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Casting is announced, and filming has begun, on BBC One’s brand-new 5x60’ thriller Better from Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent (Humans, Spooks).

Leila Farzad (Image: Pip Bourdillon)

A bold and surprising redemption story produced by award-winning content studio SISTER (Chernobyl, This is Going to Hurt), set and shot entirely in Leeds, Better is the story of one woman’s epic battle towards redemption, to reclaim the honour and honesty she handed over to a man many years ago.

DI Lou Slack (Leila Farzad: I Hate Suzie, Avenue 5) – confident, quick-witted and wry – was always destined to be a copper. Like her father before her, a legendary detective in the same Yorkshire force, it’s in her blood. To her peers, she stands as one of the best detectives on the team, but Lou’s success lies on a foundation of deceit and corruption.

To all outwards appearances, Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan: Broadchurch, The Honourable Woman, ABC Murders) – Irish, charming, charismatic, with a presence that commands any room he walks into – is a successful businessman and property developer. But to those closest to him he’s the highly disciplined and coldly ruthless head of a powerful citywide drug trafficking gang.

19 years ago, when Lou was a young police officer at her lowest ebb and Col a low-ranking but ambitious newcomer to the Leeds underworld, their paths crossed, and they struck a deal that changed their lives forever.

The bargain allowed Col to become very rich and very powerful, and Lou to turn around her failing career. A complex but special bond between the pair was forged, and so began Lou’s gradual slide into corruption.

It started slowly, almost imperceptibly – small favours for Col here and there in return for tip offs, a little money to help her through some tough times – but over time her criminality seeped into every aspect of Lou’s life and morphed into something far more sinister and dangerous as the stakes grew.

But now, when Lou’s family is brought to the brink of a tragedy that would tear apart everything she has built, she finds her conscience, for so long repressed, awakening. In determining to put right the wrongs that she has spent years rationalising and excusing, to have a second chance at a new, better life, she must first confront her own moral and ethical failings.

To find her redemption she must bring down the man she has come to love like a brother. The man she has helped place at the head of Leeds criminal underworld. But while Col is a dangerous enemy to make, Lou’s biggest battle may yet be with herself.

Also joining the cast are Samuel Edward-Cook (Peaky Blinders) as Ceri, Lou’s husband who loves her very much but is deeply conflicted about her arrangement with Col, Zak Ford-Williams (Wolfe) as Owen, their smart, imaginative and sensitive teenage son. Ceallach Spellman (Cold Feet) plays Donal, Col’s son, a broken young man who fails to live up to his father’s expectations, and Carolin Stoltz (Liar) plays Alma, Col’s wife and a crucial part of his inner circle.

Further cast are Anton Lesser (Killing Eve, The Trial of Christine Keeler) as Vernon, an ex-detective who knew Lou’s dad and who she now turns to for help and Olivia Nakintu (Vera) as D.C. Esther Okoye, Lou’s closest colleague on the force.

Leila Farzad says: “Better is a brilliant fresh take on the morality tale. I am excited to have the opportunity to play Lou Slack, the vehicle through which we explore the multivalent layers of good and bad. A complex, flawed yet utterly human character. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful show with an incredibly talented team attached to it.”

Writers and Executive Producers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent say; “We’re delirious and feel incredibly fortunate to have assembled - with SISTER and the BBC - such a gifted group of people to tell this story in the great city of Leeds, with a wealth of local Yorkshire talent on and off camera. This incredible cast are exciting us every day, pushing the show’s exploration of morality and redemption to ever more thrilling, surprising, and yet darkly funny places. With any luck, we’ve got enough brilliant people to make ourselves look good.”

Nawfal Faizullah, BBC Drama says; “Jonathan and Sam have created an iconic character in Lou Slack, and we are delighted that Leila Farzad is bringing her to life, alongside her brilliant partner in crime, Andrew Buchan. We're excited to be working with SISTER again and we can't wait for audiences to be hooked by this thrilling story of redemption.”

SISTER added; “We are thrilled to have teamed up with the brilliant duo of Sam and Jon again on this series. The propulsion of their story telling and their complex characters with depth and wit is what makes Better such an incredible piece. Not anyone could evoke the complexity of unconventional hero Lou Slack - morally complicated and challenging yet with huge heart...

“Luckily we don’t just have just anyone, we have the ferocious talent of Lelia Farzad. And bringing an entirely new perspective on the modern crime boss is the equally brilliant Andy Buchan as Col McHugh. We are delighted to have these two extraordinary actors anchoring this complex thriller with lead director Jonathan Brough at the helm, bringing the streets of Leeds to life in a new and exciting way.”

More details will be revealed in due course.


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