Butterfly: Why ITV’s new powerful trans drama starring Anna Friel is a must-watch for families

Anna Friel and Emmett J Scanlan play the parents of an 11-year-old boy who wants to live life as a girl in ITV’s family drama coming later this year.

Anna Friel is back on ITV as the star of the channel’s powerful new family drama, Butterfly.

The Marcella actress plays the mother of a boy who wants to live as a girl in the new three-part mini-series from Bafta-winning writer Tony Marchant.

[Read more: Butterfly, Sabrina and Delivering Babies: The best of BT TV this month]

BT TV customers can catch Butterfly on ITV HD when it airs on Sunday, October 14 at 9pm - and never miss an episode with catch up on ITV Hub.

Here, we reveal why Butterfly is a must-watch for families...

What is Butterfly about?

Butterfly follows the story of an 11-year-old boy, Max (Callum Booth-Ford, in his first acting role), who decides that he wants to live life as a girl. He’s always dressed as a girl at home, but now he doesn't want to hide who he is outside of the family home.

His mum, Vicky (played by Anna Friel, best known for Marcella) and father, Stephen (Emmett John Scanlan, The Fall), no longer live together, which puts additional pressure on Max as he yearns for an idyllic home life.

However, whilst Vicky and Stephen agree that Max’s wellbeing should be their number one focus, they have very different ideas on how he should act.

As Max’s transition to Maxine looks set to be thwarted by Vicky and Stephen’s disagreements, the family are faced with the ultimate test of love and understanding.

[Read more: Everything we know about Butterfly so far]

You'll like Butterfly if you loved…

The A Word, Transparent, This Is Us, Waterloo Road, Come Home, Wanderlust.

Three reasons why everyone’s talking about Butterfly…

1. It's hoping to change perceptions of gender fluidity

Friel - who is mum to 13-year-old daughter Gracie with ex-partner, David Thewlis - hopes Butterfly will change people’s perceptions of trans children.

Asked why she thought there were negative responses from parents whose children choose to be gender-fluid, she responded: “Lack of understanding, lack of knowledge, lack of education, I think.”

She hopes the show will changes attitudes towards gender fluidity, in the same way her famous lesbian kiss on Brookside in 1984 changed attitudes towards sexuality.

Referring to the kiss, she added: “Think back to 25 years ago, to another girl – ‘Ahhhh’. And now all that time on, now it’s the blink of an eye, so hopefully we’ll make that same progress.”

2. It's a trans drama for all ages

Friel and co-star Emmett J. Scanlan (who plays Stephen in Butterfly, the estranged husband of Friel’s character Vicky) both agreed that children - as well as adults - should be allowed to watch the show.

The pair hope that families will sit down and watch the ITV drama together, and revealed that their own teenage children have seen it already.


Like mother like daughter.

A post shared by Anna Friel💋 (@annafriel) on

Scanlan confessed that his 16-year-old daughter, Kayla, "didn’t bat an eyelid" about the trans storyline when she watched it - and he overheard her both laughing and crying.

When asked how he would feel if his daughter decided they were trans, Scanlan said: “There’s a great line in the show when Vicky says, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘It’s better to have a daughter than a dead son’, and that really resonated with me.

“The statistics within the community, over three quarters of them self-harm and nearly half of them have attempted suicide, it’s a horrific statistic. And if you had the choice between that, what would you want?

“All I want is for my daughter to feel happy, to feel loved, to feel accepted in this world that likes to compartmentalise everything because we’re afraid of challenging our idea of what ‘normal’ is. I just want her to be happy.”

3. Anna Friel is back on our screens

Audiences may have seen Friel play a mother in series 2 of Marcella earlier this year - but don’t expect something similar (or a green parka) as Max's mum Vicky is markedly different from the troubled Marcella Backland.

The Emmy-award winning actress plays the sensitive mum with care and compassion, and she did plenty of research into transgender children, and their parents, for the role.

[Read more: Anna Friel talks Marcella series 2]

“I would urge anybody to not voice an opinion [about trans issues] without doing their proper research, because I didn't have any idea the trauma that some of these poor angels are going through - and their parents, what they're going through as well," she said.

"It's a continual battle and a struggle and it's hugely controversial but we all have to have empathy, heart and compassion."

Friel admits she was drawn to the project for a number of reasons, notably the controversial storyline.

"I like things with a powerful medium, and if that's the way we can get a message across and it tells a story, even if it is fictional or a drama, I tend to go for those things."

Friel adds that she was attracted to the project because of the show’s writer - Bafta-winning Tony Marchant - and because she was drawn to the fictional Duffy family, who she revealed on Instagram she is going to "miss very much" after filming concluded.

Butterfly is coming to ITV on Sunday, October 14 at 9pm. Catch up with the ITV Hub app on BT TV.

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Images: ITV

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