It’s not exactly halcyon days at the Halcyon Hotel in London. World War Two is just kicking off and proprietor Lord Hamilton is struggling to keep his indiscretions under wraps, while his wife is furious, his son sulky and the other one about to go off to war. It’s a lot for the Hamilton family and the hotel’s staff to handle.
But in the middle of all that, there’s drinking and dancing and singing as life goes on at the luxury hotel, where guests and staff are determined to have a good time.
Here are the stars of ITV’s The Halcyon – described as a “sexier Downton” – and where you have seen them before:
Alex Jennings – Lord Hamilton
Who does he play? Lord Hamilton owns The Halcyon. He uses it for illicit meetings (both political and romantic) – but he runs into trouble when everything begins to unravel, with his latest affair coming out into the open and his meetings to discuss appeasement hitting the media.
Where have I seen him? Everywhere. Recently, Jennings has played both the Duke of Windsor in The Crown and King Leopold in Victoria.
Steven Mackintosh – Richard Garland
Who does he play? Mr Garland is the calm and professional hotel manager, but there’s more to him than first meets the eye. He is the engine of the hotel, keeping everyone’s secrets and making sure everything runs smoothly. With a strong sense of duty and responsibility, he is also prepared to get his hands dirty and outsmart his opponents to protect The Halcyon. He also has a secret he would rather forget.
Widower Mr Garland is devoted to grown up daughter Emma and will do anything to protect her.
Where have I seen him? Mackintosh is one of those actors who can turn his hand to anything. He’s appeared in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Luther, The Land Girls, The Other Boleyn Girl and Our Mutual Friend.
Olivia Williams – Lady Hamilton
Who does she play? Lord Hamilton thinks he and his wife have an “understanding”, but the limits of that understanding are tested when Lady Hamilton arrives at The Halcyon while he is in bed with his latest woman. The staff rush to stop her reaching the door, but she’s humiliated to find out everyone knows what’s going on. It’s a tricky time for Lady Hamilton – but as a snob with a nasty streak, she’s far from likeable.
“She begins thinking that she is in control, which is a wonderful delusion to have,” Williams told RadioTimes.com.
“And as she walks through the door and gets closer to the royal suite, she realises that she isn’t in control. And I think it’s a humiliation and a tragedy and a crisis in the life that everybody dreads, the realisation that your partner is not only being unfaithful to you, but has been being unfaithful to you for a long time and everybody else knows about it.”
Where have I seen her? A veteran of stage and screen, Williams has starred in Rushmore, The Sixth Sense and An Education.
Hermione Corfield – Emma Garland
Who does she play? Emma is the daughter of Mr Garland, working as a receptionist at The Halcyon – the hotel where she grew up. She’s just coming of age when the war hits, and romance looks set to bloom between her and childhood friend Freddie Hamilton despite their very different positions in life. Emma is headstrong and capable, with a strong sense of justice.
Where have I seen her? This seems to be Corfield’s moment. The 23-year-old recently starred in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as 2015’s Mr Holmes, and next year she’ll be in XXX: Return of Xander Cage and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
Betsey Day – Kara Tointon
Who does she play? Betsey sings with The Halcyon’s Sonny Sullivan Band. She’s glamorous and tough, with a down-to-earth attitude: when she’s discovered in the bath by Lord Hamilton, for instance, she stands up stark naked and demands he pass her a towel. Best friend to Emma, Betsey is always on hand with sensible advice. She also has plenty of on-stage chemistry with band leader Sonny Sullivan, but she has yet to work out that he’s in love with her.
Where have I seen her? Tointon played Dawn Swann in EastEnders until 2009. The following year she was the winner of Strictly Come Dancing, and in 2015 we saw her in Mr Selfridge and got a chance to hear her singing voice in ITV’s The Sound Of Music Live! – putting her straight to the top of the list to play jazz singer Betsey in The Halcyon.
Sonny Sullivan – Sope Dirisu
Who does he play? Sonny is interested in Betsey, but she’s not noticed yet – and everyone tells him it’ll never work out, anyway.
Where have I seen him? Dirisu was in the first series of Humans as Fred. He has also been in The Huntsman: The Winter War.
Matt Ryan – Joe O’Hara
Who does he play? Joe O’Hara is an American broadcast journalist, arriving in the UK on the advent of war and shacking up at The Halcyon. There he finds a story right under his nose: fascists and appeasers are conducting secret meetings at the hotel with Lord Hamilton. It’s a rocky start to his stay when he exposes the Hamiltons, but it’s not the end to his involvement with The Halcyon. Will he be Freddie’s rival for Emma’s love?
Where have I seen him? Ryan’s accent is convincing, but he’s actually a Welshman. He is probably best known for starring in Constantine and Arrow.
Jamie Blackley – Freddie Hamilton
Who does he play? Freddie is the heir to the Hamilton title, having been born four minutes before his twin brother. Unlike his twin Toby, he’s had his father’s love and approval. Freddie has signed up to be a fighter pilot, but he is troubled as World War Two looms on the horizon: what will this mean for his budding interest in Emma Garland? Does he have the guts to step up?
