Sue Johnston, Phil Davis, Peter Egan, Karl Johnson, Kiran Sonia Sawar and Fiona Button also set to star
Channel 4 has commissioned Truelove, a new six-episode drama series from Clerkenwell Films, the team behind BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 series The End Of The F***ing World and upcoming drama The Birth of Daniel F Harris. Truelove is written by Iain Weatherby (Humans) and co-created by him and Charlie Covell (The End of the F***ing World). With a core cast in their late 60s and 70s, Truelove breaks the rules for older characters on screen and flips ageist tropes on their head in a series which promises thrilling twists and turns, irreverent humour and passionate romance.
Enter our dynamic duo: Phil played by award-winning actress Julie Walters (National Treasure, Indian Summers), an ex-senior police chief enjoying a comfortable if boring retirement, and Ken played by Clarke Peters (The Wire, Da 5 Bloods), a divorcee and ex-special forces vet who feels similarly at sea. Phil and Ken were teenage sweethearts and despite life having moved on, they have never quite managed to forget each other.
Cut to a friend’s funeral many years later where Phil and Ken, along with a gang of old friends, are reunited. At the wake, with nostalgia and booze flowing in equal measure, talk soon takes a meditative turn and the group discuss what an ‘ideal’ death might look like. Our gang make a drunken pact: rather than let each other suffer a slow and dreadful decline, they will step in and engineer a dignified death. In short, they will help each other die when the time is right. Because that, they all agree, is a sign of Truelove.
But what starts out as a fanciful idea soon morphs into shocking reality….
Joining our stellar line up are Sue Johnston (Help, Kiri), Phil Davis (Trying, Silent Witness), Peter Egan (After Life, Unforgotten), Karl Johnson (Too Close, Mum), Fiona Button (The Split) and Kiran Sonia Sawar (Black Mirror).
Truelove wrestles with the knottiest of ethical questions out there – is it ever right to help end a life? But it does so with a lightness of touch that is both darkly funny and profoundly empathetic. Fundamentally it is a show which focuses on a group of characters who are trying to take back control of their life in their twilight years. And it’s also a love story, as a long-extinguished romantic flame is rekindled between two characters who missed out on each other when they were younger, offering them a second chance to experience the love of their lives before time runs out. With a killer soundtrack (plus some actual killing), it couldn’t be more relevant.
Caroline Hollick, Channel 4 Head of Drama, said: “Truelove is a unique, poignant and darkly funny series which deals with big themes around regrets at the paths not taken, quality of life and serious illness. Beautifully written and with actors of the calibre of Julie Walters and Clarke Peters playing the leads, Truelove is an exciting addition to Channel 4’s upcoming portfolio of dramas. I can’t wait to see the series come to life.”
Petra Fried, Joint MD at Clerkenwell Films, added: “Iain and Charlie have created a truly special series full of emotion, edge-of-the-seat drama and pitch-black comedy. A story about a demographic that's rarely given centre stage on television, tackling the serious issues of love, life, illness and death, and handling them with warmth, sensitivity, humour and the youthful energy of a graphic novel. Producer Alex Walsh-Taylor and director Elliot Hegarty have assembled a brilliant team to make this and we couldn’t be more excited to see Julie Walters, Clarke Peters and the rest of the incredible cast bring these iconic characters to life over the coming months.”
Charlie Covell, co-creator of Truelove commented: “I’m so thrilled that we’re making Truelove with and for Channel 4. I owe my career to the channel: from the 4Screenwriting course with Philip Shelley, to my first solo credit on Russell T Davies’ Banana, to The End of the F***ing World. Iain and I also got our first joint writing credit on C4, with Humans. It’s a great privilege to be working with the channel again: I can’t think of a more appropriate home for Truelove.”
Julie Walters said: “I had basically withdrawn from acting and wasn’t sure that anything could tempt me back but then I read Truelove. I was completely bowled over by the writing - the dark humour, the love story and thriller element set against a backdrop of what happens to us all as we approach our later years. I adore the character of Phil - smart, funny and hard edged. How often does one have the chance at my tender age to play a leading lady in a TV drama? I can’t wait to start and to work with Channel 4 again, a broadcaster with a remit that is so vital to the industry and viewers.”
Clarke Peters said: “If your friend reached a soul-destroying level of decrepitude, could you help them transition, if asked? Would it be right, would it be noble, could you do it? Which of that internal triumvirate do you listen to: your head, heart or soul? You know it is illegal in law and scripture to take a life, but could you do it? Iain and Charlie’s story explores that moral dilemma in a way I’ve never seen before. It’s funny, it’s dark and it’s full of twists and turns. And DAMN! To tell this story, with this cast, was something I would have dreaded missing out on…Roll on “action”!”
Caroline Stone, Director of Indie Drama at BBC Studios said, “Our partners at Clerkenwell Films have a proven track record of bending the rules of a conventional drama and bringing something new and exciting to a series and Truelove is no exception. Together Iain and Charlie have created a hugely entertaining series that smuggles big subjects into the narrative. This promises to be a cinematic, nuanced and thrilling series for audiences around the world. We are very proud to be a partner on this project alongside the team at Channel 4 and it is not surprising that acting royalty have come on board as the leads. This will be a series not to be missed.”
Truelove is produced by Clerkenwell Films (The End of the F***ing World) for Channel 4 and has been commissioned by Channel 4’s Head of Drama, Caroline Hollick and Commissioning Editor, Rebecca Holdsworth. The executive producers at Clerkenwell Films are Emily Harrison, Andy Baker and Petra Fried. Charlie Covell and Iain Weatherby also executive produce. Elliot Hegarty (Cheaters, Ted Lasso) and Rachna Suri (Half Bad, Ackley Bridge) will direct and Alex Walsh-Taylor (Cheaters, Lovesick) will produce. BBC Studios, which wholly owns Clerkenwell Films, is distributing the series internationally.