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Maryland on Masterpiece


Two sisters discover their mother’s secret life in new PBS miniseries

Life’s tide brings two estranged sisters ashore the Isle of Man to look into their mother’s sudden death in MaryLand, a new three-part drama. Suranne Jones (Gentleman Jack) and Eve Best (Nurse Jackie) star as sisters Becca and Rosaline, whose paths have diverged in adulthood only to cross again as they delve into their mother’s hidden life away from home.

MaryLand on Masterpiece on PBS. Pictured: Stockard Channing as Cathy.
Monumental Television and MASTERPIECE

Mary, portrayed by Judy Clifton (Endeavour), is found dead on a beach on the Isle of Man. Supposedly away to Wales for a vacation with a friend, it soon becomes clear to Becca and Rosaline that their mother was much more comfortable there than the average tourist. The sisters go to the island to settle matters, while their father, Richard (George Costigan, Happy Valley), stays behind in England.

The sisters land on the island expecting to learn about the circumstances of the unexpected death of their mother while they wait for her to be repatriated to England to be laid to rest. What they aren’t expecting is to learn about the double life Mary was living just across the water.

MaryLand on Masterpiece on PBS. Pictured: Andrew Knott as Jim.
Monumental Television and MASTERPIECE

Starting with the house Mary was living in, Becca and Rosaline piece together a side of their mother that they never knew. The home, left to them by Mary, is filled with framed photos of her closest friends like a trail of crumbs leading to the answers Becca and Rosaline seek. These people are complete strangers to the sisters, but they must know something about Mary’s life that explains her death.

It seems that everywhere they turn, the sisters walk into someone with a connection with their mother. That includes Cathy, portrayed by the legendary Stockard Channing (Grease), who has stories to tell them about what brought their mother to the Isle of Man.

MaryLand on Masterpiece on PBS. Pictured: Hugh Quarshie as Pete.
Monumental Television and MASTERPIECE

Becca and Rosaline also meet Pete, portrayed by Hugh Quarshie (Book Club: The Next Chapter), a man with whom their mother was having an affair while away from home. Further complicating matters, Pete shares with the sisters that their mother planned to remain on the island after her death, wishing to be buried on the island. The reason behind that decision and what kept her secretly returning to this place is a generational family secret, passed on to the sisters along with the house.

MaryLand is not exactly the murder mystery it looks like at first glance — a woman leading a double life is found dead far from home — but rather a complex drama about sisters repairing the frayed bond between them. Becca, a wife to Jim (Andrew Knott, Midsomer Murders) and mother to two teenagers, couldn’t be more different than her career-focused sister Rosaline on the surface.

MaryLand on Masterpiece on PBS. Pictured: Sisters Rosaline (Eve Best) and Becca (Suranne Jones) grapple with some unexpected revelations about their late mother.
© ITV pictures

In a trailer for the miniseries, their differences are crystal clear in each sister’s reaction to the revelation of their mother’s secret life. While Rosaline appears to immediately, calmly accept that Mary had a secret life of her own, Becca lashes out at her sister’s plain observation that they’d been lied to, insisting that it was more personal
for her.

Whether the two chose to follow such different paths by circumstance or with intention, the sisters find themselves learning to lean on each other now that they have the truth of their mother’s life laid out in front of them. The process of healing their relationship while on the island takes two steps back for every one step forward as they really get to know each other again as adults.

MaryLand was created by Jones and American writer and producer Anne Marie O’Connor (Trollied). The miniseries explores the raw feelings we all experience after losing a loved one, exacerbated by the mystery of Mary’s double life. In an interview with The Sun ahead of the series’ U.K. debut on ITV last May, Jones shared that the series was inspired by her own experience with grief, having lost both of her parents. “There’s humour in it and it’s not an easy, straightforward ride,” she said of grief. “You don’t get a blueprint of how you’re going to feel.”

Added Jones: “Knowing sickness, knowing illness, knowing grief, knowing death was a huge part of it, and I think we’re both really proud of how that turned out.”

MaryLand on Masterpiece airs Sunday, May 5, on WTVS and KCTS

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