Star-studded cast revealed for TV adaptation of Jilly Cooper’s novel Rivals

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David Tennant, Aidan Turner, Emily Atack and Danny Dyer are among the famous faces starring in an adaption of a raunchy novel from Jilly Cooper for Disney+, it has been announced.

Rivals, published in 1988 and one of 10 novels from Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles series, will be adapted into an eight-part series of the same name, featuring notorious lothario Rupert Campbell-Black played by British actor Alex Hassell.

The 85-year-old author is best known for her often erotic romance novels which capture the drama and excess of Britain’s affluent elite.

Rivals will explore the cutthroat world of independent television in 1986 as a long-standing rivalry between two of fictional Rutshire County’s most powerful men is on the cusp of boiling over.

Former Olympian, MP and womaniser Rupert will lock horns with neighbour Tony Baddingham, controller of the independent TV franchise Corinium Television, who will be played by 51-year-old Doctor Who star Tennant.

As the rivalry intensifies, secrets, alliances and snatched liaisons see wives, lovers, colleagues, friends and families drawn into the battle.

Among those caught in the crossfires, Poldark star Turner will play TV presenter Declan O’Hara who vows to wage revenge against Tony; while former EastEnders star Dyer will play self-made electronics millionaire Freddie Jones and The Inbetweeners actress Atack will be seen as Sarah Stratton, the new wife of the deputy prime minister, played by Rufus Jones.

Cooper, who serves as an executive producer on the series along with Dominic Treadwell-Collins, Alexander Lamb, Felicity Blunt and Laura Wade, 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 adaptation will also feature Victoria Smurfit as Declan’s “fickle wife” and former actress Maud O’Hara; Bella Maclean will play Declan and Maud’s “strong-willed” elder daughter Taggie, who keeps an eye on her wilder sister Caitlin played by Catriona Chandler.

US actress Nafessa Williams will also star as an American TV executive who is brought in to produce Declan’s new prime-time talk show, but finds herself caught between “the two powerful men who deeply underestimate her, at their peril”, Disney said.

The series will also see Katherine Parkinson play Lizzie Vereker, a romantic novelist “consistently overlooked by her preening and self-centred TV presenter husband” James Vereker, who is played by Oliver Chris; while Lisa McGrillis plays Freddie’s social-climbing wife Valerie.

The cast announcements include Claire Rushbrook as Lady Monica Baddingham, Tony’s “dependable, upper-crust wife”, while Luke Pasqualino will play charming Basil ‘Bas’ Baddingham, Tony’s younger brother and the proprietor of Cotchester’s hot spot.

Disney confirmed that production has commenced with filming taking place in the UK.

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