EXCLUSIVE: The BBC is delving into the history of Soho’s criminal underworld for its next big-budget drama series.
Dope Girls will be a six-part series from His Dark Materials producer Bad Wolf Productions for BBC One.
Our sources say the BBC sees Dope Girls as a spiritual successor to Peaky Blinders, and Bad Wolf is understood to be in early stage discussions with U.S. co-production partners and global streaming services.
Polly Stenham (The Face, The Neon Demon) and Alex Warren (Eleanor) are writing Dope Girls, which is inspired by Marek Kohn’s non-fiction book Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground.
Full plot details haven’t been revealed but we understand it follows the birth of the nightclub scene in London’s Soho. The series will mix elements of the fact-based research of Kohn’s book with fictional characters and storylines, exploring all aspects of the criminal world of Soho in the early 20th Century.
We hear it’s partly based on the true story of conservative, god-fearing 42-year old single mother Kate Meyrick, who builds a nightclub empire and criminal family enterprise and becomes the most dangerous woman in London as well as a competitor to Brilliant Chang, the baron of Soho’s gritty underworld.
Her nightclubs are fuelled by drugs and alcohol that allow for a generation of World War I veterans and survivors to forget their trauma and break through the rigid patriarchal structures of the era to allow women to dance, have sex and do drugs with whoever they want.
Filming is set to begin later this year and casting will be revealed in due course.
Stenham and Warren will be executive producers alongside Bad Wolf’s Kate Crowther and Jane Tranter, and Michael Lesslie (Assassin’s Creed) is also an executive producer. The project was developed and overseen by Bad Wolf Director of Content Dan McCulloch and Chief Creative Officer Ryan Rasmussen.
Xiao Tang (You Killed My Robot) and Matthew James Morgan (The Rig) are additional writers.
We hear the series was commissioned by BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore and Rebecca Ferguson, who will executive produce for the BBC. Ferguson, series producer on The Responder and The Trial of Christine Keeler, joined the BBC’s drama commissioning team last August, as we revealed at the time.
The BBC’s recent drama orders include Peter Kosminski’s Grenfell, Russell T. Davies and Nicola Shindler’s latest collaboration Men Up and Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre’s Agatha Christie adaptation Murder is Easy, which is a co-production with BritBox International.
Bad Wolf and the BBC have collaborated several times in the past, most notably on His Dark Materials and the HBO co-pro Industry, and 2023 will be a big year for the pair as they prepare to launch Russell T. Davies reboot of Doctor Who with BBC Studios. Doctor Who spin-offs are expected, with one based on military research organization UNIT starring Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart.
Sony-owned Bad Wolf is also behind A Discovery of Witches for Sky and AMC and Lucy Prebble’s Sky and HBO Max co-pro I Hate Suzie. It is currently in production on a third season of city traders drama Industry. Also on the slate is ITVX’s King Arthur drama The Winter King for ITVX.
The BBC and Bad Wolf declined to comment.