How Emily Mortimer has family members in The Pursuit of Love

Not only does Emily Mortimer write, direct and act in the much anticipated show, she appears to have employed at least 12 members of her family and close friends in the production – including her mother, two children and two nephews

Not only does Emily Mortimer write, direct and act in the much anticipated show, she appears to have employed at least 12 members of her family and close friends in the production – including her mother, two children and two nephews

It wouldn’t be the first time the acting profession has been labelled incestuous.

But a glance at the star-strewn cast for new BBC drama The Pursuit Of Love suggests that a number of them were extremely well acquainted long before the series started filming last year.

Not only does Emily Mortimer write, direct and act in the much anticipated show, she appears to have employed at least 12 members of her family and close friends in the production – including her mother, two children and two nephews.

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The three-part series, which starts next Sunday, is based on Nancy Mitford’s classic novel and tells the tale of the Radletts, a family loosely based on Mitford’s with her six aristocratic siblings.

It includes such famously colourful characters as the many-times-married Bolter, played by Mortimer, and Uncle Matthew, who hunts his children across the Oxfordshire countryside with bloodhounds.

But as The Mail on Sunday can reveal, the connections between Mortimer’s cast members are almost as close and tangled as those between the Mitfords themselves.

Tongues first started wagging when two of the show’s A-list leads, Lily James and married Dominic West, were photographed smooching during an alfresco lunch in last year.

While their fellow actors might not have reached quite such a scale of intimacy, they are certainly close – related by blood or through long-established family ties.

Those appearing on the credits include Mortimer’s lifelong friends, the aforementioned West and Dolly Wells, her bridesmaid Martha West and two members of the famous Fox acting dynasty, who are close to the sprawling Mortimer clan.

Even Mortimer’s brother-in-law has a role to play in the inter-war drama, one of the first to be filmed amid Covid-19 restrictions, which are said to have added nearly £2 million to the eventual £10.8 million cost.

The recruitment policy for the series might seem rather cosy, not to say convenient, to some.

But Mortimer – daughter of the late Rumpole author John Mortimer – has openly admitted she enjoys the freedom of a director to ‘choose who they want’ for roles and is well-known for having friends and family alongside her on set.

Some were also cast in her 2013 sitcom Doll & Em, which imagined her childhood friend Dolly Wells as her assistant. Others contributed behind the scenes.

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West, 51, (left) star of The Wire, Les Miserables and The Affair, is more in demand than ever. But he was happy to clear his busy schedule for his long-time friend Mortimer, whom he has known ‘for years’

West, 51, (left) star of The Wire, Les Miserables and The Affair, is more in demand than ever. But he was happy to clear his busy schedule for his long-time friend Mortimer, whom he has known ‘for years’

In a recent interview, she admitted that casting her own children could be seen as ‘total nepotism and much frowned upon’ but countered that they were both ‘good actors’ who had been cast in a major film.

No rules have been broken, but credits for The Pursuit Of Love might seem hard to square with BBC guidelines on the matter, which state that productions ‘should always be accessible to all to ensure that we are able to make the most of the very best, diverse talent’.

Charles Collier, founder of the production company behind the drama, Open Book, said: ‘You have to reserve the right as an artist to be inspired by the people you know and the people who are the inspiration in your life.

‘You can’t just suddenly box-tick and say well, none of that matters. It’s not in any way removing opportunity from others.

‘Emily’s children Sam and May were at the top of her list but had to go through the same rigorous casting process.

‘Their mum would not have asked us to see them and we as producers would have said “On your bike” had they not been any good. It really is a creative community. It’s absolutely the way in which theatre, film and TV has always worked. It’s not jobs for mates, it’s because they’re right for the role. It’s totally normal to get creative communities that naturally come together.’

So who made Mortimer’s exclusive director’s cut? How are they all connected – and to whom?

The in-demand 32-year-old Lily James (right) shares a talent agency, Tavistock Wood, with Mortimer and four other cast members, who include Dominic West, Freddie Fox and his mother, Joanna. Lily knows Freddie through drama school

The in-demand 32-year-old Lily James (right) shares a talent agency, Tavistock Wood, with Mortimer and four other cast members, who include Dominic West, Freddie Fox and his mother, Joanna. Lily knows Freddie through drama school

DOMINIC WEST: Uncle Matthew

West, 51, star of The Wire, Les Miserables and The Affair, is more in

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