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Lily James in The Pursuit of Love

BBC Pictures / Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited / Robert Viglasky

Lily James is one of the most in-demand actresses of the moment. While she starred in Netflix’s glittering adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca last year, playing the nameless ingenue the second Mrs de Winter, her next role as Lydia Radlett in the BBC’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love is entirely different.

As she told the BBC: ‘She is a wonderful character: free-spirited, passionate, impulsive, fiery, frustrating, selfish and a brilliant human-being.’

Lily James as Linda in The Pursuit of Love

BBC Pictures / Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited / Robert Viglasky

The plot of Mitford’s most famous novel centres around cousins Lydia Radlett and Fanny Logan. While Fanny marries and settles into a traditional domestic role, she lives vicariously through her more wayward cousin, who travels across Europe to follow her heart, ending up in the Paris of the Roaring Twenties and amongst the thick of the action of the Spanish Civil War.

As James explained: ‘I was attracted to the story as the two women are so linked but so different. The subject matter feels completely relevant, it’s potent, nuanced…’

Written in 1945, the novel was inspired by Mitford’s family life with her five sisters. It is the first in a trilogy of novels, which follow the lives of an upper class family in the period between the two World Wars.

Emily Beecham as Fanny and Lily James as Linda in The Pursuit of Love

BBC Pictures / Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited / Robert Viglasky

Speaking about her similarities with the character, James said: ‘The choices she makes at times feel harsh and quite brutal but I instinctively feel I understand her and love her deeply. I recognise a lot of myself in her.’

She continued to describe how she had found old diaries while researching the role, saying: ‘I was texting Emily Mortimer [the director] months ago as I had found my old diaries. Some of the things I wrote were so Linda. I wish I was as brave and courageous as her, she lives for herself. I relate to her passion and her open heart. I think people want to be more like Linda.’

A recent trailer for the TV series was set to Brian Ferry’s famous tune, The In Crowd and showed James alongside co-stars Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Freddie Fox and Emily Beecham living the glamorous and decadent high life.

ASSAAD BOUAB as Fabrice and Lily James as Linda

BBC Pictures / Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited / Robert Viglasky

A synopsis accompanying the trailer reads: ‘Written and directed by Emily Mortimer, The Pursuit of Love is a romantic comedy-drama about love and friendship. An adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s celebrated novel and set in Europe between the two World Wars, the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the charismatic and fearless Linda Radlett, played by Lily James and her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan, played by Emily Beecham.’

The Pursuit of Love starts this Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.



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