Ones to Watch: Writers
DQ casts its eye over a range of upcoming series from around the world and picks out 20 writers to tune in for, from Leonardo Fasoli (Django) and Peter Straughan (Europa) to Bash Doran (Life After Life) and Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie).
20. Steven Zaillian
In 1999, Matt Damon played the title character in The Talented Mr Ripley, a film based on the first in a series of novels about Tom Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith’s source material is now the subject of a TV adaptation written by Zaillian and commissioned by US premium cablenet Showtime. In Ripley, as the show is called, Andrew Scott (Fleabag) plays the lead character, a grafter scraping by in 1960s New York until he is hired by a wealthy businessman to travel to Italy to try to convince his vagabond son to return home. But his decision to accept the job puts Tom onto the path of a complex life of deceit. Zaillian’s recent credits include Martin Scorsese feature The Irishman and HBO’s The Night Of, while he also wrote the screenplays for the 2011 English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Gangs of New York and Schindler’s List.
19. Harriet Warner
Described as a bold reimagining of the iconic characters from Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ classic 18th century novel, upcoming Starz series Dangerous Liaisons comes from creator and writer Warner. In her early career, Warner worked on shows such as Footballer’s Wives, The Fugitives and Waterloo Road, before penning episodes of Mistresses, Sinbad and Call the Midwife. In February this year came the launch of her thriller Tell Me Your Secrets on Amazon Prime Video, a series that follows a trio of characters who each have a mysterious and troubling past and are pushed to the edge as the truth starts to emerge. Next up is Dangerous Liaisons, which tells the story of how the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont meet as passionate young lovers in Paris on the eve of revolution. Driven to right the wrongs of their past, they rise from the slums of Paris and scale the heights of the French aristocracy, seducing and manipulating both the nobility and each other to survive.
18. Lone Scherfig
Danish film director Scherfig was nominated for a Bafta for her 2009 film An Education and also counts One Day and Italian for Beginners among her credits. In addition, she helmed features The Kindness of Strangers and Just Like Home, both of which she also wrote. Scherfig now returns to television as the showrunner of Danish series The Shift, an emotional hospital drama set in a contemporary maternity ward. The eight-part series follows the highs and lows of the hospital staff, including Ella (played by The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl, pictured above with Scherfig), the department head, who secretly wishes for her own children but has a hard time forming new relationships. Scherfig created the series and is the head writer.
17. Neil Gaiman
For fans of fantasy, horror and science-fiction novels, comic books, radio plays and films, the author of American Gods, The Sandman and Coraline needs no introduction. But in terms of his screen work, Gaiman is particularly busy at the moment. He is co-showrunning Anansi Boys, an Amazon Prime series based on his book about Charlie Nancy, a young man who learns that his estranged father was Anansi: trickster god of stories, and that he has a brother, Spider, who enters Charlie’s life determined to make it more interesting but a lot more dangerous. Gaiman is also a co-writer and executive producer of The Sandman, Netflix’s take on his famed graphic novel series about the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic – and human – mistakes he’s made during his existence. Then there’s the second season of the BBC and Amazon’s Good Omens, based on the book he wrote with the late Sir Terry Pratchett and which he oversees with Anansi Boys co-showrunner and director Douglas Mackinnon.
16. Clare McQuillan
McQuillan’s career has included working for the Royal Court Theatre and alongside Oscar and Bafta-winning director Steve McQueen, spending time in the writers room for his HBO series Codes of Conduct. She later wrote for YouTube series Impulse, about a girl with teleportation powers, and now McQuillan is developing with Hillbilly Films & Television an adaptation of Jules Grant’s novel We Go Around in the Night & Are Consumed By Fire, which is described as a startling original, queer love story and revenge thriller. Inhabiting the dark underbelly of Manchester, Donna is a lesbian gangster, street poet and boss of the all-female Bronte Close Gang, an unapologetic criminal group that sells drugs from perfume atomisers in club toilets. Donna and single parent Carla – her best friend, trusted second-in-command and subject of her unrequited love – carve out an empire on the toughest streets of Manchester. But when Carla is gunned down, everything changes – and Donna sets out for revenge
15. Bash Doran
British-born playwright Doran has built up an admirable list of credits on both sides of the Atlantic, from Boardwalk Empire, Smash and Masters of Sex to The Looming Tower and Traitors. Now back in the UK, she is adapting Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life for the BBC. The series focuses on Ursula Todd, who is born to Sylvie and Hugh one night in 1910 but dies before she draws her first breath. On that same night, Ursula is reborn and survives – and time and time again, living and dying in different circumstances, she is reborn into a new, alternative life once more as she navigates two world wars, an encounter with Hitler and major life events. But why does she need to stay alive?
