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Nicholas Cannon

The Cuckoo: where to watch, trailer, cast, plot, interviews, release date and everything you need to know

The Cuckoo on Channel 5 stars Jill Halfpenny as a dodgy lodger.

The Cuckoo is a tense Channel 5 thriller series starring Jill Halfpenny as a lodger who forces her way into the lives of her host family. She plays Sian, a beautiful but mysterious woman who moves in with hard-up couple Nick (Lee Ingleby) and Jessica (Claire Goose) and their adopted daughter. But as she oversteps the boundaries time and time again, Jessica starts to wonder if there’s more to Sian than meets the eye...

Jill Halfpenny says: "Viewers will know quite quickly what Sian wants, but I think the show then becomes about whether she manages to succeed — that’s the thrill of it. Nick and Jessica have already made their worst move letting Sian into the house. The minute she’s inside, she can start messing with their minds. People will be shouting at the telly!"

So here’s everything you need to know about The Cuckoo on Channel 5…

Jill Halfpenny as mysterious Sian. (Image credit: Channel 5)
Jessica (Claire Goose) is worried about her lodger Sian. (Image credit: Channel 5)

The Cuckoo release date

The Cuckoo is a four-part series that started on Channel 5 at 9pm on Monday April 8 2024, with episodes running across the week from Monday to Thursday April 11 at the same time. Episodes also arrived on streaming service My5.

As the show has been ordered by Paramount we'd expect it to also arrive on Paramount Plus at some point but we can update on this later. Also with any US air date and channel.

How to watch The Cuckoo: stream the British thriller online or watch on TV

The Cuckoo plot

The Cuckoo kicks off with married couple Nick (Lee Ingleby) and Jessica (Claire Goose) having just bought the house of their dreams, a grand doer-upper in the country town where Jessica grew up. But as the financial crisis hits, the couple fall on hard times and risk losing their beautiful home. With no other choice, they take in lodger Sian (Jill Halfpenny), who very quickly begins to start trouble in the family, flirting with Nick, borrowing Jessica’s clothes and building an inappropriate rapport with their adopted daughter Alice. Jessica soon realises something dark and twisted is going on, and before long the pair must fight for one another and to save their own lives. 

The Cuckoo cast: who's who in the thriller series

The Cuckoo couple Nick (Lee Ingleby) and Jessica (Claire Goose). (Image credit: Channel 5)

The Cuckoo episode guide

Here's our brief guide to the four episodes of The Cuckoo. There are spoilers so look away if you don't want to know. Also you can click on the links below each episode information for a detailed recap...

Episode 1
The action kicks off showing a farmhouse under renovation, and 40-year-old Jessica interviewing potential lodgers to relieve her family's financial strain. Her 14-year-old Alice, who has a difficult relationship with her mother, is against the idea. Jessica begins to lose hope of finding someone suitable when an artist called Sian arrives. Their conversation is interrupted by their plumber's wife, demanding payment for work, leaving Jessica embarrassed. Sian offers to cover the bills with her deposit. Nick and Alice return home and are introduced to their new lodger. Sian seems very charming but Alice is uncomfortable and Nick voices his concerns to Jessica about taking so much money from Sian. Later, Jessica admits to Sian that she struggles to connect with Alice and Nick had once had an affair. Nick contacts one of Sian's references, discovering Fay Calder is her aunt, heightening his suspicions. Nick expresses his doubts about Sian but Jessica dismisses him. In Alice's bedroom, she is drawing as Sian enters and they bond over their love of art. Sian encourages Alice to embrace her talent. Nick makes a desperate call to a business colleague for a loan while Sian eavesdrops. He opens a safe hidden behind a family photo, takes out valuable jewellery.
The Cuckoo episode 1 recap: Sian joins the family but who is she?

Episode 2
Sian lies in bed contemplating a distant memory. Nick announces he’s fixed the shower to save money, irking Jessica. He shuns Sian’s offer to drive Alice to school. Alice’s headmaster explains she’s been in an altercation. Sian listens as Alice opens up about her difficulties with her parents. They see Alice’s school bully Ottilie and Sian frightens her off. Jessica and Nick discuss the pawning of her mother’s jewellery and how the slip got out of the safe. The frostiness between Jessica and Nick intensifies when they discuss Alice’s behaviour before meeting the headmaster. Sian visits her aunt Fay and admits that she knows a dark secret Nick and Jessica are keeping from Alice as Fay pleads with her not to do anything extreme. Jessica and Nick try to talk to Alice before she explodes and storms out, taking the family car. Sian chases after her with Jessica.
The Cuckoo episode 2 recap: Sian gets closer to Alice

