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Airs Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Joanne Froggatt as Mary Ann Cotton.

Credit: Courtesy of Justin Slee/World Productions and MASTERPIECE

Above: Joanne Froggatt as Mary Ann Cotton.

Starring Joanne Froggatt as an infamous Victorian serial killer.#DarkAngelPBS

Joanne Froggatt, who stole the hearts of millions of viewers as Anna, the loving and resilient lady’s maid on DOWNTON ABBEY, stars in a totally different role in a spine-tingling drama.

Dispensing death from the spout of a warm teapot, Froggatt plays the notorious Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, in "Dark Angel," on MASTERPIECE on PBS.


Starring Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt, Dark Angel tells the story of Mary Ann Cotton: loving wife, mother, and serial murderer. See it Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS. #DarkAngelPBS

Directed by Emmy® award-winner Brian Percival (DOWNTON ABBEY), written by Golden Globe® nominee Gwyneth Hughes ("The Girl"), and inspired by the book "Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer" by noted criminologist David Wilson, "Dark Angel" dramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.

Anna Bates vs. Mary Ann Cotton

Joanne Froggatt explores what Downton Abbey's Anna Bates would think of Dark Angel's Mary Ann Cotton. Dark Angel premieres Sunday, May 21st, 2017 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

A Golden Globe®-winner and three-time Emmy® nominee for her DOWNTON ABBEY performance, Froggatt is joined by an exceptional cast, including Alun Armstrong (LITTLE DORRIT, BLEAK HOUSE) as Mary Ann’s stepfather, Mr. Stott; Thomas Howes (DOWNTON ABBEY) as her husband number two, George; Jonas Armstrong (ROBIN HOOD) as her longtime lover, Joe; Sam Hoare (JANE EYRE) as husband number three, James; Laura Morgan (THE HOLLOW CROWN) as her best friend, Maggie; plus additional actors playing other husbands, her many children, and the few citizens who suspect that something is not quite right about Mary Ann.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Justin Slee/World Productions and MASTERPIECE

Shown from left to right: Alun Armstrong as George Stott, Joanne Froggatt as Mary Ann Cotton and Penny Layden as Margaret Stott.

Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coal fields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving.

Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.


Mary Ann Cotton finds a desperate way out in this scene from Dark Angel, premiering Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day: typhoid fever and cholera.

The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common — and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.

Mary Ann did tempt fate by taking out a modest insurance policy on her intended victims, whenever possible, but she inadvertently hit on the major success strategies of a serial killer: keep moving, be charming, and exude self-confidence.

And along with others in this line of criminality, her body count can never be certain; the current best estimate is at least thirteen, ranking her far above her Victorian male counterpart, Jack the Ripper.

Female serial killers are so rare that criminologists continue to debate what makes them tick. Is it a thirst for power, a desire for material gain, or a sadistic delight in undermining gender stereotypes when they ask, “Why don’t I make you a nice cup of tea?”

What is Dark Angel?

Joanne Froggatt explores the frightening true story of Mary Ann Cotton, Britain's first female serial killer.


This full episode is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn more and activate your benefit now.


MASTERPIECE is on Facebook, Pinterest, and you can follow @masterpiecepbs on Twitter. #MasterpiecePBS #DarkAngelPBS


A World Productions/MASTERPIECE Co-Production for ITV and also supported by Screen Yorkshire’s Yorkshire Content Fund. The Director is Brian Percival. It is written by Gwyneth Hughes and inspired by the book "Mary Ann Cotton: Britain's First Female Serial Killer" by David Wilson. It is produced by Jake Lushington and executive produced by Kirstie Macdonald, Simon Heath and Gwyneth Hughes for World Productions. The Executive Producer for MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE at WGBH Boston.


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