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Happy Valley and Downton Abbey stars team up for gripping new ITV drama

James Norton and Jessica Brown Findlay will co-star in Playing Nice

Split image of James Norton and Jessica Brown Findlay
Megan Bull
Megan BullTV Writer
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James Norton in a new psychological thriller? Sign us up! The Happy Valley actor is set to headline the upcoming ITV series, Playing Nice, and he's teaming up with Downton Abbey alum Jessica Brown Findlay. Rounding out the cast, the duo will also be joined by Malpractice's Niamh Algar and Andor star James McArdle. 

james norton as tommy lee royce© Photo: BBC
James Norton will star as Pete in Playing Nice

Based on JP Delaney's best-selling novel of the same name, the four-part series takes place in Cornwall and follows two couples who discover that their toddlers were switched at birth in a shocking hospital mix-up.

Faced with a harrowing dilemma, Pete (James Norton) and Maddie's (Niamh Algar) lives collide with Miles (James McArdle) and Lucy's (Jessica Brown Findlay), as they're forced to decide whether or not to reclaim their biological children, or raise the sons they originally brought home from the hospital.

Niamh Algar on the BAFTA red carpet© Getty
Niamh Algar plays Pete's wife Maddie

Full of twists and turns, while the two couples initially agree on a solution, it doesn't take long for underlying motives and suspicions to emerge, destroying any sense of trust between the four of them. 

Speaking about the upcoming adaptation, Rabbit Track Pictures' Head of Film & TV, Kitty Kaletsky, and leading man, James Norton, commented: "Playing Nice was the first book we optioned after launching Rabbit Track and we feel immensely proud of the project it has become. 

"To be working with ITV, STUDIOCANAL, wonderful Grace Ofori-Attah, visionary Kate Hewitt, our unbelievable cast and the whole rest of the production team is a huge privilege. We're thrilled and very excited."

While a release date is yet to be confirmed, filming is currently underway in Cornwall, and will likely premiere in 2024. Teasing what's to come, ITV Drama Commissioner, Helen Perry, said: "Playing Nice is an enthralling thriller with a knotty moral dilemma at its heart. 

Jessica Brown Findlay in Fifteen Million Merits© Netflix
Jessica Brown Findlay rounds out the cast as Lucy

"Not only will viewers be hooked, they'll be left questioning 'what would I do...?' As Grace Ofori-Attah's superb script raises questions about the nature of parenting and how far we'll go for those we love."

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For James Norton, Playing Nice will mark the star's latest project, following his critically-acclaimed stint in the stage play for the bestselling novel A Little Life. After premiering at the Richmond Theatre in March, the show eventually wrapped at the Savoy Theatre in August.

james norton benedict© Jan Versweyveld
James Norton recently starred in the stage play of A Little Life

Prior to joining the cast of A Little Life, James had made headlines with his gritty portrayal of convicted criminal Tommy Lee Royce, in the third and final series of Happy Valley, which concluded in February 2023.  

As for Downton Abbey star, Jessica Brown Findlay, the Lady Sybil Crawley actress fronted the British comedy drama, The Flatshare, for Paramount+ last year, before welcoming twin boys with her husband, Ziggy Heath, in December 2022. 

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