14. Nikolaj Arcel
The screenwriter behind features Danish historical drama En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair) and Män som hatar kvinnor, the 2009 Swedish adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Copenhagen-born Arcel is adapting another book for his latest project, this time for TV. The Monster of Florence is based on the true crime book of the same name by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, which investigates a murderer who killed 14 people in Florence – making it one of the worst serial murder cases in European history.
13. Marsha Greene
Greene has credits on some of the biggest Canadian series of recent years, most notably Private Eyes, Mary Kills People, Coroner and Departure. She is now the co-creator and co-showrunner of The Porter, an original series from Canada’s CBC and BET+ that centres on the black community in St Antoine, Montreal – the ‘Harlem of the North’ – in the early 1920s. The story is told from the perspective of two black train porters taking very different paths to liberation. One pushes to create the first black union in existence, while the other chases power on the wrong side of the law, but both have the same goal: to free themselves and their families from oppression. Greene created the series with Arnold Pinnock, Bruce Ramsay, Annemarie Morais and Aubrey Nealon, and showruns with Morais.
12. Laura Neal
As well as the standout performances by its two leading actors, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, Killing Eve has become known for changing its lead writer each season. The show was created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), before Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman, The Crown) took over in season two. The following year, Suzanne Heathcote (See) took the reins of the BBC America series. For the fourth run, Neal has taken charge of the show, which is based on Luke Jenning’s Villanelle novellas. The playwright already has extensive TV credits, working on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, My Mad Fat Diary and Tatau, before most recently joining Sex Education and Turn Up Charlie. But with season four already confirmed to be Killing Eve’s last, Neal has the (un)enviable task of bringing the show, which will return in 2022, to its conclusion.
11. Peter Straughan
Bafta winner and Oscar nominee Straughan, the screenwriter behind Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, has reunited with the 2011 film’s director Tomas Alfredson for Europa, an eight-part espionage drama based on the Fractured Europe Sequence novels by Dave Hutchinson. The first book, called Europe in Autumn, is set in a time when the continent has been devastated by a flu pandemic and economic collapse, leading it to split into numerous tiny nations, with a fragile web of shifting alliances.
10. Siân Robins-Grace
As head of development at Eleven Film, Robins-Grace developed series including The Enfield Haunting and Sex Education, and is a co-executive producer Netflix series Kaos, created by Charlie Covell (The End of the F***ing World). She is now showrunning her own series, horror-comedy The Baby, which has been commissioned by Sky and HBO. Deconstructing the ‘joy of motherhood’ and the anxiety of whether to have children, the series introduces 38-year-old Natasha, who is unexpectedly landed with a baby whose controlling, manipulative and violent powers twist her previously uncomplicated life into a horror show.
9. Deborah Davis
The Bafta-winning and Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated screenwriter behind The Favourite, the 2018 feature starring Oscar-winning Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Davis’s other credits include contemporary and historical dramas for BBC Radio 4. Her next screen project takes her back to royalty for Marie Antoinette, an eight-part series for French broadcaster Canal+ that charts the title character’s rise from a stubborn young princess to fashion icon who recreated life in the Palace of Versailles in her image: free, independent and a feminist ahead of her time.
8. Anjli Mohindra
For British viewers currently hooked on BBC submarine thriller Vigil, Mohindra is recognisable as medical officer Tiffany Docherty, and she has previously acted in Wild Bill, Bancroft, Bodyguard and Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. Mohindra has also recently finished filming on forthcoming Sky science-fiction thriller Extinction, which is produced by Urban Myth Films. Mohindra and the prodco are now set to reunite after the fledging writer secured the rights to journalist and BBC presenter Anita Anand’s biography of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, called Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary. Mohindra will write the series, which will tell the story of Princess Sophia, the goddaughter of Queen Victoria who defied the British government over Indian independence.
7. Leonardo Fasoli
With a career spanning three decades, Fasoli is an award-winning film and TV writer with credits including Gomorrah, Maltese – Il Romanzo Del Commissario, Io Ti Cercherò (Tall Order), L’ultimo Padrino, Paolo Borsellino and ZeroZeroZero. Now, together with his long-time writing partner Maddalena Ravagli, he has created and written Django, a Canal+ and Sky drama loosely based on the classic Sergio Corbucci film of the same name. Set in the Wild West of the 1860s and 1870s, it introduces Sarah and John, who have founded New Babylon, a city populated by outcasts. Haunted by the murder of his family eight years earlier, Django is looking for his daughter and is shocked to find her in New Babylon, about to marry John. Though Sarah wants him to leave, Django is adamant he will not lose his daughter twice.
6. Alice Seabright
As a writer and director, Seabright has credits from Netflix comedy Sex Education to her name, as well as numerous short films. From there, she has stepped straight into the spotlight as the showrunner of her own BBC psychological thriller, Chloe. The series, which will also air worldwide on Amazon Prime Video, follows Becky, a temp worker who still lives with her mum and compares her own life with the seemingly picture-perfect lives on Instagram, and one person in particular: Chloe. When Chloe suddenly dies, Becky’s desire to find out what happens leads her to assume a new identity and engineer a ‘chance’ meeting with Chloe’s best friend Livia to infiltrate her group of close-knit friends. When Becky’s imagined reality becomes more addictive than her real life, she starts to lose herself in her own game.
