Julie Walters Pulls Out Of Channel 4 Drama ‘Truelove’ Due To Ill Health, Replaced By Lindsay Duncan


EXCLUSIVE: Julie Walters has pulled out of Clarke Peters-starring Channel 4 drama Truelove due to ill health and is being replaced by Lindsay Duncan.

Truelove creators Charlie Covell (The End of The F***ing World) and Iain Weatherby (Humans), who spoke to Deadline at length about the upcoming show from The End of The F***ing World producer Clerkenwell Films, said they were “saddened” by the loss of Walters but “with her blessing, Lindsay has joined and we are both huge admirers.”

Filming will recommence in Bristol later this year, around nine months after the drama was put on ice due to Walters suffering from severe back pain. All cast members, including Peters, have agreed to return.

“Last year, filming on Truelove was paused while Julie Walters sought medical advice and attention for severe back pain,” said a Clerkenwell Films statement.

“Subsequently, Julie has decided to step back from the project to focus on her recovery and recuperation, and so will not be returning to the role of Phil. We wholeheartedly support her decision, and the entire cast, crew and production team wish her the very best and a speedy recovery. We are delighted that Lindsay Duncan will be stepping into the role of Phil. We’re excited to see what she brings to this complex and captivating character when we restart filming later this year.”

Truelove was Walters’ first acting role in six years. She was previously diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018 and had said acting was partly to blame.

Three-time BAFTA nominee Duncan, whose past credits include Birdman and About Time, said she was drawn to the role intended for Walters as Phil is an “intelligent, tough and complex woman.” “It’s so well written, exploring what we face when age becomes a factor,” she added.

Truelove stars Duncan as Phil and The Wire icon Peters as Ken, a recently retired childhood sweetheart pairing who meet again in their 70s after decades apart. At a funeral, they discuss what an ‘ideal’ death might look like with a group of friends and forge a drunken pact: rather than let each other suffer a slow and dreadful decline, they will step in and engineer a dignified death.

“Slightly patronising” representation

The show deals with prescient issues including euthanasia and loneliness and Weatherby said Truelove is aiming to do away with the “slightly patronising” representation of older people on screen.

L to R: Charlie Covell, Clarke Peters, Iain Weatherby

“Our characters have done amazing things, lived amazing lives and that gives them more edge,” he added. “It is so exciting to push life and death together like two opposing magnets to see what happens. There are some really interesting older characters appearing on screen at the moment.”

Inspiring older characters include Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance in HBO’s Hacks and Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid’s Alan and Celia in the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax, according to Covell, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

Covell heaped praise on Last Tango. “I just thought: ‘Wow I’ve never seen something like this’,” they said. “The tone is different [to Truelove] but I loved the protagonists and the way the show folded around them.”

Having created The End of the F***ing World with mainly younger characters, Covell said they had enjoyed writing older characters as “less has happened to young people.”

“We should be thinking: ‘These are amazing people who’ve led amazing lives’,” added Covell. “And anyway I don’t necessarily divide between ‘young’ and ‘old’. When writing, you’re really just trying to find the core of that character.”

Truelove approaches serious topics with “gallows humor,” added Weatherby, which is present in the majority of Clerkenwell’s productions such as recent Channel 4 critical hit Somewhere Boy.

Having also been dissected in recent Martin Compston-starring BBC adaptation Mayflies, euthanasia is becoming more of a societal talking point. Weatherby said the pair were careful to avoid making Truelove a “didactic piece.”

“Good drama asks questions but doesn’t answer them and we wanted this to leave a live issue in the minds of the audience,” he added. “We’re trying to make people respond to characters in the moment in that you feel both sides of the [euthanasia] debate but as sub-text.”

Covell said they are “never absolutely definite about something” but “for me personally if I was horrendously ill and felt life was impossible, I would appreciate the space to explore an alternative to a really horrendous end.”

Clerkenwell Films, Covell and Weatherby are hopeful the universality of the subject matter and Peters’ international standing will attract buyers from around the world and BBC Studios is launching sales at this week’s London Showcase.

Peters spent some time living in the West of England where Truelove is filmed and Covell and Weatherby – who came up with Truelove more than a decade ago – wrote the character Ken with him in mind.

“His incredible charisma in The Wire is something I think about daily and he’s the coolest dude in the world,” added Weatherby.

Next up for Covell is Kaos, Netflix’s big budget Greek mythology reimagining starring Jeff Goldblum and David Thewlis, which is currently in the edit and should air next year. Weatherby is working on a Channel 4 drama and a feature film.

Read the full article here

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