We’re used to seeing the breakdown of marriages, sordid affairs and tearful romantic heartbreak on TV, but new BBC drama Marriage poses a more recognisable and optimistic look at married life.

Rather than being all doom and gloom, writer Stefan Golaszewski examines the smaller moments as well as the highs and lows of a long-term romance.

With Sean Bean and Nicola Walker cast as Ian and Emma, a couple married for 27 years, the show is a beautiful examination of human behaviour and how so many couples do their utmost to make the best of their lives together.

Marriage full cast

  • Sean Bean – Plays Ian
  • Nicola Walker – Plays Emma
  • Chantelle Alle – Plays Jessica
  • James Bolam – Plays Gerry
  • Henry Lloyd-Hughes – Plays Jamie
  • Jack Holden – Plays Adam
  • Stefan Golaszewski (Him and Her, Mum) – Writer, Creator, Director and Executive Producer

The fantastic Marriage cast, in their own words, describe the characters they play.

Sean Bean – Plays Ian

Sean Bean and Nicola Walker in Marriage BBC

“Marriage only takes place over 12 days or so. It’s an extract of that time in their lives and you drop in to watch their lives,” explains Bean.

“However, what is in those days is rich, revealing and you see what a relationship is... what a marriage is. Their doubts, fears, joy, happiness and heartbreak that go into everyday living.”

The Game of Thrones and Sharpe actor added: “People will be able to see many things that they can relate to in their own lives and their own relationships. There aren’t any big stunts or reveals, it’s just a very simple story; simply told, about people and the complications of daily life.”

Nicola Walker – Plays Emma

Nicola Walker in Marriage BBC

Talking about the show’s style, Unforgotten star Nicola Walker said: “It takes a lot of work to make it look as natural as it does and Stefan makes sure we repeat it all. The dialogue is connected to simple everyday actions.

“There are times we have laughed a lot off camera when I’ve made about 30 sandwiches for one scene and boiled the kettle 28 times but they are simple actions you do every day... It’s all in the detail, it’s very revealing. Those mundane everyday details.”

Joking about her favourite day on set, she added: “My most memorable scene was applying cream to Sean Bean’s thigh area. It was a beautiful moment and one that I never expected as Ian had a nasty rash! It was a tremendous day in my professional career. Luckily it was in a tasteful position for camera."

Henry Lloyd-Hughes – Plays Jamie 

Henry Lloyd-Hughes plays Jamie in Marriage BBC

Jamie is Emma’s boss, who creates tension in her marriage.

“Jamie is on one level a high achieving alpha go-getter but on every other level he’s a hollow man,” said Lloyd-Hughes.

“He’s a sad clown who fills his life full of distractions, sugar and calories - as I’ve been discovering in the making of this TV show as I have been eating in almost every scene!

“He’s in charge of a solicitors firm which he inherited from his father who is a looming figure of this story although we never see him. Emma works there with him and it is that working environment that you can see mainly through the eyes of people who work there and the confines of that universe.

“He thinks that he is a big deal and people look up to him in a way that he manipulates the status quo. As we go through our story we come to realise that there are a great number of short cuts and how this is all a pretence.”

Chantelle Alle – Plays Jessica 

Chantelle Alle in Marriage BBC

Jessica is the daughter of Ian and Emma, who is played by We Are Lady Parts actress Chantelle Alle.

“She’s 22, bright, funny and really intelligent. She struggles with self confidence and tends to validate herself based on other people’s opinions and reassurances,” explains Alle.

“We grow with her and see her develop into a more confident person who believes in herself and her craft. She’s a singer-songwriter and it’s the one thing she has ownership of. She was adopted as a baby and Ian and Emma are all she knows. The adoption isn’t really discussed as it’s linked to a loss that her parents don’t talk about.

“She knows she’s loved but I think there’s a slight disconnect with them as they don’t discuss it. We follow her as we get the answers she thinks she needs.”

James Bolam – Plays Gerry 

James Bolam as Gerry in Marriage BBC

The Likely Lads and New Tricks actor is a familiar face to TV fans and is cast as Emma’s father.

“We spent a week with him which was an absolute pleasure,” said Nicola Walker.

“I felt a bit tearful on his last day. It was all quite intense and he’s an incredible actor. It put us to shame on a basic level in terms of line learning as he was all over the script. I loved every second of it and Ian’s relationship with him is brilliantly spiky, like a lot of those in-law relationships.

“With Emma’s father you initially think he’s very different to her but as the show goes on, I certainly think you see the similarities and inherited learnt behaviours between the father and the daughter.”

Jack Holden – Plays Adam 

Chantelle Alle and Jack Holden BBC

Jack Holden (Ten Percent, Traitors) plays a love interest for Ian and Emma’s daughter Jessica.

“I think it’s easy to see a character like Adam and automatically think he’s the worst person in the world but actually there are layers to him,” explains Chantelle Alle, who plays Jessica.

“I think he was criticised in his upbringing and he projects that onto Jess. But what I really love about Jess, and I discussed this with Stefan, is that as horrible as he is to her she’s never the victim. She’s a lot more powerful and in control.

“Adam is an amazingly clever record producer that can help her grow and expand and that’s what keeps her with him but in the back of her mind, she knows he isn’t good for her.

“When she brings him to meet her parents, she’s looking for that honesty from them and questioning why she’s with him.”

Stefan Golaszewski - Writer, director and executive producer

Stefan Golaszewski and Nicola Walker BBC

Stefan Golaszewski, pictured with Nicola Walker on the set of Marriage, is the creator, writer, director and executive producer of the series.

A former president of the Cambridge Footlights, Golaszewski directed if.comedy Best Newcomer award-winning shows in both 2007 and 2009, for Tom Basden and Jonny Sweet respectively. He had worked with Basden (After Life, Plebs), Tim Key (Alan Partridge's sidekick Simon) and writer Lloyd Woolf (Witless) in the comedy troupe Cowards, which had shows on BBC Four and Radio 4.

Golaszewski won the Best Situation Comedy BAFTA for BBC Three's Him & Her, starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani, before his second series, Mum, aired on BBC Two starring Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan.

Watch Marriage on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from Sunday, 14 August

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