The Pursuit of Love: Lily James stars in Emily Mortimer's adaptation of Nancy Mitford's tale of inter-war romance and decadence

Emily Mortimer writes, directs and stars alongside Lily James, Andrew Scott and Dominic West to bring the startlingly modern satire of love, marriage and sex in the 1930s to the BBC.

By Katie Archer Published: 7 May 2021 - 4.50pm
Drama Period Drama

Emily Mortimer

BBC The Pursuit of Love Lily James and Emily Beecham

If you usually find period drama a little staid, look out for The Pursuit of Love which brings a riot of adventure, glamour and hedonism to life in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Based on Nancy Mitford’s novel set between the two World Wars, its cast of privileged party-lovers includes Lily James, Dominic West and Andrew Scott, while Emily Mortimer, who adapted the story, also stars.

Here's all you need to know about the plot, characters and filming locations of The Pursuit of Love, and when you can watch it on TV.

What is The Pursuit of Love about?

The Pursuit of Love is adapted from Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel of the same name and has been adapted for television by actress Emily Mortimer.

Set between the two World Wars, it follows the lives and loves of Linda Radlett and her cousin Fanny Logan.

The Pursuit of Love Lily James and Emily Beecham BBC

Consumed by a desire for love and marriage, the cousins and best friends are on the hunt for the ideal husband. But while Fanny settles for a steady life, the charismatic and fearless Linda decides to follow her heart to ever-more wild and outrageous places.

Against the backdrop of social and political issues dividing the nation, the women’s friendship is put to the test as they explore questions about freedom, love, sex and the mystery of the human heart.

“I’ve always loved Nancy Mitford so when I was asked to adapt The Pursuit of Love it was impossible to say no," said Emily Mortimer.

“It’s an outrageously funny and honest story, whose central character - the wild, love-addicted Linda Radlett - still reads as a radical.”

Who is in the cast?

Linda Radlett – Lily James

The Pursuit of Love Lily James BBC

Charismatic Linda is intent on wringing the most from life – whether that means enjoying the most outrageous parties or finding her dream husband.

She’s played by Lily James, who has previously starred in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Rebecca, Cinderella and Downton Abbey.

James said: “It’s great to be working with Emily Mortimer. Her brilliant scripts bring new life to this story - full of love, full of friendship, very moving and sad in places, but also funny and true to life."

Fanny Logan – Emily Beecham

The Pursuit of Love Emily Beecham BBC

Linda’s cousin and best friend is the much steadier Fanny, whose life diverges from Linda’s as she chooses a more conventional path.

She is played by Emily Beecham, who viewers may know from roles in Little Joe and Cruella.

Uncle Matthew – Dominic West

The Pursuit of Love Dominic West BBC

Although the character is called Uncle Matthew, he is actually Linda’s father.

Starring as Uncle Matthew is Dominic West, known for his roles in The Wire, The Affair and Les Miserables.

Aunt Sadie – Dolly Wells

Likewise, Aunt Sadie is actually Linda’s mother and Uncle Matthew’s wife.

She is played by Dolly Wells, who has previously appeared in Dracula and Doll & Em.

Lord Merlin – Andrew Scott

The Pursuit of Love Andrew Scott BBC

The Radletts’ wealthy, eccentric neighbour Lord Merlin is at the centre of many a scene of decadence.

Starring in the role is Andrew Scott, best known for featuring in Fleabag and Sherlock.

The Bolter – Emily Mortimer

The Pursuit of Love Emily Mortimer BBC

Emily Mortimer not only adapted the novel for TV and directs the series, she also has a key role in the cast as Fanny’s mother, known as The Bolter.

Mortimer has previously starred in Mary Poppins Returns and The Sense of an Ending.

Also in the cast... 

The Pursuit of Love Lily James and Assaad Bouab BBC

Further characters include Linda’s suitors, played by Assaad Bouab (Messiah, Call My Agent), Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful, Star Trek: Discovery) and Freddie Fox (White House Farm, The Crown).

John Heffernan (Dracula, The Crown) plays Davey, Annabel Mullion (Patrick Melrose, Doll & Em) is Aunt Emily and Beattie Edmondson (Josh, Patrick) appears as Louisa Radlett.

Where was The Pursuit of Love filmed?

Lily James and Andrew Scott in The Pursuit of Love BBC

The show was largely filmed in the Bristol and Bath area, and some scenes were also shot in Paris.

A number of the period sets were filmed at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol. This included Cheyney Walk House (Linda's London home), Alconleigh (the Radletts' country estate), Merlinford (the neighbouring estate belonging to Lord Merlin), Beverly Hills Hotel and The Ritz.

The train station was created inside Bath's former railway station, Green Park. The nearby terraced street of Green Park and outside No 1 Royal Crescent Museum was also used in the city.

Other locations used in the South West were National Trust properties Dyrham Park, Dinton Park and Philipps House, Stourhead House and Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, and Avon Valley Railway in Bitton, south Gloucestershire.

Is there a trailer?

The trailer for The Pursuit of Love can be viewed here:

When is it on TV?

The three-part series begins on BBC One on Sunday, May 9 at 9pm.

All three episodes will then be available to watch as a box set on BBC iPlayer.

The Pursuit of Love begins on May 9 at 9pm on BBC One

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