The first look at ITV’s latest period drama has set pulses racing as it sees a mixture of sultry moments, fisticuffs and tragedy.
The tantalising trailer hints at the intrigue that is set to hit our screens when the show – dubbed ‘Delhi Downton’ – debuts this summer.
The action-packed clip shows the broody former East India Company officer John Beecham (Tom Bateman) arrive at his newly-purchased mansion, Beecham House, to begin a new life with his family – including his mother Henrietta (Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol).
The show is set to feature sex, scandal and scuffles as noble families and servants mingle together
The trailer also appears to give away that Downton Abbey’ Lesley Nicol who plays John’s robust, interfering mother Henrietta who has travelled from England to India to stay with her son
Fisticuffs is on the horizon in the new show too, as young courtiers fight one another in the grounds of the house
‘News of my arrival has travelled so quickly’, he says in the trailer, as he shakes the hand of Gregory Fitoussi, who plays General Castillon, a French mercenary working for the Emperor at a time when the French are challenging the East India Company for India.
Castillon is suspicious of John and his motives and conspires to stop John being granted a trading licence.
And romance also seems on the cards as an English governess Margaret Osborne, played by Dakota Blue Richards, seems to catch John’s eye.
Set decades before the British Raj, the show stars Tom Bateman, who fans will know from Vanity Fair and Jekyll and Hyde, as John Beecham, an enigmatic, soulfu, handsome former soldier who has purchased the magnificent mansion, Beecham House, to begin a new life with his family
‘News of my arrival has travelled so quickly’ he says in the trailer as he shakes the hand of Gregory Fitoussi, who plays General Castillon, (pictured) a French mercenary working for the Emperor at a time when the French are challenging the East India Company for India.
And romance also seems on the cards as an English governess Margaret Osborne, played by Dakota Blue Richards, seems to catch John’s eye
The series, filmed in India for two months. The show’s creator, who also directed Bend It Like Beckham, who said she wanted to offer a considered take on Anglo-Indian relations in the region on the cusp of the Raj
‘In a garden full of beautiful flowers, I see your eyes have rested on the only English rose’, a voice in the trailer says as the camera pans in on Dakota.
What was the East India Company?
The East India Company was set up in 1600 when Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to a group of pioneering merchants giving them a monopoly of all English trade with Asia.
By 1757, it had become a powerful arm of the British establishment with its own armed forces, fleets and currency as well as governing Calcutta, Madras and Bengal.
At its height the East India Company controlled 50 per cent of world trade, bringing tea and coffee to the breakfast tables of the West and spices around the globe.
Its activities remain controversial as it used its private forces to suppress local rulers.
It was also implicated in the seizure of the fabled Koh-i-noor diamond – now the most famous of the Crown jewels – after the capture of Punjab in 1849.
In 1874, the Government of India Act transferred the East India Company powers to the Crown and it effectively ceased to be.
It’s also set to see tragedy and the John’s past creep up on him, with one character saying he’s a traitor.
‘My last home was full of secrets, I will not tolerate the same here’, he says.
It also suggests a mystery surrounding a baby who arrives at the estate.
Beecham House is set in India in the late 18th century, decades before the British Raj.
The series was filmed in India for two months. The show’s creator, who also directed Bend It Like Beckham, said she wanted to offer a considered take on Anglo-Indian relations in the region which lies on the cusp of the Raj.
Speaking to The Times, Chadha said her aim was to ‘create a series about an Englishman in India who is trying to do good, at a time when lots of Europeans weren’t’.
Although the exact details of the plot are not known, it is thought it will address the complex motivations of those involved with the East India Company, whose activities remain controversial.
Chadha added: ‘Every single person in that East India Company was doing the right thing as far as they were concerned’.
However the creator insists the drama still addresses the racism of the English residents and portrays the atrocities they committed.
While the context for the drama is complex and challenging, the story still offers lightness in the form of love, humour – and even a topless scene in the first episode.
Get ready for an Indian summer: The cast of new ITV drama Beecham House, which starts in June and promises to spice up your Sunday nights. Pictured left-right: Bessie Carter as Violet, Lesley Nicol as Henrietta, Marc Warren as Samuel, Pallavi Sharda as Chandrika, Gregory Fitoussi as General Castillon, Tom Bateman as John Beecham, Dakota Blue Richards as Margaret, Goldy Notay as Bindu, Amer Chadha-Patel as Ram Lal, Trupti Khamkar as Maya, Leo Suter as Daniel, Shriya Pilgaonkar as Chanchal and Viveik Kalra as Baadal
NOW LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAST…
Tom Bateman as John Beecham
Best known for: Murder on the Orient Express, Da Vinci’s Demons, Jekyll and Hyde
Leading man: Tom Bateman as John Beecham, who is disillusioned after working for the powerful East India Company. He goes onto earn his fortune by trading fairly
TV heartthrob: Bateman as Giuliano Medici in Da Vinci’s Demons, left, and in Jekyll and Hyde
Tom Bateman, 30, plays rugged ex-soldier John Beecham, who is disillusioned after working for the powerful and controlling East India Company. He goes onto earn his fortune by trading fairly with local craftsmen.
