Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh heads the cast list for Cucumber and Banana, Russell T Davies’ Manchester-set drama series for Channel 4 and E4.

Red Production Company has begun filming on Cucumber (8 x 60min) for broadcast on Channel 4 in 2015, with E4 series Banana (8 x 30min) to start production next month.

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Hesmondhalgh has today been confirmed in the cast alongside Vincent Franklin (The Thick of It, Twenty Twelve), Cyril Nri (The Bill), Freddie Fox (Parade’s End), Fisayo Akinade (Fresh Meat), Con O’Neill (Uncle), James Murray (Primeval) and Ceallach Spellman (Waterloo Road).

She will play the sister of Franklin’s character Henry, whose life with his boyfriend Lance is “turned upside down after a disastrous date night”. Hesmondhalgh left Coronation Street in January after 15 years as Hayley Cropper.

We reported in November that both series – Davies’ first for Channel 4 since the ground-breaking Queer as Folk – will explore 21st century gay life and be broadcast alongside Tofu.

Describing the new series, Channel 4 said: “With the same ferocious wit, startling honesty and heartfelt warmth that made Queer As Folk a landmark Channel 4 series, Cucumber will explore the passions and pitfalls of 21st century gay life for Henry, Lance and co, while on E4, Banana will follow the individual lives of characters orbiting around Henry’s world.

“On 4oD, Tofu will be an anarchic and entertaining factual series about sex – from gay to straight, and anything in between – inspired by the dramas each week.”

Cucumber, Banana and Tofu were commissioned by Channel 4 head of drama Piers Wenger and will be made by Red with executive producers Nicola Shindler, Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies. Tofu will be made by Benjamin Cook (Becoming YouTube).