Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer will star together in a drama which will “take an uncompromising look at the care home crisis that Britain has faced during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic”, Channel 4 has announced.
The drama, with a working title of Help, will see Killing Eve star Comer playing Sarah, a young care home worker, while Graham will play Tony, a 47-year-old man with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
It will tell the “moving story of their relationship” as their lives are “changed forever by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring”. The drama will be set in the fictional Liverpool care home, Sunshine Homes.
The drama will be directed by Marc Munden and is written by Bafta-winner Jack Thorne, who adapted Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for BBC One and wrote Channel 4’s National Treasure. It will be produced by The Forge.
Thorne said: “About two years ago Stephen Graham came to me with an idea to write something for him and Jodie Comer. I tried to think of something and got nothing. Then this crisis happened and we saw care homes getting squashed and battered by the government.
“It’s been both a long process and a short one, trying to find a way to tell this story. The amazing thing has been sharing in working out the story with Stephen, Jodie, the amazing Marc Munden, Beth Willis and everyone at The Forge and Channel 4”.
He added: “30,000 people have died unnecessarily in these care homes because of the indifference and incompetence of our government. Hearing the stories of those at the frontline, having people break down in tears on Zoom in front of us has been incredibly moving and galling.
“Getting the story right will be incredibly important. We are aware of the pressure upon us. This has to be written and made with anger and precision. We hope we do it justice.”
This is England and Line of Duty star Graham said: “Jack is one of the greatest and most truthful writers of our generation and in Help he has crafted a profoundly important piece of social realism.
“I’ve wanted to work with Jodie for ages and together we’re hugely passionate about shining a light on one of the biggest tragedies of our time and the people at the heart of it.”
Comer, who hails from Liverpool, said: “I am, of course, thrilled to finally be working alongside Stephen and the supremely talented Jack, Marc and those at Channel 4.
“For us to be able to explore such a relevant and emotive story through the eyes of such beautifully real characters, and in our home city of Liverpool, is a real honour.
“We’re determined to do justice to so many of the untold stories and heroes that have been affected as a result of this crisis and to handle them with care.”
She thanked fellow Liverpudlian Graham during her TV Bafta speech in 2019 as she accepted her best actress award for her role as Russian assassin Villanelle.
A tearful Comer said: “If I didn’t owe you a pint before I definitely do now. Thank you for the generosity you showed me all those years ago.”
Channel 4’s head of drama, Caroline Hollick, said: “This extraordinarily powerful show is right at the heart of what Channel 4 drama is all about – it will shine an unflinching light on the terrible events of 2020 through telling us a compelling, heart-wrenching relationship story.
“And to have Jack Thorne bringing Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham to our screens, directed by Marc Munden and produced by The Forge, is a level of talent I would be lucky to even dream of.”
Director Munden said: “It’s a privilege to be working with Jack Thorne and The Forge again on so urgent a subject and to have the incredible honour of directing Jodie and Stephen.
“Help is an angry and immediate film with an unlikely tender relationship at its heart and it responds to the government’s abandonment of care homes as a result of the pandemic.”
Filming is due to begin on the drama in Liverpool in the first part of 2021.