Outrageous: Everything We Know About The Upcoming Mitford Sisters Drama

By Olivia Emily

3 weeks ago

It’s the first time the scandalous sisters have been fictionalised for TV


Filming is officially underway on a new drama fictionalising the six famed Mitford sisters who attracted both celebration and scandal in the 1930s. Outrageous is UKTV’s first original commission, working with the BBC and BritBox International to breathe life into the six iconic women. Here’s everything we can expect from the series, plus when it might air on TV.

Outrageous: Plot, Cast, Release Date & More

Filming has commenced on a brand new six-part drama delving into the lives of the Mitford Sisters. Created and written by Sarah Williams, Outrageous is based on Mary Lovell’s biography, The Mitford Girls.

What Is Outrageous About?

Outrageous will introduce the six aristocratic yet scandalous Mitford sisters who refused to play by the rules. In the 1930s, their often improper life choices made headlines around the world as they enjoyed the decadence, frivolity and lavishness of high society. But dark clouds were drawing in over the political landscape, and the sisters had opinions.

This being the first time the Mitford sisters have been portrayed on screen, viewers can expect a story about bonds and betrayals, scandals and political extremism, love and heartache. Outrageous will delve into how and why the unconforming sisters were so ahead of their time, plus what led them down their contrasting, complex and even dangerous paths.

‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know, the story of the Mitfords is based on fact stranger than fiction and is awash with contemporary resonance,’ says Helen Perry, head of drama for UKTV. ‘With Outrageous, Firebird and Sarah Williams have created a uniquely bold period drama, which doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the time, yet offers us a chance to know these scandalous women who defied the world and tore themselves apart in the process.’

(L-R) Orla Hill, Zoe Brough, Shannon Watson, Joanna Vanderham, Isobel Jesper Jones and Bessie Carter at the readthrough for Outrageous

(L-R) Orla Hill, Zoe Brough, Shannon Watson, Joanna Vanderham, Isobel Jesper Jones and Bessie Carter at the readthrough for Outrageous. © UKTV

Cast

  • Bessie Carter as Nancy Mitford, the eldest Mitford sister
  • Isobel Jesper Jones as Pamela Mitford
  • Joanna Vanderham as Diana Mitford
  • Shannon Watson as Unity Mitford
  • Zoe Borough as Jessica Mitford
  • Orla Hill as Deborah Mitford, the youngest Mitford sister
  • Toby Regbo as Tom Mitford, the sisters’ only brother
  • Anna Chancellor as Sydney Bowles, the siblings’ mother, known to them as ‘Muv’
  • James Purefoy as David Freeman-Mitford, the siblings’ father, known to them as ‘Farve’
  • Joshua Sasse as Oswald Mosley
  • Jamie Blackley as Peter Rodd
  • James Musgrave as Hamish Erskine
  • Calam Lynch as Bryan Guinness
  • Will Attenborough as Joss

‘I am thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to bring someone as brilliant as Nancy Mitford to life,’ says Bessie Carter, who you might recognise from Bridgerton. ‘She was one piece of a truly fascinating family of remarkable and unique women, and I can’t wait to tell their story.’

‘I’m thrilled to be bringing to life the extraordinary, glamorous and controversial Diana Mitford,’ added Joanna Vanderham. ‘The role brings a new challenge for me as I delve into her character, which was forged in a tumultuous period in British history, the 1930s, and it’s undeniable that the political climate she navigated holds a striking relevance to the present day.’

‘We couldn’t be more excited about the stunning cast we’ve assembled to breathe life into this epic tale of sibling rivalry and political radicalisation,’ says Matthew Mosley, Executive Producer for Firebird. And we can’t wait for directors Joss Agnew and Ellie Heydon to weave their visual magic in evoking the febrile world of 1930s Britain, where old social orders are crumbling and a group of headstrong, rebellious sisters set out to change the world, with sometimes devastating consequences.’

Bessie Carter as Nancy Mitford on the first day of filming

Bessie Carter as Nancy Mitford on the first day of filming. © UKTV

Who Were The Mitford Sisters?

The Mitford sisters were six sisters who gained widespread attention in the interwar period thanks to their stylish yet controversial public lives: Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah. They were the daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale and his wife Sydney Bowles, and the great-great-great-granddaughters of historian William Mitford, from whom the family’s aristocracy descends.

The sisters were all born between 1904 (Nancy, the eldest) and 1920 (Deborah, the youngest), growing up in Oxfordshire and London. They gained attention for their upper class exploits, with Jessica and Deborah marrying nephews of the prime ministers Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, while Diana wed a wealthy aristocrat. On the outbreak of WWII, however, the family’s political views came into sharp relief. Intriguingly, the sisters – and the wider family – were split by political divisions, some favouring communism, others favouring fascism. Before the war, Unity and Diana were known for being good friends with none other than Adolf Hitler, while Jessica, on the opposite end of the spectrum, eloped with her distant cousin Esmond Romilly, the two hoping to report on fascism in Spain. Meanwhile, the only Mitford son, Tom, was a fascist and was sent to fight Burma when he refused to fight in Europe, where he ultimately died in action.

Nancy, Diana, Unity and Jessica Mitford. Sketch magazine cover 1932

Nancy, Diana, Unity and Jessica Mitford. Sketch magazine cover 1932. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The sisters were once described by journalist Ben Macintyre as: ‘Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur.’ Their short biographies are as follows:

  • Nancy (1904–1973), the eldest sister, who lived in France for much of her adult life and is best known for writing two novels: The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.
  • Pam (1907–1994), known as ‘Woman’ to her siblings. She married but later divorced millionaire physicist Derek Jackson, and spent much of the 1960s living with Italian horsewoman Giuditta Tommasi.
  • Diana (1910–2003), who married aristocrat, writer and 2nd Baron Moyne Bryan Guinness (yes, that Guinness) in 1929, but left him for fellow fascist Sir Oswald Mosley.
  • Unity (1914–1948), known as ‘Bobo’ and ‘Boud’ among her siblings was, like her closest sister, a fascist. Her adulation of and friendship with Hitler was widely publicised, and she shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany. Her suicide attempt failed, leaving her with brain damage for life; her family sent her to Scotland where she lived out the war, but she eventually died of meningitis in 1948.
  • Jessica (1917–1996), known as ‘Decca’ in the family, was a communist and ran away from her family in 1937, eloping with her distant cousin Esmond Romilly. Romilly died in action during WWII, and Jessica spent most of her adult life in the US, marrying fellow communist Robert Rreuhaft. Her daughter with Romilly, Constancia, married prominent civil rights activist James Forman Sr., making Jessica the grandmother of James Forman Jr and Chaka Forman.
  • Deborah (1920–2014), known as ‘Debo’ or ‘Nine’ to Nancy (Deborah’s supposed mental age), married Andrew Cavendish who became Duke of Devonshire, helping him transform his ancestral home Chatsworth House into one of the country’s most successful stately homes.

Release Date

Outrageous will air sometime in 2025, though nothing more specific just yet. It will air on U&DRAMA in 2025 in the UK, and stream internationally on BritBox.