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'Flesh and Blood': Meet Imelda Staunton, Francesca Annis, Stephen Rea and the cast of murder mystery on PBS

Featuring a well-known cast of character actors, the show has Imelda Staunton as Mary and Francesca Annis as Vivien, the main female leads of this juicy mystery about the perils of late-life romance

A beach-side murder mystery, with breathtaking locales and some family drama to spice things up. Yup, if you are looking for a 'Broadchurch' replacement, PBS's 'Flesh and Blood', a four-part family drama and thriller will be right up your alley. Filmed along England’s dramatic West Sussex coast, this series, which has already aired in the UK, is soaked in sunshine and warm beach breezes.

The story follows Vivien who finds unexpected romance with retired doctor Mark. But her three adult children -- Jake, Helen, and Natalie -- have mixed reactions to this. They see him as just another complication heaped onto the problems they already have. Then, there is Vivien's next-door neighbor Mary, who is a bit too inquisitive. 

Flesh and Blood‘s director, Louise Hooper, describes the show as “…not a conventional thriller; it is mischievous and witty and doesn’t play the police procedure too heavily.” To that end, she worked to “…create a sun-drenched, playful world, full of idiosyncratic detail and fun, rather than going down the more usual monochrome, gritty thriller trope. We reveled in the wild cliff tops, sea, and wide stretches of beach right in front of Mary and Vivien’s homes.”

Featuring a well-known cast of character actors, the show has Imelda Staunton as Mary and Francesca Annis as Vivien, the main female leads of this juicy mystery about the perils of late-life romance. Stephen Rea plays Mark, Vivien's new gentleman friend, while Claudie Blakley, Russell Tovey, and Lydia Leonard will portray Vivien's grown-up children. David Bamber fills in the role of the detective who is trying to work out whether there was an unfortunate accident or if a heinous crime has been committed. Here is a closer look at the cast and what we know about the characters they will play. 

Imelda Staunton as Mary

Imelda Staunton as Mary (IMDb)

Described as "desperately lonely, unnervingly nosy neighbor", Mary has the makings of an amateur sleuth and she has lived right next door forever, watching the children grow up. This gives her ample opportunities to keep her eagle eye on things. But is she just a harmless busy body or something more sinister? Imelda Staunton as Mary had the chance to flex her gardening skills for the role. “I am a gardener myself so that was quite relatable for me,” Staunton said. “It was a very nice added ingredient that was easy for me to do," she added, saying it felt "very comfortable" to film those scenes of Mary pottering around in her garden.

Staunton is best known for her portrayal of Dolores Umbridge in the 'Harry Potter' series. In 2012, she portrayed Alma Reville, the wife of Alfred Hitchcock, in the HBO television movie 'The Girl' for which she was nominated for a BAFTA Television Award and a Primetime Emmy Award. In 2016, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Staunton will also be the final actress to don the crown on the ongoing hit series, 'The Crown' in its fifth and sixth season. Since May 2020, Staunton is also starring in the Apple TV+ comedy series 'Trying' as the delightfully dizzy but committed adoption caseworker.

Francesca Annis as Vivien

Francesca Annis as Vivien (IMDb)

Francesca Annis plays the matriarch of the close-knit family, Vivien. She shocks her children when she introduces them to her "new friend" Mark, something her children don't like because their father died only about a year ago. She is initially annoyed by her children’s meddling but soon starts to suspect her new boyfriend. A six-time BAFTA TV Award nominee, she won the 1979 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the ITV serial 'Lillie'. She starred in films like Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth', 'Dune' and 'The Libertine', but is also known for her television work in shows like 'Reckless', 'Wives and Daughters', 'Deceit', and, most recently, 'Cranford' and 'Home Fires'.

Stephen Rea as Mark

Stephen Rea as Mark (IMDb)

The new man in Vivien's life is Mark, a retired surgeon, who isn't really welcomed into the family. As he and Vivien start to spend time together, he starts to shift her priorities away from her family. Rea has previously been nominated for an Academy Award for the film 'The Crying Game'. He has also won a BAFTA for his role on 'The Honourable Women'. Other notable credits include 'V for Vendetta', 'War & Peace', and 'The Stranger'.

Russell Tovey as Jake

Russell Tovey as Jake (IMDb)

Jake takes an instant dislike to Mark and does not like the hold Mark has over his mother. His own life is also not a bed of roses since he is struggling with money-troubles and has crushing debt but he makes it his mission to find out what’s going on with Mark and if he can be trusted. Jake is portrayed by the well-known actor Russell Tovey. He has played the same character (Ray Terrill aka 'The Ray') in four different series: 'The Flash', DC's 'Legends of Tomorrow', 'Supergirl' and 'Freedom Fighters: The Ray'. He is also recognized for his role as werewolf George Sands in the BBC's supernatural drama 'Being Human', and for playing Rudge in both the stage and film versions of 'The History Boys'. He starred in the HBO original series 'Looking' and the subsequent series finale television film 'Looking: The Movie'. He was in 'Sherlock', 'Gavin and Stacey', 'The Night Manager', and 'Quantico'.  

Claudie Blakley as Helen

Claudie Blakley as Helen (IMDb)

Professional troubles haunt executive Helen, Vivien's eldest daughter. She is also suffering from marital problems and often turns to alcohol for relief. Helen's role is played by Claudie Blakley who starred as Louise in 'Manhunt' and 'Grantchester', 'The Driver' and 'New Tricks'. She is also active in the theater circuit including Shakespeare adaptations.

Lydia Leonard as Natalie

Lydia Leonard as Natalie (IMDb)

Played by Lydia Leonard, Natalie is the youngest sibling. Though Natalie has got a good job, she has relationship troubles since she is having an affair with her married boss. According to Leonard, “Flesh and Blood shows how families can be so dysfunctional and loving at the same time. There’s a thriller element to this story but also a lightness. It was fun to film and, hopefully, will be fun to watch. I think a lot of people will relate to these characters. It’s darkly witty and gripping.” Before this Leonard has starred in 'Gentleman Jack', 'Last Christmas', 'The Fifth Estate', and 'Ashes to Ashes'. The actress has also received a Tony nomination for starring in 'Wolf Hall'.

David Bamber as D.I. Doug Lineham 

David Bamber as D.I. Doug Lineham (IMDb)

David Bamber as D.I. Doug Lineham has a hard task in front of him. As he grills everyone connected to the unfortunate incident, he must determine if he is investigating a murder or an accident. David Bamber has appeared in the BBC adaptations of Hanif Kureishi's 'The Buddha of Suburbia' and 'Pride and Prejudice', in which he portrayed the Bennets' clergyman cousin, Mr. Collins. His best known international television role to date was his 2005–2007 role as Marcus Tullius Cicero in the HBO series, 'Rome'. Bamber also played Adolf Hitler in Bryan Singer's film, 'Valkyrie'. As a stage actor, Bamber has won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor. 

'Flesh and Blood' premieres on Sunday, October 4, at 9/8c on PBS.