Suranne Jones on starring as 'a woman in a man’s world' in her lavish new BBC1 drama Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones as Gentleman Jack

Suranne talks playing a 19th century heroine in a new series by Happy Valley’s Sally Wainwright.

Suranne Jones, best known for Doctor Foster and Scott & Bailey, reveals she’s had a ball playing a ‘woman in a man’s world’ in her huge new BBC1 drama Gentleman Jack.

The former Coronation Street star plays remarkable regency landowner Anne Lister in the eight-part drama, which is penned and directed by award-winning writer Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax).

Inspired by Anne’s real-life diaries that were partly written in a secret code, it explores how lesbian Anne falls in love with wealthy Ann Walker (Bodyguard’s Sophie Rundle).

"It feels modern and fresh because she’s a woman in a man’s world," says Suranne. "She’s a one-off eccentric who is flawed, but true to herself. Anne is funny and mean and blokeish but sensitive."

Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle as lovers Ann and Anne in Gentleman Jack

Speaking to TV Times, Suranne, 40, says that Anne, dubbed ‘Gentleman Jack’ by her neighbours, will be seen having a turbulent relationship with heiress Ann.

"It is an unusual coming-out story for Ann, and Anne is also trying to get her head around Ann’s mental-health issues. Their relationship is so up and down all the time, which is true to the diary."

Suranne goes on to say that she thoroughly embraced Anne’s distinctive style in the series. She especially liked wearing Anne’s top hat!

Suranne Jones sweeps along as Anne Lister

"Having someone in this top hat whooshing around gives it an energy that’s very different from typical period drama. Sometimes I’m knackered, though because she walks so fast. They got a rickshaw for the camera crew because they couldn’t keep up with me."

And Suranne was delighted to team up again with Sally Wainwright, who she’d worked with before on Unforgiven, Dead Clever and Scott & Bailey.

"She’s so clever. Sometimes she has to tell me, "That’s direct from the diary" because her writing is so seamless."

Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, starts on BBC1 this Sunday at 9pm.

David Hollingsworth

David Hollingsworth has over 20 years of experience in television journalism and is the UK Managing Editor for WhatToWatch.


Before working for WhatToWatch, David was on both Whatsontv and, for many years, TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie, and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards, once presenting an award to Hollywood star Lily James.