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Set in 18th Century, Hulu’s ‘Harlots’ Is Timely Today

Season two of Harlots premieres on Hulu July 11. The drama series tells the story of English society from the perspective of prostitutes in the late 18 century. But Moira Buffini, executive producer, says the stories could stem from our current society. “Gender politics seems to be in the center of everyone’s discussions [today],” she said. “The show doesn’t shy away from really tricky stories and tricky situations.”

She mentions how the #MeToo movement has impacted Harlots. “We’ve taken all that on board,” she said, “in our writing and our thinking.”

Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, essentially a guide book about local prostitutes in London, inspired the show. “It’s all written in the most beautiful prose,” said Buffini. (Father’s Day has come and gone, but you can still pick up the book on Amazon for about six bucks.)

Buffini describes Harlots as “love, sex and death in Georgian London.” Shot in England, season one debuted in March 2017. The producers were elated with how the inaugural season landed. It being an English costume drama about the sex industry, Buffini wasn’t quite sure how Harlots would be received. “People totally got it,” she said. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”

Season two starts with the first two episodes July 11, then a weekly release of the remaining six. Buffini promises “outrageous drama” in the sophomore season. Harlots follows the Wells family, led by mother Margaret, played by Samantha Morton. When her daughter Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) places herself in the home of rival Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), the rivalry is taken to a dangerous new level.

Liv Tyler comes on board in season two as socialite Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam, who is drawn by Charlotte into the plot against Lydia. Buffini said she was “utterly delighted” when Tyler said she was in. Her film credits include The Lord of the Rings franchise, Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk. Lady Isabella offers a peak at the upper class. “I hope those stories add a layer to our society,” said Buffini.

Buffini, Alison Newman, Alison Owen, Debra Hayward and Alison Carpenter are the executive producers. Buffini gives Hulu credit for being “such a good collaborator” on Harlots. “They just trust us to get on with it,” she said.

She’s getting a kick out of writing for bold female characters. “It’s wonderful to write ass-kicking roles for women,” Buffini said.