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My Mother and Other Strangers On Masterpiece

‘My Mother and Other Strangers’ on Masterpiece: A Preview

Five-part series premieres Sunday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m. on KCTS 9.

June 13, 2017

A rare bird has landed on the Masterpiece landscape: A drama series set entirely in Northern Ireland.

Premiering on Sunday, June 18, My Mother and Other Strangers is a new five-part drama set during World War II, when Northern Ireland was a staging area for U.K. and Allied forces. Written by Screenwriter Barry Devlin (Ballykissangel) and directed by Adrian Shergold (Persuasion), the series stars Hattie Morahan (Sense and Sensibility) as Rose Coyne, a married schoolteacher, and Aaron Staton (Mad Men) as Captain Ronald Dreyfuss, a U.S. Army Air Corps officer. Set in the fictional village of Moybeg, the story is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old Irish lad Francis Coyne (Michael Nevin), who as an older man reminisces about his childhood during the war.

The series opens in 1943, and the U.K. has been at war for four years. Francis’ home town had remained untouched until the arrival of a U.S. Army Air Corps base nearby, whose airplanes now dominate the skies and whose soldiers fill his father’s pub. All these strangers are highly entertaining to Francis and the other local boys, but his sophisticated English mother Rose and his Irish father Michael (Owen McDonnell) have different reactions.

Despite her best efforts, Rose has never been fully accepted by the community and is deeply disappointed in her marriage. Her husband Michael resents the invasion by Americans into his community — especially Captain Dreyfuss, who seems to have a lot in common with Michael’s wife. Tensions run high between the locals and the American airmen, who seek entertainment and romance before their deployment to face Hitler’s army.

Rose Coyne (Hattie Morahan) and Captain Dreyfuss (Aaron Staton). Photo courtesy of Steffan Hill/BBC 2016 for Masterpiece.

Longtime viewers of Masterpiece will be hard-pressed to remember another production set in Ireland. I was stumped and had to skim through a list of past shows; other than the 1980s comedy-drama series The Irish R.M., nothing popped out. My Mother and Other Strangers may be only the second series set on the Emerald Isle. Dear readers, please correct me if I am wrong!

If you need a refresher course (as I did) on Northern Ireland’s involvement in World War II, a condensed account can be found at Irish History Live, published by Queen’s University Belfast. Northern Ireland made significant contributions to the war effort through agriculture, manufacturing and as a staging platform for Allied forces. However, unlike England and the Commonwealth nations of the U.K., it was not required to conscript its citizens into military service; they could volunteer, and thousands did, but no one was drafted. This, coupled with the political position of the Republic of Ireland, its southern neighbor who remained neutral throughout the war, made the whole Irish situation very complicated.

When My Mother and Other Strangers opens, the U.K. has been at war in Europe and Southeast Asia for several years, and Northern Ireland’s citizens — who fought for centuries for independence from British rule — are anxious and agitated over the unwanted disruption to their lives. The culture clash between boisterous U.S. Yanks and prideful Irishmen is inevitable.

After viewing the first episode, I completely understand why the producers chose this country and timeframe for a dramatic series. The opening scene says it all: Two young Irish boys are playing in an open field, then they hear the roar of aircraft engines overhead and see the distinctive silhouettes of the American B-17 bombers flying overhead. This beautifully filmed introduction to the drama, along with a voiceover by distinguished Irish actor Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones) as an older Francis, sets the tone for this new series, which promises to be must-see TV viewing for fans of historical drama.

My Mother and Other Strangers airs on Sundays, June 18 – July 16 at 8:00 p.m. on KCTS 9. 


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Laurel Ann Nattress

Writer, blogger, and editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann Nattress is a champion of Georgian civility, British culture and Masterpiece PBS. Visit her at Austenprose.com and follow her on twitter as @Austenprose

More stories by Laurel Ann Nattress

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