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ITV announces superb lead cast for Midwinter of the Spirit

Published: Tue 07 Apr 2015

ITV announces superb lead cast for Midwinter of the Spirit
ITV today confirmed a stellar cast to lead new drama Midwinter of the Spirit, a three-part series.
Double BAFTA award-winning actress Anna Maxwell-Martin (The Bletchley Circle) will play Merrily Watkins, a single mother who isn’t your average country vicar. Merrily’s newly acquired training has put her on the dark side of the pulpit. She’s become one of the few women priests working as an exorcist - a job increasingly mistrusted by the modern Church and rarely talked about, even though it operates in virtually every diocese in the UK.
Joining Anna will be BAFTA winning actor David Threlfall (Code of a Killer, Tommy Cooper; Not Like That, Like This). David will take on the role of Rev Huw Owen, a deliverance ministry tutor and Merrily’s mentor.
The three part series will also feature Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley, Downton Abbey, Benidorm), Ben Bailey Smith (The Four O'Clock Club, Law and Order: UK), Leila Mimmack (Home Fires, Becoming Human), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, The Frankenstein Chronicles), Simon Trinder  (Dalziel and Pascoe, Without You), Oengus MacNamara (Game of Thrones, What If) and David Sterne (Tommy Cooper; Not Like That, Like This).
Based on the books written by successful novelist, Phil Rickman, ITV has commissioned this three-part drama. Midwinter of the Spirit will be adapted by BAFTA winning screenwriter Stephen Volk (Afterlife, The Awakening, Ghostwatch) for ITV Studios, featuring Merrily Watkins as the central character.
Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder.
Merrily has been through the mill emotionally of late, losing her unfaithful husband Sean in a car crash and seeking refuge in a job despised by her 16 year-old daughter, Jane, whose rejection of her mother's beliefs leads her into the path of danger.
When a man is found murdered in the most horrific circumstances imaginable, Merrily becomes convinced that Satanists are operating in the city.
In the early hours of the next morning she’s called to Hereford General Hospital to perform an exorcism. The atmosphere is palpably toxic, as nurses treating a chronically ill man known for cruelty to animals and his abuse of women believe the ward has become polluted by his vileness. “They believe when he dies, that evil won’t die with him,” Sister Cullen tells Merrily before she begins to pray for his soul.  As the life force in the shrivelled body begins to ebb away, Merrily feels the force of his depravity. Shaking and feeling violated by her experience, Merrily begins to wonder if the two deaths are connected.
Local police team – DCI Annie Howe and DS Frank Bliss – investigating the murder of the crucified man seek Merrily’s expertise.  Merrily assists the police as their enquiries take them into a very dark and dangerous world.
Midwinter of the Spirit will be directed by Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Whitechapel), produced by Phil Collinson (Doctor Who, Coronation Street, Sea of Souls) and executive produced by Creative Director, ITV Studios in Manchester Kieran Roberts (The Trials of Jimmy Rose, Blue Murder, Coronation Street).
Kieran said: “We're very excited to be going into production on Midwinter of the Spirit, especially with such an amazing cast. We're thrilled about Stephen Volk's superb adaptation of Phil Rickman's gripping and chilling novel.”
The drama has been commissioned by ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea.
“Midwinter of the Spirit is a contemporary and edgy drama which draws upon dark, pagan forces which are intriguing and spiritually frightening,” said Steve. “We’re delighted to commission three episodes of a potentially returnable crime drama with a supernatural twist,” he added.
Filming will begin in the Hereford area later this month.
Note to Editors: 
Merrily Watkins features in 12 gripping novels from the pen of Phil Rickman, the latest of which The Magus of Hay was published by Corvus/Atlantic in 2013.  Each novel is a crime mystery that is compelling and suspenseful, drawing on a rich and sometimes dark pagan history with an undercurrent of the supernatural in all its guises.
A former radio and TV reporter for BBC Wales and still presenting programmes on BBC Radio Wales, Phil specialises in writing supernatural and mystery novels.  He began writing the Merrily Watkins Mysteries in 1998 and in 2010 began the John Dee papers series, which focuses on the mathematician and astrologer John Dee.
A master of horror writing, Stephen Volk’s banned BBC play ‘Ghostwatch’ was recently voted by viewers one of the scariest TV moments of all time.