Updated On: November 06, 2023 by   Raghda Elsabbagh   Raghda Elsabbagh  

2020 was a heart-wrenching year. All that we remember was how that literally ‘breathtaking’ coronavirus left us vulnerable, anxious, and afraid. As we missed important events and lost loved ones without even being able to say goodbye, we were in utter grief and sorrow, aching with that sting of loneliness. Lockdowns, social distancing, and mask-wearing became the new norms, leaving us isolated and frustrated.

On a parallel note, amidst the chaos, there were heroes in scrubs on the battlefield. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers were on the frontlines, facing the invisible virus head-on, risking their lives to save everyone else. Long hours, overwhelming patient loads, and the emotional toll of witnessing suffering tested their resilience. They were afraid, but their commitment to saving lives eclipsed that fear. Their tireless efforts inspired the world, and their courage was a beacon of hope during dark times.

If you are ready to experience the pandemic from a doctor’s perspective, brace yourselves for the release of Breathtaking. This new three-part television drama will plunge us into the pandemic’s frontlines alongside all the healthcare heroes. In this show, we’ll experience every bit of their fear, courage, resilience, and overwhelmed emotions. The show’s unique edge? It’s created by a team of qualified medicals and weaved from the real experiences of doctors who battled the virus. This will surely bring an authentic touch to this heart-breaking narrative. We believe that if you’re a Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor fan, this show will be your cup of tea.

What Is the Plot of Breathtaking?

Based on Rachel Clarke’s memoir, Dear Life, Breathtaking is a narrative that revolves around the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, seen through the eyes of Dr. Abbey Henderson, an acute medical consultant. 

As she works in a bustling city hospital, the drama paints a vivid picture of her relentless struggle to save the lives of gravely unwell patients amidst the overwhelming fear and frustration that engulf her and her colleagues. 

The series also delves into the lives of not only Dr Abbey but also her fellow doctors, nurses, patients, and paramedics, all caught in the chaos of a healthcare system pushed to its limits by the pandemic. 

Meet the Cast: Joanne Froggatt Takes the Lead as Dr Abbey

Leading Breathtaking is the talented Joanne Froggatt, known for her Golden Globe-winning performance in Downton Abbey. Joanne initially began her acting journey as Zoe Tattersall in Coronation Street. She lent her voice to Wendy in the children’s show Bob The Builder. Joanne took on the role of Laura Nielson in the ITV series Liar and has also appeared in various other productions, including Last Light, North Shore, Sherwood, The Commons, The Harrowing, and Robin Hood.

In Breathtaking, she steps into the shoes of Dr. Abbey Henderson, a doctor and mother of two, known for her calm attitude even in the most challenging situations. But as the virus takes hold and overwhelms the NHS with a tsunami of severely ill coronavirus cases, even the unshakable Abbey faces her breaking point. Froggatt’s performance promises to be a powerful tribute to the resilience of frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Where Was Breathtaking Filmed? 

Breathtaking is set in a fictional big-city hospital when the U.K. was devastated by COVID-19 and filmed against the backdrop of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Meet the Creators: The Minds Behind Breathtaking

Co-written by real-life NHS doctor Rachel Clarke and former hospital doctors Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah, Breathtaking unfolds as a poignant, thought-provoking account of life during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Renowned for his enthralling narratives, Craig Viveiros takes charge as the director. At the same time, HTM Television, in collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen, brings this emotionally charged series to life. Brian J. Falconer spearheads the production, while Mercurio, Clarke, and Puwanarajah serve as executive producers.

Directing with Heart: Craig Viveiros’ Cinematic Magic

Craig Viveiros, an award-winning British/Portuguese movie and TV director, is not your ordinary director; he’s a storyteller extraordinaire. With a keen eye for capturing raw emotions and an exceptional ability to immerse audiences in gripping narratives, Viveiros stands tall in the world of film and television. 

His impressive portfolio boasts titles like Angela Black, The Watch, and The War of the Worlds, where he showcased his directorial skills. However, it’s his role in the groundbreaking adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None that truly shines. With each project, we’ve witnessed how he has proved to be a visionary director who brings stories to life with unparalleled passion and creativity.

