Life: this is why Anna from Doctor Foster is really getting her own spin-off

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Life is the new BBC drama from the makers of Doctor Foster, and you might just recognise one of the main characters… Here’s what you need to know before tonight’s first episode.

The recent news of a Doctor Foster spin-off well and truly sent us into a spin. With such a reliably great team behind it – namely creator and writer Mike Bartlett – Life is set to be brilliant viewing this autumn

The six-part series – which starts on Tuesday 29 September – will follow the intertwining stories of the characters who live in a large house divided into four flats in Manchester. Each episode will explore themes of love, parenthood, loss and self-discovery.

One of the residents is Belle – who fans will remember from Doctor Foster as Anna (we learn that she has changed her name since we last saw her). But why did the team decide to focus on this character? 

To recap: Anna (Victoria Hamilton) and Neil (Adam James) were neighbours and friends to Gemma (Suranne Jones). They knew about Simon (Bertie Carvel) and Kate’s (Jodie Comer) affair but kept it a secret. 

After Gemma discovered the truth, she slept with Neil so that she could blackmail him in order to uncover the state of her husband’s finances. In the second season, Anna learned that Neil was still enjoying one night stands with women, despite promising to stop, and she finally left him to move to Edinburgh.

In Life, we find that Anna now identifies as “Belle” the Pilates instructor, as she continues to build her new life in Manchester. But her new start is rocked by the arrival of troublesome teenage niece Maya (Erin Kellyman) and then her ex-husband Neil. Clearly there is a lot of relationship drama to play out in Belle’s life…

Bartlett has just explained the importance of continuing to tell her story, asserting that we rarely see stories about women in their 40s “starting again” on screen.

Doctor Foster season 3.
Doctor Foster: Victoria Hamilton as Anna.

“When I was writing some of her final scenes in Doctor Foster, the character surprised me when she said she was moving completely away to a new city: starting again,” Barlett said in a press statement.

“That felt like a story full of potential and one I hadn’t necessarily seen – a woman in her mid-40s, married for a lot of her adult life but now divorced, and keen to start again. I also found Belle’s voice came very easily when writing, and that’s a good sign there’s lots of fun to be had with the character.”

He also explained why he chose Manchester as the new setting, adding: “Manchester is a world of its own. It’s both normal and extraordinary. Every day and remarkable. One has the feeling anything could happen there. It’s also beautiful and I love seeing that on-screen.”

Hamilton, who plays Belle, also talked about the importance of exploring mental health and connection in the series.

“In each one of the households featured in Life, each of the characters is in some way looking desperately for a connection with someone, or reconnection with someone that they’ve lost,” she said in the same statement.  

“And you wouldn’t necessarily know that when you meet all these characters, but as the series goes on, you start to realise that that is what they’re all looking for.”

Watch the trailer for Life

Life begins on BBC One and BBC iPlayer this Tuesday, 29 September, at 9pm. All six episodes will then be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer, with the series continuing weekly Tuesday nights at 9pm on BBC One.

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Images: BBC

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…