ITV said he is ‘determined to escape his previous life’ and is ‘haunted by his past’. John Beecham is also caring for a child named August, although her father and mother are not known.
While creator Gurinder Chadha tried to steer away from a Poldark inspired topless scene, it appears she eventually caved.
‘It’s always like ‘take your shirt off, come on, get them to take their shirt off,’ so we did resist some of that but it has set the bar in terms of period dramas, I have to say,’ she said.
Lesley Nicol as Henrietta Beecham
Best known for: Downton Abbey
Heading upstairs: Lesley Nicol as matriarch Henrietta Beecham, centre in black, pictured with left-right: Baadal (Viveik Kalra), John Beecham (Tom Bateman) and Violet (Bessie Carter)
Fan favourite: Nicol as fierce cook Mrs Patmore, pictured right with Amy Nuttall as Ethel Parks
Lesley Nicol, 66, charmed fans as fierce cook Beryl Patmore in Downton Abbey, now she’s back to take a more central role as Henrietta, mother of central character John Beecham.
Nicol told the Daily Express it was a ‘complete shock’ to land the role in the prime time drama.
‘I’m unusual casting for this, because I never get to go upstairs! It’s taken a long time and I say thank you to all the people who went, ‘I think she might be able to do it’.’
On the comparison to Downton Abbey, she added: ‘The only comparison I can see is it’s a house with servants.’
Dakota Blue Richards as Margaret Osborne
Best known for: Skins, Endeavour, the Golden Compass
Love interest: Dakota Blue Richards as Margaret Osborne, pictured with Bateman as Beecham
Star maker: Dakota Blue Richards became known to British audiences as timid and androgynous Franky Fitzgerald in star maker TV series Skins, pictured
Child star: Richards as Lyra in 2008 film The Golden Compass, left. Right, at a 2018 event
After making her debut in the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Goldan Compass opposite Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards became known to British audiences as timid and androgynous Franky Fitzgerald in star maker TV series Skins.
In Beecham House Richards, 24, plays the role of Margaret Osborne, who catches John Beecham’s eye while working as his neighbour’s daughter’s governess.
Pallavi Sharda as Chandrika
Best known for: Lion, Begum Jaan, Hawaizaada
Shrouded in mystery: Pallavi Sharda as Chandrika, a character about which little is known
Bollywood beauty: Australian-born Sharda opposite Ranbir Kapoor in 2013 film Besharam
Australian actress Pallavi Sharda, 29, has built an international film career, with Australian and Bollywood film credits to her name.
The star also appeared in Oscar-nominated film Lion, starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.
Little is known about the character of Chandrika but she is seen looking suspiciously in one of the promotional shots.
Marc Warren as Samuel Parker
Best known for: Wanted, Band of Brothers
New life: British actor Marc Warren plays Samuel Parker, who leaves the East India Company
British actor Marc Warren plays Samuel Parker, who leaves the East India Company with John Beecham’s long-lost brother Daniel (Leo Suter) to join the family at Beecham House.
Warren, 52, has previously appeared in TV shows including Hustle and films including Wanted and Band of Brothers.
Bessie Carter as Violet
Best known for: Howards End, Les Miserables
Looking for love? Bessie Carter, left, as Violet, a friend of Henrietta Beecham’s. Her head appears to have been turned by John Beecham’s friend Samuel Parker (Marc Warren), right
With just a handful of film and TV credits under her belt, Carter, 25, could be set for a breakout role as Violet, a friend of matriarch Henrietta.
Though little is known about her character, promotional images suggest there could be a connection with John Beecham’s friend Samuel Parker (Marc Warren).
Leo Suter as Daniel Beecham
Best known for: Clique, Victoria
Building bridges: Leo Suter as John Beecham’s long-lost brother Daniel Beecham, right
Period drama pedigree: Leo Suter as Drummond in ITV series Victoria
Daniel, John Beecham’s long-lost brother, arrives at Beecham House after leaving the East India Company.
A promotional image hints at a potential link between Daniel and nursemaid Chancal (Shriya Pilgaonkar).
An air date for Beecham House has not yet been announced but it is thought to start in June.