5. Daniel Brierley
The screenwriter of several short films, Daniel Brierley is the latest new TV writer to be mentored by Line of Duty and Bodyguard creator Jed Mercurio and his HTM Television production company. Their collaboration has led to Trigger Point, an ITV thriller that explores the world of counter-terrorism policing and the Metropolitan Police Bomb Disposal Squad in London. Vicky McClure (Line of Duty) stars as an experienced bomb-disposal operative who is at the forefront of an urgent investigation to find out who is behind a terrorist campaign across the capital.
4. Michal Aviram
Israeli author and screenwriter Aviram has worked on every season of hit action-drama Fauda, as well as romantic comedy The Baker & The Beauty. She also created Project Orpheus, about five medical students who discover their professor has a secret agenda. Her latest show is multinational political thriller Munich Match, an upcoming Sky drama set 50 years after the Munich massacre, the terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972. On the anniversary of the attack, Munich is hosting a friendly soccer game between an Israeli and a German football club, but with tensions running high and political stakes higher as the world watches on, it seems history may repeat itself. Aviram created the series and is the co-writer alongside Martin Behnke.
3. Genevieve Barr
Best known for on-screen appearances in The Silence, The Fades, Press and The Accident, actor-turned-writer Barr penned an episode of CripTales, BBC4’s anthology of six monologues written, directed and performed by people with disabilities. Barr, who is deaf, has since partnered with Jack Thorne (Help, His Dark Materials) on Then Barbara Met Alan. The feature-length BBC and Netflix drama is about Barbara Lisicki and Alan Holdsworth, two disabled cabaret performers who met at a gig in 1989, fell in love, had a baby and would become the driving force behind DAN (the Direct Action Network), whose fearless and coordinated protests pushed the campaign for disabled rights into the spotlight.
In 2020, Barr won the Red Planet Prize, a bi-annual award that offers a script commission to the winner via prodco Red Planet Pictures (Death in Paradise). Now in development at ITV, Barr’s winning entry was Curio, which examines disability, social care, responsible journalism and issues of consent. In the four-part legal drama, the family of a disabled man accuse his girlfriend of rape, before a newspaper investigation uncovers a spate of abuse cases surrounding the contentious issue of Facilitated Communication.
2. Quoc Dang Tran
With credits stretching back more than a decade, Tran first wrote on series such as Marianne (Netflix), Call My Agent (France Télévisions) and The Bureau (Canal+) before creating his own shows – Intrusion (Arte) and Nox (Canal+) among them. He is now behind Disney+’s first French-language original series, Parallèles. The show tells the story of four teenage friends on the French-Swiss border whose lives are turned upside down by a mysterious event involving the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest particle collider, which sends them into parallel dimensions.
Tran has also written Drops of Gold, a series commissioned by Hulu Japan and based on a Manga comic series set in the world of gastronomy and fine wines. When a famous oenologist dies in Tokyo, his Paris-based daughter discovers she has been left an extraordinary wine collection. But to claim her inheritance, she must compete with a brilliant young oenologist who may have more than a ‘spiritual’ connection to her father.
1. Candice Carty-Williams
Award-winning novelist Carty-Williams’ first television project is BBC series Champion, the story of what happens when fame and family collide, set against the backdrop of black British music. Bosco Champion is the family golden boy and a UK rap sensation until he is jailed. After his release from prison, he’s ready to pick up where he left off. However, when his sister Vita’s own musical talent is discovered by Bosco’s rival Belly, she steps out of her brother’s shadow, setting the siblings against each other in their quest to top the charts – and their family.
Meanwhile, Carty-Williams is also adapting her acclaimed novel Queenie for Channel 4. Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old British Jamaican journalist – “a sometimes catastrophist, an occasional mess but, more often than not, an undervalued success” — who, after breaking up with her boyfriend, finds herself lost and searching for comfort in all the wrong places. Surrounded by her ‘Corgis,’ her brilliant but not always sympathetic girlfriends, she veers from one regrettable decision to the next in the story of a young black woman’s value and the unrelenting trials and tribulations of life.
tagged in: Alice Seabright, Anjli Mohindra, Bash Doran, Candice Carty-Williams, Clare McQuillan, Daniel Brierley, Deborah Davis, Genevieve Barr, Harriet Warner, Laura Neal, Leonardo Fasoli, Lone Scherfig, Marsha Greene, Michal Aviram, Neil Gaiman, Nikolaj Arcel, Peter Straughan, Quoc Dang Tran, Siân Robins-Grace, Steven Zaillian