Premieres Sunday, May 21 at 9 PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)
The drama stars Golden Globe®-winner Joanne Froggatt, who stole the hearts of millions of viewers as Anna, the loving and resilient lady’s maid on Downton Abbey. This time, in a totally different role, Froggatt plays an infamous Victorian serial killer, dispensing death from the spout of a warm teapot. Events drew this troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.
Froggatt is joined by an exceptional cast, including Alun Armstrong (Little Dorrit, Bleak House) as Mary Ann’s stepfather, Mr. Stott; Thomas Howes (Downton Abbey) as her husband number two, George; Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood) as her longtime lover, Joe; Sam Hoare (Jane Eyre) as husband number three, James; Laura Morgan (The Hollow Crown) as her best friend, Maggie; plus additional actors playing other husbands, her many children, and the few citizens who suspect that something is not quite right about Mary Ann.
Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coal fields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving. Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea. For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day: typhoid fever and cholera. The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common—and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.