Channel 4’s new one-off drama, Help explores the intense relationship between a care home staff member and patient during the height of the Covid pandemic.
Written and directed by BAFTA-award winners Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) and Marc Munden (The Third Day, Utopia), the film is likely to stir up strong emotions for viewers - particularly care home patients, residents and their family members.
Starring Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Doctor Foster) and Stephen Graham (Save Me, This is England), Help features two of the most revered UK actors of recent times. But who else is in the cast - and when is it on TV?
What is Help about?
Help tells the story of young care worker Sarah (Jodie Comer), who has struggled to feel accepted until she takes on a job as a carer in Bright Skies Care Home, Liverpool.
She strikes up a surprising relationship with 47-year-old Tony (Stephen Graham), who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s and has experienced sudden violent and aggressive outbursts since moving into the care home.
The Covid pandemic hits in March 2020 and the relationships between staff, patients and their families intensifies.
Sarah and her colleagues, who are ill-equipped, poorly prepared and unsupported, struggle to look after their patients, whose conditions make their suffering seem even more traumatic.
She goes to great lengths to care for them, but the unwavering commitment of the staff can only do so much and Sarah’s resilience is pushed to its limits, making her look for a way out.
Who stars in the cast?
Jodie Comer as Sarah
Jodie Comer, 28, plays young care worker Sarah who has struggled to fit in throughout her life. In her role at the care home, she makes strong bonds with the patients, before coronavirus hits and changes her life dramatically.
Comer, who was born in Liverpool - the setting of Help - is best known for her role as Villanelle in British spy thriller Killing Eve, for which she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, as well as a BAFTA for leading actress.
She also starred as Chloe Gemell in E4 comedy-drama series My Mad Fat Diary (2013 - 2015), Kate Parks in the BBC One drama series Doctor Foster (2015 - 2017),.
Speaking about her role in Help, Comer told Channel 4: “For us to be able to explore such a relevant and emotive story through the eyes of such beautifully real characters, and in our home city of Liverpool, is a real honour.
“We’re determined to do justice to so many of the untold stories and heroes that have been affected as a result of this crisis and to handle them with care.”
Stephen Graham as Tony
In Help, Graham plays 47-year-old Tony, who is diagnosed with Young Onset Alzheimer’s which causes him to have violent outbursts. While other staff struggle to cope with his behaviour, he forms a real bond with Sarah and in turn, helps her realise her own potential.
Graham has also had roles in Boardwalk Empir Little Boy Blue (2017) and Greyhound (2020).
Speaking of Help director Marc Munden, Graham told Channel 4: “Jack is one of the greatest and most truthful writers of our generation and in Help he has crafted a profoundly important piece of social realism.
“I’ve wanted to work with Jodie for ages, and together we’re hugely passionate about shining a light on one of the biggest tragedies of our time and the people at the heart of it.”
While it is unclear what role Griffin has in the new series, she is already well known in British TV for previous role in Waterloo Road as no nonsense teacher Kim Campbell, as well as hairdresser Fiona Middleton in ITV’s Coronation Street.
Noble is known for his theatre acting, starring in shows such as Reasons to Stay Alive and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
His on-screen roles have included supporting roles in Gambit (2012) and Dark River (2015).
McGrellis has worked with Graham before, in Little Boy Blue, and has an impressive resume of hit films and TV shows.
Viewers might recognise him from Sky One’s Brassic, last year’s hit BBC show Year and Years or Coronation Street.
Who wrote and directed Help?
Help writer Jack Thorne has previously worked with Graham on the This is England sequel, as well as The Virtues (2019).
He said the idea to write this series came after Graham approached him about wanting to work with Comer, but the cast had been chosen long before the plot was created.
Thorne said: “About two years ago Stephen Graham came to me with an idea to write something for him and Jodie Comer. I tried to think of something and got nothing. Then this crisis happened, and we saw care homes getting squashed and battered by the government.”
Talking about the real tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, he said: “30,000 people have died unnecessarily in these care homes because of the indifference and incompetence of our government.
“Hearing the stories of those at the frontline, having people break down in tears on zoom in front of us has been incredibly moving and galling.
“Getting the story right will be incredibly important, we are aware of the pressure upon us, this has to be written and made with anger and precision. We hope we do it justice.”
Director Marc Munden (National Treasure, Utopia) added: “Help is an angry and immediate film with an unlikely tender relationship at its heart and it responds to the government’s abandonment of care homes as a result of the pandemic, a Play for Today for our times.”
Help will air on Channel 4 on Thursday 16 September at 9pm.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.