World on Fire: From filming locations to full cast list, release date and trailer - Everything you need to know about BBC One’s epic World War II drama

Peter Bowker’s landmark new TV series stars Helen Hunt, Lesley Manville, Sean Bean, and more, and is set to become a major part of your autumn viewing. Here’s what we know so far.

World on Fire is an epic World War II drama that’s set to become a major part of your autumn TV viewing.

Premiering on BBC One later this year, the emotionally gripping, landmark TV series from Peter Bowker (The A Word) tells the story of ordinary people caught up in the Second World War.

Helen Hunt, Lesley Manville and Sean Bean lead the stellar, international cast, which also includes Blake Harrison, Jonah Hauer-King, Julia Brown and Yrsa Daley-Ward.

From what the show's about to the filming locations, the cast list, the release date, the first trailer, and much more, here’s everything we know about World on Fire on BBC One so far.

BT TV customers can watch World on Fire when it starts on BBC One this autumn. Never miss an episode with the BBC iPlayer app - under Players & Apps on BT TV.

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When does World On Fire start on BBC One?

The epic drama series is set to premiere on BBC One in autumn 2019. A specific release date has not been announced.

We do know that the World War II show will consist of seven one-hour episodes.

What’s it about?

World On Fire is a heart-stopping, multi-stranded drama which tells the story of World War II through the lives of ordinary people from all sides of the global conflict.

It follows the first year of the Second World War told through the interlinked fates of ordinary people drawn from Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the United States as they grapple with the impact of the war on their everyday lives.

world on fire harry

Creator Peter Bowker says: “World On Fire tells the hidden human stories within the big historical events we think we know. 

“From Harry, a young English translator in Warsaw caught up in negotiations with the Nazis and trying to smuggle his Polish lover Kasia out of the country, to Lois, the girl who is waiting for him at home, a young Mancunian factory worker who will come to take all the opportunities the war can offer to live a different kind of life. 

“To Nancy, a female US war correspondent who can’t find peace unless her life is at risk, to the Rossler family in Berlin, worried for their soldier son and willing to do anything to protect their disabled daughter from the attentions of the ruling Nazi regime. 

“These are the stories of the ordinary people who shaped our world. Stories of loyalty and brutality, courage and fear, hopes, stories of love and loss, hopes and dreams forged in extraordinary times."

Is the show based on true stories that happened in World War II?

At this stage, it’s not known whether the characters’ storylines are based on real stories from the war, or are purely fictional. However we do know that the epic story, told on a human scale, includes historical moments, from the siege of Warsaw, to Dunkirk, the fall of Paris and the battle of Britain.

Who’s in the cast?

World on Fire has a truly international cast, with actors from across the UK and Europe and the US.

Oscar winner Helen Hunt, below (As Good As It Gets, Mad About You) leads the cast alongside Oscar-nominated and Olivier Award winning actress Lesley Manville (Mum, Phantom Thread), and Bafta-winning actor Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Broken).

helen hunt

They’re joined by rising British stars Jonah Hauer-King (Little Women, Howard’s End) and Julia Brown (The Last Kingdom, Shetland), alongside actress/poet Yrsa Daley-Ward (White Colour Black/Boxx) and Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners, A Very English Scandal).

Also in the stellar cast is award-winning Polish actress Zofia Wichłacz (Warsaw 44, Amok), Brian J. Smith (Sense8), Ewan Mitchell (The Last Kingdom), Parker Sawyers (Southside with You, The Autopsy of Jane Doe), Tomasz Kot (Gods, Cold War), Bruno Alexander (Eden, Der Verlorene Bruder), Johannes Zeiler (Faust, Codename Holec) and Eugénie Derouand (Genius, Beatrice).

Where’s it filmed?

Filming began in Prague, Czech Republic, in October 2018. Other filming locations include Manchester and London in England, Paris in France and Berlin in Germany.

Here are some behind-the-scenes pictures from filming in the Manchester area:

Does the European setting mean there’ll be subtitles?

Yes, there will be some subtitles for scenes that are set outside of England. Writer Peter Bowker told The Times that he was determined to avoid ‘war film clichés’, so when there are two foreign characters in one scene, they speak their native language rather than speaking English with an accent - or being dubbed.

He explained: “You wouldn’t be allowed to have subtitles at least 10 years ago. That wouldn’t have happened on a BBC One show, I don’t think.

“I knew I didn’t want those dramas where you have an English actor speaking English in a German accent. If we have two Polish characters in a room, they can speak Polish.”

Who’s behind the camera?

World on Fire is written and created by multi-award winning writer Peter Bowker (The A Word, Eric and Ernie, Occupation, Blackpool). 

It’s produced by Mammoth Screen - which is part of ITV Studios - who produce other period dramas including Victoria, Poldark and Vanity Fair, so the script is certainly in safe hands.

Is there a trailer?

Yes, the BBC released a trailer for the show at the end of August 2019. You might have seen it on your TV box too, with the song Stronger Than Ever by Raleigh Ritchie playing in the background.

Will there be a season 2?

At this stage, we don’t know for certain whether there will be a second series, or more, of World on Fire. However the series 1 description suggests that future series of World of Fire would follow the later years of the war - so from September 1940 onwards. That description is as follows: 

“The first series of seven episodes tells the story of the first year of the war, starting with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ending with the Battle of Britain.”

World on Fire is coming to BBC One and BBC iPlayer in autumn 2019.

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Images: BBC / Mammoth Screen

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