Talking Heads: everything we know about the BBC’s new lockdown series

Posted by for Life

The first two episodes of Talking Heads air tonight (23 June). Here’s everything we know about the new BBC series.

There’s never been such a high demand for great television as there is right now. TV has been everybody’s best friend during lockdown, and it’s hard to know what we’d do without it. Although there are plenty of new shows being released, and old ones available to revisit, it’s interesting to think about how the production of new series have continued since the pandemic outbreak.

But fear not, as the TV gods seem to have cracked it. In April, the BBC announced it was filming a new series during lockdown, and the wait for watching it is very nearly over: episodes one and two are being aired on BBC 1 from 9pm on Tuesday 23 June. 

What is Talking Heads about?

Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Talking Heads monologues, which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998, have been re-recorded with 12 new actors.

Jodie Comer, Maxine Peake, Kriston Scott Thomas and Martin Freeman are just some of the stars to record episodes. They have each taken on 10 of the original pieces, along with two new ones written by Bennett last year.

In episode one, A Lady of Letters, Imelda Staunton plays pompous Irene, who becomes preoccupied with the young family across the street.

And in episode two, An Ordinary Woman, Sarah Lancashire is Gwen, a housewife and mum of two who becomes imprisoned by a dangerous passion.

How did they film Talking Heads?

Filming took place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets and the team followed the latest government guidelines on Covid-19 to ensure that the series was made safely and responsibly. 

Talking Heads: Mxine Peake
Maxine Peake stars in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet.

Explaining why the series is so relevant to audiences right now, Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, said: “Covid-19 has laid waste to drama production in the UK, but it has also posed a challenge: how do we adhere to restrictions while still offering British viewers the chance to lose themselves in great stories at this time of national need? 

“Full of insight, wit, daring and compassion, these are stories of individual lives - but of great resonance. I am so grateful to Alan, Nicholas Hytner, Kevin Loader and the whole team for the caution, ingenuity and wisdom which they have shown in bringing these stories to the screen.”

When will Talking Heads be available to watch?

Talking Heads will air on BBC One from 9pm on Tuesday 23 June with a double-bill. All 12 films will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from the same date. 

Who stars in Talking Heads?

In the meantime, here is a full list of the actors and their monologues:

Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance (1988), directed by Josie Rourke

Monica Dolan in The Shrine (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Martin Freeman in A Chip in the Sugar (1988), directed by Jeremy Herrin

Tamsin Greig in Nights in the Garden of Spain (1998), directed by Marianne Elliott

Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Lesley Manville in Bed Among the Lentils (1988), directed by Nicholas Hytner

Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches (1998), directed by Jeremy Herrin

Line of Duty actor Rochenda Sandall
Line of Duty actor Rochenda Sandall stars in The Outside Dog.

Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (1988), directed by Sarah Frankcom

Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog (1998), directed by Nadia Fall

Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand of God (1998), directed by Jonathan Kent

Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters (1988), directed by Jonathan Kent

Harriet Walter in Soldiering On (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott

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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…