Stonehouse: ITV release date, trailer, and cast with Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, and Emer Heatley

Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes star in Stonehouse, a new ITV drama charting the true story of a Labour MP who faked his death in the 1970s

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Stonehouse, a new drama about the disappearance of Labour MP John Stonehouse, is coming to ITV on Monday 2 January.

The series, which stars Matthew Macfadyen as Stonehouse, charts Stonehouse’s political rise and subsequent downfall, and his eventual decision to fake his own death and disappear to Australia.

Here’s everything you need to know about Stonehouse.

What’s it about?

John Stonehouse was a rising star in the Labour Party during the 1960s, tipped by some to be its eventual leader and a potential Prime Minister. By 1974, he was at the point of financial ruin, and faked his death and disappeared.

The official ITV synopsis explains that “in the late sixties, John Stonehouse’s political career is booming – but during these successes though, Stonehouse is also forging secret relationships, first with Czech spymaster Alexander Marek and then with his new secretary Sheila Buckley.”

“Marek makes him an offer and Stonehouse is more than happy to trade information for money, which Stonehouse spends lavishly – but the 1970 election proves to be a turning point as Stonehouse, when Labour loses power and he’s left out in the cold by Marek and the media.”

“Stonehouse hatches a secret plan to escape his dire circumstances that involves a dead constituent and forged passports. A ministerial trip to Miami is the perfect opportunity - but can he bear to leave his family, and the real John Stonehouse, behind?”

Who stars in Stonehouse?

Keeley Hawes as Barabra Stonehouse, Matthew Macfadyen as Jon Stonehouse, and Emer Heatley as Sheila Buckley in Stonehouse (Credit: Snowed In Productions/Clearwood Films/ITV1)Keeley Hawes as Barabra Stonehouse, Matthew Macfadyen as Jon Stonehouse, and Emer Heatley as Sheila Buckley in Stonehouse (Credit: Snowed In Productions/Clearwood Films/ITV1)
Keeley Hawes as Barabra Stonehouse, Matthew Macfadyen as Jon Stonehouse, and Emer Heatley as Sheila Buckley in Stonehouse (Credit: Snowed In Productions/Clearwood Films/ITV1)

Matthew Macfadyen plays John Stonehouse, a Labour Party rising star who faked his death in 1974. Macfadyen is best known for playing Tom Wambsgams in Succession, though you might also recognise him from television roles in Quiz and Spooks, or from films like Pride and Prejudice and Operation Mincemeat.

Keeley Hawes plays Barbara Stonehouse, John’s wife. Hawes – who is married to Macfadyen in real life – is best known for starring in shows like Spooks, Line of Duty, Ashes to Ashes, and Bodyguard. In 2022, you might’ve seen her in Crossfire or The Midwich Cuckoos; she can next be seen in the upcoming Orphan Black spinoff.

Emer Heatley plays Sheila Buckley, Stonehouse’s secretary who he starts an affair with. Stonehouse is one of Heatley’s first major screen roles; you might previously have seen her in the BBC drama Showtrial, where she played PC Cutts.

They’re joined by Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, The Forgotten) as Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and Dorothy Atkinson (Topsy-Turvy) as Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd.

Who writes and directs?

John Preston wrote all three episodes of Stonehouse; the series marks his screenwriting debut, though he’s previously written a number of historical non-fiction books (including one about Jeremy Thorpe, adapted by Russell T Davies as A Very English Scandal).

Jon S Baird directed all three episodes of Stonehouse. Baird is probably best known for directing the film Filth, an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, as well as the Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan & Laurel; on television, his work includes the series Babylon, Vinyl, and I’m Dying Up Here. His next film, a historical drama about the creation of Tetris starring Taron Egerton, will arrive on Apple TV+ later this year.

Is there a trailer?

Yes, there is! You can watch it right here.

When and how can I watch it?

Stonehouse begins on ITV1 on Monday 2 January at 9pm. The series will continue nightly, with the second episode airing at 9pm on Tuesday 3 January, and the final episode airing on Wednesday 4 January.

If, however, you can’t wait to watch the rest, the full series will be made available as a boxset on ITVX immediately after the first episode finishes on Monday.

Is Stonehouse a true story?

Yes, it is! John Stonehouse really did fake his own death in 1974, and he is believed to have spent time spying on behalf of the Czech intelligence services (though both Stonehouse and his family have always denied this).

ITV have produced a one-off documentary, The Real Stonehouse, to accompany the series – it’ll air on Thursday 5 January. You might also be interested in The Spy Who Died Twice, a Channel 4 documentary about Stonehouse that aired last year and is still available on All4.

How many episodes are there?

Stonehouse is a three-part drama, with each episode around an hour long.

Have you recorded a podcast about it?

Why should I watch it?

It’s one to check out if you enjoyed A Very English Scandal (though it feels closer to Russell T Davies’ first series, with Ben Whishaw and Hugh Grant, rather than the second series with Claire Foy and Paul Bettany) – it’s fun and outlandish, a great stranger-than-fiction brought to life by Matthew Macfadyen with aplomb.

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