ITV launches a Covid-19 drama, "Breathtaking"

The three-part series starring Joanne Froggatt is produced by Jed Mercurio’s independent production company, HTM Television.

25 JUL 2023

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ITV unveiled Covid-19 drama, "Breathtaking." “Everyone at HTM Television has felt privileged to dramatise Rachel Clarke’s hauntingly illuminating memoir of health workers struggling to cope with the extraordinary challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic," Jed Mercurio said during filming. "I’m honored to have collaborated with Rachel and Prasanna on this important drama, and thrilled to be working with a cast led by Joanne Froggatt and crew led by director Craig Viveiros.”  

ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill has commissioned "Breathtaking." Written by Rachel Clarke, Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah,  the three-part series is produced by Jed Mercurio’s independent production company, HTM Television, and stars Joanne Froggatt in the role of a frontline hospital consultant. 

"Breathtaking" is produced in association with and distributed internationally by ITV Studios. The drama is produced by Brian J. Falconerand executive produced by Jed Mercurio, Rachel Clarke and Prasanna Puwanarajah. Produced in association with Northern Ireland Screen, filming for the three-part series took place in Belfast from April to May of this year, and was completed in Northern Ireland earlier this year. The drama has been directed by Craig Viveiros. 

"Breathtaking" is based on doctor-writer Rachel Clarke’s personal memoir of the greatest public health crisis in living memory, adapted for television by Rachel Clarke and former junior hospital doctors Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah. “I’m honored to be working with Jed, Rachel and Prasanna on this timely, important project," Craig Viveiros said. "After reading the first few pages of the script, I knew this was a project I wanted to be involved with. Its unique, bold and unflinching take on life on the front line during the pandemic was immediately captivating. I’m delighted to once again be working with Joanne Froggatt, her ability to effortlessly bring the humanity and empathy to any character she portrays meant she was the perfect performer to bring Abbey to life.”

"Breathtaking" recounts the impact of the pandemic through the eyes of Acute Medicine Consultant Dr Abbey Henderson, played by Golden-Globe-winning actress Joanne Froggatt. Joanne is also three times Emmy-nominated for her role as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey. Set in a fictional big-city hospital, the drama narrates how frontline medical staff endured fear and frustration as they desperately tried to save the lives of coronavirus patients. “Breathtaking is a heart-breaking account of life as an NHS doctor during the pandemic," Polly Hill said. "It’s a chapter of recent history that should never be forgotten, and I can think of no-one better than Jed, Rachel and Prasanna to write this topical and unflinching drama for ITV.” 

A mother of two small children and known for her calm approach in a crisis, Abbey witnesses first-hand the virus begin to take hold, overwhelming the NHS and creating conditions of unprecedented adversity.  The drama is based on Rachel Clarke’s own experiences as a doctor working on the NHS frontline during the pandemic. Rachel is an author of three Sunday Times bestselling books of which Dear Life was shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Biography Award. Your Life in My Hands documents life as a Junior Doctor working on the frontline. “Shooting a large part of the miniseries in long, real-time sequences should make for captivating viewing and allow the audience to be immersed in the struggles our real-life heroes faced in the wards and emergency departments across the country, day after day, during the pandemic," Craig said. "This story is a chance for their voices and sacrifices to be seen and heard.”

Against a backdrop of news footage from the early months of 2020, the drama will follow Abbey in her daily work whilst weaving together the stories of her fellow doctors, nurses, patients and the paramedics whose ambulances were queued outside hospitals as the NHS tried to cope with a tsunami of devastating cases. All of human life is present, and in parts it’s an uplifting account of resilience and fortitude. “There is so much misinformation and rewriting of history around what really happened inside our hospitals during the pandemic. The truth is, NHS staff gave everything they had in impossible conditions that sometimes cost them their lives," Rachel Clarke said. "It is an honor to try and depict the courage and decency of my NHS colleagues on screen, and I’m so grateful to ITV and HTM Television for giving me the chance to show the public the truth.”