BAFTAR award-winning writer Sally Wainwright (Last Tango in Halifax) curates the true story of Anne Lister performed by BAFTA® winner Suranne Jones with the confident and charismatic energy that Anne Lister is recognised for in Gentleman Jack. Anne Lister – landowner and diarist knew herself however she also knew society in the early 1800’s well enough to write about her lesbian relationships in code which wasn’t deciphered until the 1900’s.
Jones discusses Lister. “I’ve spoken to people from all over the country, from all over the world, gay and not, and they are intrigued by what an amazing woman she was, and her story… I mean actually, if she was sat here today, she’d still be a really impressive woman. It’s not just about the fact that she was impressive in 1832-34: she’s just impressive full stop.”
Regardless of turning gender norms on their head in early 1800 Yorkshire, England Lister was a larger than life personality, Jones continues “This is a woman from a working-class background, who stands up in society and makes sure her voice is heard. She stands up to be educated, which everyone deserves.”
Gentleman Jack was filmed at Shibden Hall, which was Lister’s real home. While fortunate to be able to film there, the crew had to be careful in such a historical space – adding rails for the camera in order to prevent falling through the floor.
Furthermore, the series is set in the 1800’s the costumes were all created specifically for the series. “All my time was dedicated to either speaking to Sally [Wainwright] about what the next episode would entail, having meetings with the costume designer — because the costumes were all made for me, so I had to constantly be fitted for the new costumes coming up… Even though the look is very streamlined, there’s stockings, socks, stays, men’s boots, men’s drawers, a female corset, then a shirt, then a stock, then a waistcoat, then a jacket, then the overcoat, and then the top hat.”
Jones put everything in to the role of such a physical character “I had to go to a chiropractor, because my back went, at one point, because of the corset. You’re not meant to behave the way Anne Lister behaves in corsets like that!”
Gentleman Jack co-stars Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders), Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones), Timothy West (Last Tango in Halifax), Gemma Jones (Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince), Sofie Grabol (The Killing), Katherine Kelly (Happy Valley) and Stephanie Cole (Waiting For God).
Gentleman Jack, Wednesdays at 9.30pm on SoHo2