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Masterpiece on SDPB: Mrs. Wilson
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Ruth plays her own grandmother Alison Wilson.
BBC Masterpiece

Ruth Wilson stars in a true-life story of her own grandmother’s love and betrayal.

At the outset of World War II, Alison McKelvie took a secretarial job with the Secret Intelligence Service. There, she fell in love with an older man—Major Alexander Wilson, a popular author of spy novels then doing real intelligence work for the war effort. Little did Alison know, but she was entering a plot as tangled as one of the major’s mind-bending fictions.

Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) stars as her own grandmother Alison in the true story of a woman’s search for her husband’s real identity on Masterpiece: Mrs. Wilson.

Wilson also serves as executive producer, playing a pivotal role in bringing her family saga to television. “I would tell various people the story, and they all said to me, ‘you’ve got to get this made,’” she says. Iain Glen (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones) costars as Alec, a glamorous and seductive operative in the mold of James Bond, which is no accident, since Alec’s novels pioneered the character of the debonair spy, based on Alec’s own qualities. This personality type was later exploited by Ian Fleming in his Bond books.

Mrs. Wilson opens in 1963, when Alison and Alec have been married for more than 20 years and have two grown sons. While working on his new novel, Alec suffers a fatal heart attack. Not long after, the griefstricken Alison is confronted by a woman claiming to be Alec’s real wife, Gladys (Elizabeth Rider). At the funeral, Alison is approached by Alec’s colleagues, who offer condolences but refer to puzzling aspects of his work and personal life.

Seized with doubt about the man she thought she knew, Alison is determined to find out who Alec really was, while keeping her discoveries secret from her sons, who have nothing but happy memories of their father. Nervously, Alison tracks down Coleman, Alec’s old spymaster, and enters the looking-glass world of assumed identities and faked romances.

SDPB1: Sunday, March 31, 8pm (7 MT)