuses to deliver on his promises. Furious with Tony, Declan vows to get his revenge.
Victoria Smurfit (‘Bloodlands’, ‘Once Upon A Time’) plays Maud O’Hara, a former actress and Declan’s bohemian, fickle wife. Bella Maclean (‘Spring Awakening’, ‘Sex Education’) plays Declan and Maud’s tender-hearted yet strong-willed elder daughter, Taggie. She holds the O’Hara family together and keeps an eye on her younger and wilder sister Caitlin, played by Catriona Chandler (‘Pistol’, ‘Enola Holmes 2’). Nafessa Williams (‘Black Lighting’, ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody’) plays Cameron Cook, a ferociously talented American TV executive who is brought to Corinium by Tony to produce Declan’s new prime-time talk show. She soon finds herself caught between the two powerful men who deeply underestimate her – at their peril. Katherine Parkinson (‘Humans’, ‘Here We Go’) stars as Lizzie Vereker, a romantic novelist consistently overlooked by her preening and self-centred TV presenter husband, James Vereker, played by Oliver Chris (‘The Crown’, ‘Trying’).
Danny Dyer (‘EastEnders, ‘The Football Factory’) stars as Freddie Jones: honourable, loyal and lovable, he’s a self-made electronics millionaire. Freddie’s got the money, but finds himself, along with his social-climbing wife Valerie (played by Lisa McGrillis ‘Maternal’, ‘Mum’), an outsider to Rutshire’s cliques. But when Rupert and Tony come to him with a business proposition, all that could change.
Claire Rushbrook (‘Sherwood’, ‘Ali and Ava’) plays Lady Monica Baddingham, Tony’s dependable, upper-crust wife who has absolutely no interest in the dramatic goings–on within her husband’s empire. Luke Pasqualino (‘Skins’, ‘Shantaram’) plays the charming Basil ‘Bas’ Baddingham, Tony’s younger brother and the proprietor of Cotchester’s hot spot, ‘Bar Sinister’.
Emily Atack (‘The Emily Atack Show, ‘The Inbetweeners’) plays Sarah Stratton, the new wife to Deputy Prime Minister, Paul Stratton, played by Rufus Jones (‘W1A’, ‘Home’). Sarah is ambitious and not afraid to use her looks to get to the top. Paul, on the other hand, is in the throes of a midlife crisis – everyone knows it.
Executive Producer and Rivals author, Jilly Cooper commented: ‘I’m utterly enchanted to be able to announce our all-star line-up for Rivals. Featuring some of the best acting talent that the British Isles has to offer, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better ensemble cast. I cannot wait to be on set and see them bring the characters I love so much to life.
The minute we met with Alex we knew he’d perfectly embody my all-time hero, the iconic, racy, ruthless, and devastatingly handsome, Rupert Campbell-Black. Viewers are in for a treat!’
The series is executive produced by Dominic Treadwell-Collins (‘A Very English Scandal’, ‘Holding’, ‘EastEnders’) and Alexander Lamb (‘The Bay’, ‘We Hunt Together’, ‘Ackley Bridge’), Felicity Blunt, Laura Wade, “Rivals” author Jilly Cooper and Director of Scripted Content for Disney+ EMEA Lee Mason. “Rivals” is produced by Happy Prince, which is part of ITV Studios and the series is written by Treadwell-Collins with Olivier Award-winner Laura Wade (‘The Riot Club’).
The lead director is BAFTA-nominated Elliot Hegarty (‘Ted Lasso, Cheaters’, ‘Trying’), who also serves as executive producer on episodes 1-3. Eliza Mellor (‘The Midwich Cuckoos’, ‘Behind Her Eyes’, ‘Poldark’) serves as Series Producer. The UK original series will premiere on Disney+ in EMEA.
In addition to Treadwell-Collins and Wade, the series writers room also includes: Sophie Goodhart (‘The Baby’, ‘Sex Education’), Marek Horn, Mimi Hare & Clare Naylor (‘The Accidental Husband’), Dare Aiyegbayo (‘The Dumping Ground,’ ‘EastEnders’), Kefi Chadwick (‘Looted’, ‘Avoidance’), Tray Agyeman, and Sorcha Kurien Walsh (‘The Pink Pill’). The Casting Director is Kelly Valentine Hendry (‘Bridgerton’, ‘The Last Kingdom’, ‘Kaos’).
Production has commenced with filming taking place in the UK.