Episode 3
Alice wakes up in a state of confusion. Jessica wants to give her space like Sian suggested so leaves to let the school know Alice won’t be in as Nick storms off to collect the car. Sian lies to Alice about her parents not caring for her. Jessica sees Nick pull up in a hire car and they argue about the cost. Fay is left reeling at the news that Sian wants to bring Alice to her house and they argue about family history. Fay asks her to leave. Sian pockets a key as she goes. Jessica attempts to speak to Alice who initially refuses but eventually opens up. Alice is combative and an argument begins between the two with Alice calling for Sian’s help. Sian asks to speak with Nick alone where she makes the unfounded claim that he is jealous of her closeness with Alice.
The Cuckoo episode 3 recap: Sian's behaviour gets worse

Episode 4
Sian is overjoyed as they drive but Alice is unsettled. Meanwhile, Jessica breaks out of the cupboard informing Nick, who has arrived home, of Alice’s kidnapping. Nick and Jessica, track Alice's phone location. At a service station, Alice tries to send a message but Sian catches her and dumps her phone. Nick and Jessica arrive too late and discover that Alice was trying to send Jessica a text. They race to Aunt Fay’s - their only clue to Alice’s whereabouts. Sian takes Alice to a desolate caravan park and reveals that this is where she came to have her baby, explaining that she didn't want to go to a hospital due to fear of losing custody. 
The Cuckoo ending explained: what happened to Sian?

Alice and her adoptive dad Nick. (Image credit: Channel 5)
Sian is secretly plotting!  (Image credit: Channel 5)

The Cuckoo cast — Jill Halfpenny interview on playing Sian

Jill Halfpenny plays mysterious lodger Sian in The Cuckoo. Here she reveals much mores...

What made you want to sign up for The Cuckoo?
Jill Halfpenny says: "Mike Benson at [production company] Clapperboard and Barunka O’Shaughnessy, the creator, wanted to make something with a bit of a nod to those 1990s movies like Single White Female, which I thought was cool. In the initial chats, they were thinking I’d be playing Jessica, the person on the receiving end of the drama, but I said, ‘actually, can I play Sian and be the person doing all this stuff? That seems like more fun!’"

How did you approach playing Sian?
Jill says: "Just because she does bad things doesn’t mean she’s a terrible person - Sian is obviously struggling with her version of reality. It was easy for me to find empathy with her, because I know that people can completely convince themselves of something if they want it to be true. You see people like that on Netflix documentaries all the time, and the thing that always strikes me about them is their confidence. When their victims retell their stories, they always talk about how easy it was to believe these people, because they seemed so assured."

Does Sian find it easy to start trouble between Nick and Jessica?
Jill says: "She sees they’re in a sticky situation, finds their Achilles heel and just twists the knife. She’s quite quick in winning around Jessica, but she definitely struggles with Nick. I thought it was important that not everybody was fully taken in by her - you’ve got to have a bit of a struggle, and it’s more interesting if Sian has to try harder. She’s on the back foot with Nick quite a lot of the time."

What does Sian do to win over their daughter, Alice?
Jill says: "Sian is quite clever in the way she attaches herself to her - she knows teenagers often feel misunderstood, so she makes Alice feel like Sian sees her. She’s very manipulative, and spots her opportunity to be the person in Alice’s life who seems like she can read her mind."

The Cuckoo has a brilliant cast. Were you excited to work with everyone?
Jill says: "Yes! Lee and I were both in [ITV1 drama] The Long Shadow recently, but we actually first worked together when we did [BBC1 1960s-set detective series] Inspector George Gently way back when. I love him, I think he’s a great actor, so I was really pleased when he got on board. I didn’t know Claire, but I’d admired her work from afar and it turns out the three of us work quite similarly. And Freya, who plays Alice, was really lovely, and great in the role."

You filmed the series in Ireland - did you enjoy the location? 
Jill says: "We were in a huge farmhouse for most of the shoot - it was so big, you only see a tiny bit of it on screen! It’s in County Wicklow, which is a gorgeous part of Ireland. If I’d filmed there in my 20s, I would have spent all my time exploring the area, but in my 40s, I spent my breaks trying to get in touch with my son’s school, or booking a dentist appointment - the boring logistics of life!"

* Jill Halfpenny started her career as Nicola Dobson in the children’s show Byker Grove and went on to play Rebecca Hopkins in the soap Coronation Street and Kate Mitchell in EastEnders. She's also had roles in The Long Shadow, Waterloo Road, Three Girls, Dark Money, The Drowning and Humans. Jill won Strictly Come Dancing in 2004, with her professional partner Darren Bennett, and presented Jill Halfpenny’s Easter Journeys in 2022. 

Jill Halfpenny as Sian in The Cuckoo. (Image credit: Channel 5)
Jill Halfpenny in 2023 ITV drama The Long Shadow as grieving mum Doreen Hill. (Image credit: ITV)

Lee Ingleby on playing Nick in The Cuckoo

Lee Ingelby, who plays the financially struggling homeowner Nick, says: ‘I liked the idea of a drama that wasn’t about coppers or medics, and The Cuckoo felt a bit different. It’s just about relationships, and how life can unravel and come crashing down if you’re not careful. Nick is the classic disgraced male! I think he and Jessica have bitten off more than they can chew as a family by moving house just as he’s lost his job - he’s also been unfaithful, and is treading on eggshells around his wife. 

