Pretty Little Liars’ Julian Morris Stars In Gay BBC Drama That Spans 60 Years

"Man in an Orange Shirt" costars David Gyasi, Jame McCardle and Vanessa Redgrave.

An upcoming BBC television drama will tell two interconnected stories about gay couples, separated by six decades but tied together by a painting.

Man in an Orange Shirt explores “strands of gay male experience since the 1940s,” says
out novelist Patrick Gale, who is contributing the screenplay.

The first story—starring Oliver Jackson Cohen and Jame McCardle—is set in WWII-era Europe.

The second one, taking place in the modern day, features Julian Morris (Pretty Little Liars, New Girl, Once Upon a Time) and David Gyasi (Insterstellar) as the young couple.

British actor David Gyasi poses on the red carpet as he arrives for the World premiere of the film 'Get Santa' in London on November 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS        (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

From the BBC:

Two love stories, sixty years apart, chart the challenges and huge change to gay lives from the Second World War to the present: In 1944, British Army Captain Michael Berryman (Cohen) meets war artist Thomas March (McArdle) in Southern Italy while chaos reigns all around them.

Despite having a young fiancé, Flora (Joanna Vanderham), waiting at home for him, straight-laced Michael finds himself falling for Thomas’ bohemian charms.

In 2017, an aging Flora (Vanessa Redgrave) looks on as her grandson, Adam (Morris), tentatively forms a relationship with his client Steve (Gyasi) in a more accepting world.

But while the external obstacles have fallen away, a minefield of internalized issues and dangerous temptations still line the road to happiness.

“I hope I’ve come up with a story that finds the universal resonance in the marginalized,” says Gale, author of Rough Magic.

“To then see it fleshed out by such a five-star cast, including one of my lifelong heroines in Vanessa [Redgrave], is incredible.”

Tony Barson/FilmMagic

He hopes the film appeals to gay and straight viewers and “that they’ll leave either side feeling challenged about things they take for granted.”

Gale told the Londoner that when the two-part miniseries was moved from BBC2 to the more mainstream BBC1, some cuts were ordered.

“Initially they said they wanted it to be no-holds barred, and really out there. On BBC2 I could have done what I liked post-watershed,” he recalled.

SAINT-MALO, FRANCE - MAY 31:  English writer Patrick Gale poses for a portrait during a book fair on May 31, 2009 in Saint-Malo, France.  (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)
Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

“But suddenly I’ve been told ‘Can you take that out?’ It’s mainly censorship in a really middle-class way, mainly to do with language, I had to take a lot of the f*cks out.”

“The word or the act?” The Londoner asked.

“Both, actually,” he replied.

Gale said he wants to show characters “having a hard time, showing interaction with their straight friends and their mothers.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.