In this upcoming drama series, Breathtaking, Viveiros expertly crafts long, real-time sequences that draw us into the heart of the pandemic’s chaos. He is keen on making this work a chance for medical healthcare professionals—for their voices to be heard and for their sacrifices to be seen. Keep an eye on this cinematic maestro; his next masterpiece is bound to leave us breathless.

Jed Mercurio: The TV’s Master of Suspense

Jed Mercurio, a British writer, producer, and director, is no stranger to gripping TV drama. His medical background, evident from his early work on Cardiac Arrest, lends authenticity and realism to his storytelling. Mercurio earned international acclaim after his work on the TV series Line of Duty and Bodyguard.

Known for his suspenseful plots, he has this gift for keeping his audience on the edge of their seats, episode after episode. With Breathtaking, he steps into the world of pandemic drama, promising a narrative that will both captivate and educate. Jed Mercurio is nothing short of a maestro, and we can’t wait to see the riveting story he has weaved for us.

Prasanna Puwanarajah: A Multifaceted Talent

Prasanna Puwanarajah, known for his role as Martin Bashir in The Crown, joins forces with Mercurio and Clarke to bring Breathtaking to life. A doctor-turned-actor-and-writer, Puwanarajah’s unique perspective adds depth to the narrative. His commitment to public interest drama is palpable, aiming to challenge misinformation and offer a fact-based account of witnessed events during the pandemic.

Rachel Clarke: A Voice of the NHS

Rachel Clarke, an author and a palliative care doctor, is the driving force behind Breathtaking. Her memoir, Dear Life, earned critical acclaim for portraying life as a junior doctor on the pandemic’s frontlines. Clarke’s mission is clear: to depict the courage and decency of NHS colleagues on screen and reveal the truth behind the hospitals’ closed doors during the pandemic.  

Polly Hill: ITV’s Commitment to Truthful Storytelling

As ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill recognises the importance of narratives like Breathtaking. In an interview, she commented that this drama is a chapter of recent history that should never be forgotten. She believes Mercurio, Clarke, and Puwanarajah are the ideal team to bring this unflinching story to the screen. She emphasised the need to honour the sacrifices and challenges faced by NHS staff during the pandemic.

Release Date: Anticipating the Premiere 

As the drama wrapped up filming in Belfast earlier this year, viewers eagerly anticipate the release of Breathtaking on ITV1 and ITVX. While we still don’t know when the show will be released, it is expected to hit our screens in late 2023. 

Top Must-Watch Movies Depicting Pandemics and Viruses

If virus outbreaks and pandemic thrillers are your cup of tea, keep yourself entertained with the best pandemic movies ever made till Breathtaking is released. 

  • Contagion (2011): Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh, shows the swift spread of a deadly virus and the immense efforts of everyone, from scientists and healthcare workers to government officials, to control the outbreak. This movie portrays a pandemic, just as the book says.
  • Outbreak (1995): Outbreak is a thriller starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo as medical experts trying to contain an Ebola-like virus threatening to cause a global pandemic. 
  • 28 Days Later (2002): In this post-apocalyptic horror film, a highly contagious virus is unleashed in London, turning the infected into violent, rage-filled creatures. A group of survivors tries to navigate this new world.
  • I Am Legend (2007): Will Smith stars as the last man on Earth following a virus outbreak that turned people into mutants. While he battles the infected creatures that now rule the world, he searches for a cure.
  • World War Z (2013): An action-packed film starring Brad Pitt, based on the novel by Max Brooks, tackles a global zombie pandemic and the efforts exerted to find a cure. 
  • 12 Monkeys (1995): 12 Monkeys is a mind-bending journey through time! A convict is sent to the past from a dystopian future to collect information about a deadly virus that eradicated most of humanity. Can he reverse the inevitable?
  • Train to Busan (2016): This South Korean horror film follows passengers on a train during a sudden zombie outbreak. 
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964): Vincent Price, starring as the last survivor of a global pandemic that turned people into vampire-like creatures, spends his days on the planet, hunting them and searching for a cure.
  • Flu (2013): A South Korean disaster film, Flu portrays the outbreak of a deadly virus and the efforts to quarantine and treat the infected. 

Breathtaking promises to take us into the eye of the pandemic’s storm to fight hand in hand with the medical healthcare workers. The show will honour the heroes and heroines who fought on the front lines and remind us of the strength of the human spirit that shone through the darkest days. 

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