"He thinks everything’s fine, and he can find the money they need on his own, but it just means he falls into bigger and bigger holes. Nick’s right about Sian, he knows there’s something suspicious about her, but he goes about proving it in a very haphazard way!|

* Lee Ingelby has previously played Stan Shunpike in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and has also starred in The Long Shadow, Screw, The A Word, Innocent, Inspector George Gently, The Hunt for Raoul Moat and The Five. Lee voices Bob the Builder in the animated TV series and Captain Campion in Watership Down

Lee Ingleby as Nick in The Cuckoo. (Image credit: Channel 5)
Lee Ingleby (on left) as DCS Jim Hobson in ITV's Yorkshire Ripper drama The Long Shadow. (Image credit: ITV)

Claire Goose on playing Jessica in The Cuckoo

Claire Goose, who plays Nick’s wife Jessica in The Cuckoo, says:  "I was really excited by the idea of working with Lee and Jill, and I really enjoyed the fact that the script was quite contained. It’s not often you get dramas with so few people in the cast, and this one felt very intimate. Jess was planning to renovate the house, flip it and make a profit from it, but now there’s no money coming in, she can’t. She’s frustrated with Nick, who’s been unfaithful, and she’s struggling with her relationship with her daughter, Alice, too.

"Nick picks up on little nuances about Sian, but that just irritates Jess - she feels quite lonely in this new place, and Sian is the first person she’s connected with in a long time. So when Nick points out Sian’s flaws, Jess just thinks he’s being childish…|

* Claire Goose previously played Tina Seabrook in the BBC1 medical drama Casualty and DC Amelia Silver in Waking the Dead. Claire has also had roles in Silverpoint, The Bay, The Coroner, Unforgotten, Mount Pleasant and The Bill

Claire Goose plays Nick's wife Jessica in The Cuckoo. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Who else is starring in The Cuckoo? 

The Cuckoo also stars Freya Hannan-Mills who plays the couple’s adopted daughter Alice. Shameless star Marjorie Yates is Aunt Fay Calder. 

Freya Hannan-Mills says: "I really loved the scripts – I got to the end of the first episode and I really needed to know what happened next! I loved the tension and the intense relationships between these women, there’s something fascinating going on between Sian, Jessica and Alice. I love any story that explores the complexity of female characters and plays in the grey area, rather than making everything black and white, I find that really interesting. So I was really excited when I got the role of Alice and could be part of The Cuckoo.

"I really liked Alice and I thought she would be a very interesting character to play. I know this sounds so terrible, but I feel like every daughter gets to a point in their teenage years where they want to insist that they are nothing like their mother, that's natural for everyone. I’m only 20 so I remember that teen angst and restlessness, it’s that desire to be your own person and to move away from those you’ve grown up around. In Alice’s case it's pushing those feelings and that search for independence to an extreme, and I really liked the idea of exploring that."

Freya Hannan-Mills as adopted daughter Alice. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Is there a trailer for The Cuckoo? 

Yes, and it doesn't disappoint! The trailer shows the tension building as the drama unfolds, and you can watch below...

Behind the scenes and more on The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo is created by Clapperboard and the series was ordered for Channel 5 by Sebastian Cardwell, Deputy Chief Content Officer, UK at Paramount. Barunka O’Shaughnessy (The Teacher, Motherland, Deadline) created the series and will Executive Produce alongside Clapperboard’s newly appointed Senior Executive Producer Suzi McIntosh (Silent Witness, Peaky Blinders), Clapperboard MD Mike Benson, and Abacus Media Rights MD Jonathan Ford. O’Shaughnessy will also pen the first episode of the series with Rebecca Wojciechowski (Silent Witness, Death in Paradise, Holby City) on board as writer for episodes 2, 3 and 4. Brian O’Malley (The Ex-Wife, That Dirty Black Bag, Alex Rider) will direct. Abacus Media Rights will distribute the series internationally.

Sebastian Cardwell, Deputy Chief Content Officer, UK at Paramount says:: “We’re thrilled to be teaming up again with Clapperboard to bring this tense and twisty series to our viewers. Equipped with a gripping script and household names Jill Halfpenny, Lee Ingleby, Claire Goose and Marjorie Yates as our lead cast, The Cuckoo is another brilliant addition to our expanding drama slate.”

Suzi McIntosh, Senior Executive Producer at Clapperboard, adds: "I could not be more excited to be gathering such a fantastic and dynamic cast and crew to make this thriller that will keep us on the edge of our seats throughout. Watch this space, we are all in for a treat."

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