Bookworms, rejoice: a new feminist drama about the Brontë sisters is coming to BBC One

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Kayleigh Dray
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We have been obsessed with the Brontë sisters for as long as we can remember; Emily Brontë famously penned the ground-breaking Wuthering Heights, Charlottë brought us the phenomenally successful Jane Eyre, and Anne gave us the brutally honest Agnes Grey.

While bookworms are incredibly familiar with the Brontë sisters’ literary exploits, many of us are less aware of the hardships they faced in order to become published authors. But, thankfully, that’s all about to change, thanks to BBC One’s new period drama, To Walk Invisible.

The story revolves around Charlottë, Anne, and Emily’s increasingly difficult and toxic relationship with their brother Branwell, who in the last three years of his life – following a tragically misguided love affair – sank into alcoholism, drug addiction and abhorrent behaviour. 

With their father focusing all of his attention on Branwell (who, as the male heir, was seen as “the big hope for the family”), the tenacious trio decided to throw themselves into their writing – and began publishing novels under pseudonyms.

In fact, the show’s title, To Walk Invisible, is a quote taken from a letter penned by the real-life Charlottë, following a meeting with a clergyman. Despite being a big fan of her work, he failed to recognise that she was the author, due to her pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’.

Writing to her publisher about the encounter, Charlottë said: “What author would be without the advantage of being able to walk invisible? One is thereby enabled to keep such a quiet mind.”

Speaking about the drama, writer and director Sally Wainwright says: “This is such an exciting and ambitious project, and we have already had a huge amount of interest in it. Something about the lives of these three brilliant, talented Yorkshire women seems to touch people at a very deep level. I am honoured that the BBC have asked me to bring to life this fascinating family in a story set in the heart of West Yorkshire.

“We have a wonderful cast and I am delighted to be working alongside Karen Lewis (producer) again, and with Faith Penhale.”

Happy Valley star Charlie Murphy will lead the cast as Anne, alongside War & Peace’s Chloe Pirrie and Paige in Eden Lake’s Finn Atkins will play Charlotte.

Meanwhile Game of Thrones’ Jonathan Pryce is set to join the “dark and troubled” story as the father of the three extraordinary sisters, Patrick Brontë – and he has since piled praise on the “exciting and relevant drama” and its feminist ideals.

Speaking to What’s On TV, the actor explained that he wants audiences “to be moved and to be able to feel some kind of compassion for the characters, as well as finding out a little more about what drove the girls.”

Pryce continued: “You wouldn’t think that these three girls closeted in this parsonage on a windy hillside in Yorkshire would turn out to write novels with such depth and such insight as they did because they hadn’t travelled and they didn’t mix in the community.

“They were very much a law unto themselves and I hope that the audiences go away learning a lot more about them.”

The stellar cast will be joined by In The Flesh’s Luke Newberry and Banished’s Adam Nagaitis.

Executive producer Faith Penhale says: “To bring such fresh and exciting talent together for To Walk Invisible is testament to Sally's extraordinary script, which sets out to tell the true story of this iconic literary family. Together with the wonderful Jonathan Pryce, Chloe, Finn, Charlie and Adam will show the Bronte family in a new and original light.”

To Walk Invisible will air on Thursday 29th December at 9pm on BBC1.

Images: BBC One