A first look at the lineup for Jilly Cooper’s Rivals

Image shows lineup of stars for Jilly Cooper's Rivals in press shot. Left to right: Alex Hassel, Danny Dyer, Dame Jilly Cooper, David Tennant, Aiden Turner Alex Hassell as Rupert Campbell-Black, Danny Dyer as Freddie Jones, author of Rivals Dame Jilly Cooper, David Tennant as Lord Tony Baddingham, Aiden Turner as Declan O'Hara

Drama, excess, and the shocking antics of the power-grabbing social elite of 1980s England…

Finally, we have a first glimpse of the avidly-awaited eight-part series made for television, Rivals, based on the celebrated novel by Dame Jilly Cooper. And yes, we are VERY excited.

For those of you who don’t know (where have you been?!) Rivals delves headfirst into the ruthless world of independent television in 1986. It’s part of Cooper’s bestselling ‘Rutshire Chronicles’, the iconic literary series packed full of wit, romantic entanglements, sex and unforgettable characters. It’s like Dynasty with Barbours.

What’s the story?

Alex Hassell as Rupert Campbell-Black, standing with the sun behind him, holding lots of dogs on leads, country estate setting. Article on Silver Magazine www.silvermagazine.co.uk

Alex Hassell as Rupert Campbell-Black

In the fictional county of Rutshire, a long-standing rivalry between two powerful men is about to boil over. Alex Hassell plays dashing ex-Olympian, Tory MP and incorrigible rake, the dangerously charismatic Rupert Campbell-Black.

David Tennant plays Rupert’s single-mindedly ambitious and egotistical Rutshire neighbour Lord Tony Baddingham, controller of Corinium Television. A long-simmering power struggle between the two men threatens to boil over when they lock horns over the future of Corinium.

Caught in the crossfire is TV presenter Declan O’Hara, played by Aidan Turner. Fiercely intellectual, with an even fiercer temper, he is wooed to Corinium TV from the BBC by Baddingham himself. But feels he’s been swindled when Tony refuses to deliver on his promises. Furious with Tony, Declan vows to get his revenge.


Aidan Turner as Declan O'Hara pictured sitting in a TV studio positioned as the host, looking back over his shoulder at the photographer. TV studio audience in the background

Aidan Turner as Declan O’Hara

David Tennant as Lord Tony Baddingham - standing in a country estae setting with a 12 bore gun slung across his shoulders, flat cap on his head over his eyes.

David Tennant as Lord Tony Baddingham

The rest of the cast includes Victoria Smurfit who plays Maud O’Hara, a former actress and Declan’s bohemian, fickle wife. And Bella Maclean, who plays Declan and Maud’s tender-hearted yet strong-willed elder daughter, Taggie. She holds the O’Hara family together and keeps an eye on her younger and wilder sister Caitlin, played by Catriona Chandler.

Read more: One Day, set in the 1980s – why do we enjoy nostalgia?

And yet more talent

Nafessa Williams as Cameron Cook - standing with a bank of tv screens behind her, wearing a slick red suit and giving power moves. Article about Rivals on Silver Magazine www.silvermagazine.co.uk

Nafessa Williams as Cameron Cook

Roguish Danny Dyer stars as Freddie Jones: honourable, loyal and lovable, he’s a self-made electronics millionaire. Freddie’s got the money, but finds himself, along with his social-climbing wife Valerie, an outsider to Rutshire’s cliques. But when Rupert and Tony come to him with a business proposition, all that could change.

Nafessa Williams is Cameron Cook, a ferociously talented American TV executive who is brought to Corinium by Tony to produce Declan’s new prime-time talk show. She soon finds herself caught between the two powerful men who deeply underestimate her – at their peril. Katherine Parkinson stars as Lizzie Vereker, a romantic novelist consistently overlooked by her preening and self-centred TV presenter husband, James Vereker, played by Oliver Chris.

The series includes a whole hotbed of other acting talents. Such as Claire Rushbrook, who plays Lady Monica Baddingham, Tony’s dependable, upper-crust wife who has absolutely no interest in the dramatic goings-on within her husband’s empire. And Luke Pasqualino plays the charming Basil ‘Bas’ Baddingham, Tony’s younger brother and the proprietor of Cotchester’s hot spot, ‘Bar Sinister’. While Emily Atack plays Sarah Stratton, the new wife to Deputy Prime Minister, Paul Stratton, played by Rufus Jones. Sarah is ambitious, and not afraid to use her looks to get to the top. Paul, on the other hand, is in the throes of a midlife crisis – and everyone knows it.

Jilly is thrilled to see Rivals come alive on television

Executive producer and Rivals author, Jilly Cooper said, “I’m utterly enchanted to be able to announce our all-star line-up for Rivals. Featuring some of the best acting talent that the British Isles has to offer, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better ensemble cast.

“I cannot wait to be on set, and see them bring the characters I love so much to life. The minute we met with Alex we knew he’d perfectly embody my all-time hero. The iconic, racy, ruthless, and devastatingly handsome, Rupert Campbell-Black. Viewers are in for a treat!”

The television series Rivals, based on the novel by Jilly Cooper, is set to debut on Hulu in the U.S. and on Disney+ in other countries later this year.

Read all about it

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