An epic screen adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s critically acclaimed gothic novel Jamaica Inn, funded by Screen Yorkshire, premiered in the prime-time evening slot on BBC One, Easter Monday, 21st April 2014 with episodes 2 & 3 screening in the same slot on 22nd & 23rd April. The 3 x 60 minute part TV drama produced by Origin Pictures for BBC One had been adapted by Emma Frost (The White Queen, Consuming Passion) and directed by BAFTA award-winning director Philippa Lowthorpe (Call The Midwife, Five Daughters). Funding from Screen Yorkshire’s Yorkshire Content Fund ensured that a significant part of the production filmed on location in Yorkshire, with filming also taking place in Cornwall, where the novel is set, and Cumbria.
Production offices for Jamaica Inn were based at North Light Studios in Huddersfield. Scenes for the inn itself were filmed at Crow Edge, Penistone in Barnsley. Other Yorkshire locations set to appear in the drama include, St James Church in Bradford, Farnley Tyas, Tong and Keighley.
Hugo Heppell, Head of Investments at Screen Yorkshire & Executive Producer on Jamaica Inn, says: ‘’Emma Frost, Philippa Lowthorpe and Origin Pictures have delivered a ‘Jamaica Inn’ that is visceral and authentic, and while being true to Du Maurier’s classic, brings the sensibility of a Sergio Leone film, or Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Miller. It features fabulous performances and brilliant production design from Grant Montgomery, showcasing the world class talent that our region has to offer film and TV producers.’’
Producer David Thompson says: ‘’We were thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit Yorkshire to film large parts of ‘Jamaica Inn’, which is a particularly rich source for period locations, providing us with huge possibilities to adapt this much loved novel for the screen. We also love working with the Yorkshire crews who we have found to be so dedicated and passionate about their work. Screen Yorkshire has been incredibly supportive, playing a critical role in supporting us to bring productions such as ‘Jamaica Inn’ to life, through provision of crucial equity funding in a marketplace where investment can still be very hard to find’’.
Set in 1821 against the forbidding backdrop of windswept Cornish moors, the story follows the journey of young and spirited Mary Yellan who is forced to live with her Aunt Patience after the death of her mother. Despite pressure to marry local boy Ned after her mother’s death, Mary refuses to compromise. Though Ned is kind to her, she doesn’t love him and won’t marry without love. Mary declines Ned’s proposal, and journeys to Jamaica Inn in Cornwall.
Mary arrives at the isolated Inn to discover her Aunt is a shell of the carefree woman she remembers from her childhood, and instead finds a tired and anxious woman who is firmly under the spell of her domineering husband Joss. Joss is the head of a gang of men who smuggle all along the stretch of the Cornish coastline. It’s dangerous and violent work and when Joss isn’t smuggling, he is drinking heavily to forget all that he has seen.
To complicate matters further Mary finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Jem Merlyn, but Jem is her uncle’s brother and therefore not to be trusted in Mary’s mind – although her heart may say otherwise. Life at Jamaica Inn challenges Mary’s black and white perceptions of morality as she finds herself living among smugglers in a lawless land where no one is quite who they seem. When she thinks she has witnessed a murder, Mary wonders at what cost she will stay silent.
Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey, Labyrinth) stars as Mary Yellan, Matthew McNulty (The Paradise, Room At The Top) as Jem Merlyn, Sean Harris (The Borgias, Southcliffe) as Joss Merlyn, Ben Daniels (Wiper’s Times, House Of Cards) as Francis Davey, Joanne Whalley (The Borgias, Gossip Girl) as Aunt Patience and Shirley Henderson (Southcliffe, The Crimson Petal And The White) as Hannah.
Screen Yorkshire invested in Jamaica Inn through its Yorkshire Content Fund, which launched in February 2012 and is having a major impact on production levels in the region. The Yorkshire Content Fund is the largest regional production fund in the UK, and has received £15m from the European Regional Development Fund into growing TV, film, games and digital business across Yorkshire and Humber.
Jamaica Inn was made with the support of the MEDIA Programme of the European Union. The executive producers for Origin Pictures are Ed Rubin, Joanie Blaikie and Hilary Heath and the producers are David Thompson and Dan Winch. The executive producer for Screen Yorkshire is Hugo Heppell. The executive producers for the BBC are Sarah Stack and Stephen Wright.
The drama was commissioned by Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson, and former Controller of BBC One, now Director of Television, Danny Cohen. Creative England provided locations support.