ITV today announced ROBERT BATHURST will join the cast of the hugely popular Wild at Heart when filming begins in August.

The ten hour-long episodes from Company Pictures will be filmed on location against the stunning backdrop of the African plains following the continued success of series six which was screened earlier in the year.

Robert (Downton Abbey, Cold Feet) plays Ed Lynch, a talented veterinary surgeon, who also excels in business. When we first meet Ed, it’s at the animal park he’s been running for the past five years and we discover it’s his vision that has transformed the place from run-down zoo to thriving commercial enterprise.

Although he’s a great vet, he’s also a realist, understanding that sometimes it’s better to save the lives of twenty animals rather than focus on one. It’s a pragmatism he’s learnt in Africa and the contrast of his realism and Danny’s idealism will often cause conflict between two men who are each used to calling the shots. The stage is set for an exciting rivalry and throughout the twists and turns of the series viewers will learn more about Ed and his troubled past.

Robert commented: “I’m very excited Ed is going to be shaking things up in Leopard’s Den. Wild at Heart is one of the most successful dramas of the last decade and I’m thoroughly looking forward to filming the new series and working with the rest of the cast.”

Robert will join series regulars Stephen Tompkinson, Dawn Steele, Hayley Mills and Deon Stewardson when they all return to recreate their much loved characters and face many new adventures and exciting wildlife.

Since its launch in 2006 Wild at Heart has remained in ITV1’s top four dramas. And to date in 2011 Wild at Heart has the highest average audience of any ITV1 drama – 8.0 million viewers and a 26% share of the audience across the series. This represents an increase of 383k viewers (+5%) on the 2010 average.

Most notably since it’s launch Wild at Heart has regularly pulled in audiences of over 8 million to ITV1 and it has never had an episode watched by fewer than 7 million viewers.

Stephen Tompkinson co-executive produces Wild at Heart with executive producers Charles Pattinson, John Griffin, George Faber and Ashley Pharoah. Wild at Heart is produced in South Africa by Adam Friedlander, and series produced in the UK by Charlie Hampton.

The new series will open just a few weeks after Danny, Alice, Caroline and Du Plessis have lost Leopard’s Den. The mining company’s work has stalled following the corruption scandal Danny and Dup unearthed last series, and the family aren’t sure if they’ve lost their home forever. With the women back home in the UK, Danny and Dup set out to find a new place for everyone to live. It’s a fresh start for them, but will they find somewhere suitable for Danny and Alice to re-establish their veterinary practice and game reserve?

Equally, emotions are still running high as unscrupulous mining boss Peeters, played by David Butler, continues to create problems for the family. Significantly, Dup takes a decision that will rock the foundations of their relationship and Danny is put in the predicament of deciding whether he can support his friend and long-term business partner or whether they will have to go their separate ways. The repercussions of this situation will be lead to emotional turmoil in the life of Dup, Caroline and Danny.

Danny Trevanion’s teenage stepdaughter Olivia played by Olivia Scott-Taylor and her boyfriend Thabo (Atandwa Kani) will also return to the series.

The cast and production team film for six months on location at Glen Afric on the borders of Gauteng Province and North West Province.

Wild at Heart has been recommissioned by ITV’s Drama commissioning team Laura Mackie, Sally Haynes and Steve November.

“I am delighted that Wild at Heart will be returning to ITV1 in 2012,” said Steve. “We can look forward to seeing our favourite characters in new and exciting situations and to seeing significant new characters join the mix.”

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