The extraordinary life of Joan Bright, the woman who worked in Winston Churchill’s secret underground bunker during WWII, is soon to hit the small screen in The War Rooms.
Deadline reports that the series “will follow Bright and her colleagues as events and challenges unfold — creating a sense of the emotions they experience in those moments. Each season will cover 12-18 months of the war — from the shock of the war’s outbreak to sustaining the fight to the final push for victory and the battle to shape the modern Britain we know.”
Played by Jenna Coleman (“Victoria”, “The Serpent”) the upcoming series centers around the real-life story of the young and vivacious Bright. Rumored to be the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s iconic character Miss Moneypenny — the two had a short-lived romance — Bright began as the personal assistant to Colonel “Jo” Holland, head of MI(R), the forerunner to the Special Operations Executive, on the eve of the war.
Two years later, Bright was offered the job of running an information room within the War Rooms under the direction of General Sir Hastings “Pug” Ismay, where she took her new role in stride, handling vital top briefing papers in the dank “quiet dungeon galleries” of Churchill’s bunker.
Working as an administrative officer, Bright helped to organize several wartime and postwar conferences including Tehran and Yalta — serving witness to history and the leaders who shaped it.
Upon visiting Berlin after the final conference in Potsdam, Bright recalled viewing the shattered ruins of Hitler’s chancellery: “We were free to roam at will, to look and pick at the files, papers, pieces of broken furniture; in one passage there were hundreds of new Iron Cross medals strewn about the floor… It was a grim and macabre place, its evil spirit hanging over the grim city it had destroyed.”
The ever competent Bright quickly became a beloved member of Whitehall’s inner circle, with Ismay writing inside her personal copy of his memoir, “For Joan, who was loved by admirals and liftmen alike, and who fought like a tigress for the comfort of the underdog at the conferences described in these pages … and who made a far bigger contribution to the successful working of the defence machinery than has ever been recognised.”
Created by David Chidlow and produced by Oscar and BAFTA winner David Parfitt (“Shakespeare in Love”), The War Rooms is a co-production between Atlantic Nomad and Trademark Films, with the Imperial War Museums serving as a series consultant.
“This story is so compelling not only because of her unique and liberal mind, wryness of spirit and curiosity to live,” said Coleman, “but because of the opportunity to examine this endlessly fascinating period of time through an intimate and human lens.”
Adding, “I’m so excited to unearth these hidden lives and at a time where it feels so shockingly relevant right now.”