Where have I seen him? Blackley has been in If I Stay, The Fifth Estate and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Edward Bluemel – Toby Hamilton
Who does he play? Toby has lived his life under the shadow of Freddie, the elder twin. He’s sharp, clever and gifted with a promising academic career, but the lack of love from his father has left him bitter and at odds with the Hamilton name. We meet him during a time of great transition as he grapples with his romantic feelings and forges his own path in wartime London.
Where have I seen him? Bluemel is a promising newcomer to the world of television.
Mark Benton – Dennis Feldman
Who does he play? Benton adds a comic streak as the hotel’s affable concierge and resident fixer. He’s a wheeler-dealer who is fiercely loyal to Garland and always talks sense.
Where have I seen him? Like Kara Tointon, Mark Benton is a Strictly Come Dancing alumnus. He starred in Waterloo Road as maths teacher Daniel Chalk, and he’s also been in Early Doors and Northern Lights.
Charity Wakefield – Charity Lambert
Who does she play? Charity Lambert is nasty. She’s Lord Hamilton’s latest affair, but she wants to force their relationship out into the open – and get at his wife. She is also a strong proponent of appeasement and has fascist sympathies.
Where have I seen her? Wakefield appeared as Mary Boleyn in Wolf Hall. She has also been in the Doctor Who Christmas special.
Beverley Knight – Ruby
Who does she play? Betsey discovers that Sonny has pulled a sickie to perform with Ruby at the Cafe de Paris in London, instead of with her at The Halcyon. “Is she better than me?” asks an offended Betsey.
Where have I seen her? Oh, you know, she’s only a world-famous singer.
Adil Joshi – Akshay Kumar
Who does he play? Adil works as a barman at The Halcyon. We won’t give too much away but he’s got his eye on Toby Hamilton.
Where have I seen him? Kumar has been in Homeland, Legends, and he also has a small role in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Billy – Ewan Mitchell
Who does he play? If Billy had a Downton Abbey equivalent he would be William Mason, the earnest First Footman who was in love with Daisy but went off to war and came back in a box. In this case, Billy is a bell-boy whose mother Peggy (Liz White) works on the switchboard. He’s turning 18 and is desperate to go off to war, though mum is worried he’ll be cannon fodder. It looks like he also has a secret passion for Kate, a maid at the Halcyon.
Where have I seen him? Mitchell is a newcomer to the world of television. This could be his breakout role.
Max Klein – Nico Rogner
Who does he play? Austrian Jewish refugee Max turns up at the hotel to join the kitchen staff in episode one. But it’s a struggle for Richard and Emma Garland to protect him from Chef (Kevin Eldon), who showers him with anti-German and anti-semitic abuse. Mr Klein is an accomplished chef whose family are stuck behind in France at a very dangerous time.
Where have I seen him? Rogner has not been in many English TV shows or productions, but he has an impressive portfolio from his native Germany. He can also speak French and Italian (yet again, impressive), so he’s acted in films from Séraphine to Tag der Wahrheit to La buona battaglia – Don Pietro Pappagallo.
Charles Edwards – Lucien D’Abbeville
Who does he play? Lucien D’Abbeville walks through the door of The Halcyon in the service of episode three’s evil gun-toting maid-assaulting Comte, but redeems himself a little by quitting his position and staying on in the hotel. He begins a flirtation with Lady Hamilton.
Where have I seen him? Fans of period dramas will remember Charles Edwards as Lady Edith’s employer and lover Michael Gregson, who mysteriously disappeared. A long CV includes acclaimed performances on stage and screen, most recently as David Welsborough in Sherlock episode The Six Thatchers.
Liz White – Peggy Taylor
Who does she play? Peggy is Richard Garland’s friend and confidante at The Halcyon, where she operates the switchboard. Billy is her son, and she also has a young daughter at home.
Where have I seen her? Liz White has been in Call the Midwife, Our Zoo and Life on Mars.
Maggie O’Neill – Gloria
Who does she play? Gloria is Betsey’s mother, who turns up from time to time to see her daughter. The visits are pained, with Betsey desperate to believe that this time her mum really wants to spend time with her – rather than the reality, which is that she’s visiting to ask for money.
Where have I seen her? Maggie starred in EastEnders as Suzy Branning. She’s also been in Peak Practice and Shameless.
Jamie Cullum – wedding singer
Who does he play? In episode five, Betsey is forced to give up her stage at a wedding so a guest performer can sing for the couple’s first dance, much to her annoyance. That guest performer is Jamie Cullum – following in the footsteps of Beverley Knight, who appeared earlier in the series.
Where have I seen him? Cullum is a jazz and pop singer known for songs including Everlasting Love and Don’t Stop the Music. This is his period drama debut.
The Halcyon airs on Mondays at 9pm on ITV