Chris O’Dowd, Gillian Anderson and Richard E Grant for BBC Two’s The Crimson Petal And The White

Romola Garai (Emma, Atonement), Chris O’Dowd (IT Crowd, The Boat That Rocked), Gillian Anderson (The X Files, Bleak House), Richard E Grant (Withnail And I, Gosford Park), Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Charles II), Amanda Hale (Murderland, Bright Star) and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, The League Of Gentlemen) have begun filming on BBC Two’s bold four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best-selling novel, The Crimson Petal And The White, made by Origin Pictures.

Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, and directed by award-winning Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain), this intimate psychological thriller lifts the lid on the darker side of Victorian London revealing a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, says: “A really fresh and surprising cast will bring this provocative tale to life reinforcing the new ambition for drama on BBC Two.”

David Thompson, producer for Origin Pictures, says: “Origin Pictures is thrilled to be bringing to screen this extraordinary, sexually-charged story which will certainly shake up the audience’s perceptions of conventional period drama. I’m delighted we’ve assembled such a striking cast and such a bold and imaginative director.”

This provocative and riveting tale tells the story of Sugar (Romola Garai), an alluring, intelligent young prostitute who yearns for a better life away from the brothel she is attached to – run by the contemptible Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson).

Highly sought after and sexually adept, Sugar finds her only comfort in the secret novel she is writing in which a murderous prostitute takes revenge on her clients. However, things change for her when she meets wealthy businessman William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd).

Sugar is a thrilling antidote to William’s life, saddled with a pious brother, Henry Rackham (Mark Gatiss), and fragile wife, Agnes Rackham (Amanda Hale). Agnes regularly endures visits from the invasive physician Doctor Curlew (Richard E Grant), leaving her unable to perform her wifely duties.

William ensconces Sugar as his mistress and she soon grows accustomed to her new life. Yet, unbeknownst to William, Sugar begins to hatch a plan which sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives for ever.

The supporting cast also includes Tom Georgeson (Bleak House), Liz White (Life On Mars), Blake Ritson (Emma) and Bertie Carvel (Sherlock).

This riveting account of life in the world of Victorian prostitution is packed with detail and texture. An intelligent tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life – in a way never seen before on screen. In the words of the heroine Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”