“Miss Lister is rather eccentric. She isn’t always as … feminine as people would like her to be.” Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster) takes the wonderful wry and defiant lead as Anne Lister. This eight-episode dramatization of the life of the LGBTQ trailblazer and fearless female business pioneer is set in West Yorkshire, England in the 1800s – a time when “proper” society had very clear ideas about “a man’s job” and “a woman’s place”.

Take a peek at risqué new drama Gentleman Jack

HBO’s latest period drama tells the true story of Anne Lister, “the first modern lesbian”.

If you’re a fan of gritty dramas with sassy dialogue and a bit of delicious naughtiness thrown in, shows that don’t shy away from tricky topics or scandalous scenes (think Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects) then Gentleman Jack is the show for you.

It all revolves around Anne Lister, a young, independent woman who returns to her conservative hometown with plans to restore her ancestral residence to its former glory. The series draws on the real-life Anne’s experiences as relayed in her diaries.

In her own words

Anne Lister was an English landowner, businesswoman and traveller in the early 1800s. She penned 27 diaries – one a year – each consisting of more than 300 pages. She wrote the parts of her diaries that cover her romantic and sexual relationships in code.

Anne’s journals reveal her to be an outspoken pioneer of her time. During an era when women were expected to be demure housewives, Anne was unashamedly controversial, defying expectations as an entrepreneur and tough business negotiator. She was also known for her "manly" attire and manner.

It was a time when a woman’s best strategy for financial stability was usually to find a wealthy husband, but Anne was looking for a wife, whose family wealth could help secure the future her own family estate. Her independence and defiance set her town alight with gossip. The diaries were added to the register of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme in 2011.

The setting of Gentleman Jack

Gentleman Jack takes place in 1832 in West Yorkshire, England. The series was filmed at Shibden Hall, once the home of the real-life Lister family. Anne became the owner of the property after her aunt’s death. Nowadays you can visit the West Yorkshire Folk Museum, workshops and a park on the premises.

The cast

  • The audacious, charming and compelling Anne Lister is portrayed by Suranne Jones, who has received critical claim for her roles in TV series such as Doctor Foster as well as her work on stage.
  • Peaky Blinders’ Sophie Rundle is Ann Walker, the woman Anne Lister sets her sights on. Ann Walker is not only attractive, but also has the wealth Anne needs to restore her family’s property.
  • You may recognise Anne’s sister, Marian, from Game of Thrones. Gemma Whelan played Yara Greyjoy, who was also an independent lesbian. Ironically, her character in Gentleman Jack is unsupportive of Anne’s antics.

Fun fact: To ensure that Anne’s story was handled sensitively but accurately, an “intimacy director” was hired. Ita O’Brien used animal analogies to get the actors to feel more comfortable with each other. She encouraged them to do activities such as “wailing like cats” and “panting like dogs”.

Gentleman Jack starts on Tuesday 28 May on M-Net (101) and Showmax at 22:00
Also available on Catch Up and to stream online at now.dstv.com »