Tag Archives: Jane Featherstone

Gangland shooting

The creative team behind Sky and Cinemax’s explosive original drama Gangs of London discuss how they brought The Raid director Gareth Evan’s action-packed storytelling to television.

Through his film franchise The Raid, Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans has become synonymous with a balletic brand of action and cinematic fight sequences.

For his first television series, Gangs of London, Evans is aiming to bring those same techniques to the small screen by taking viewers on an immersive journey into the hidden heart of the English capital.

The show depicts a city being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it, with a power vacuum being created when the head of London’s most powerful crime family is assassinated.

For two decades, Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney, Hell on Wheels) was the most powerful criminal in London. Billions of pounds flowed through his organisation each year. But now he’s dead – and nobody knows who ordered the hit. With rivals everywhere, it’s up to the impulsive Sean Wallace (Joe Cole, Peaky Blinders), with the help of the Dumani family, headed by Ed (Lucian Msamati, His Dark Materials), to take his father’s place.

Gangs of London centres on the power struggle sparked by the death of Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney)

Sean’s assumption of power causes ripples in the world of international crime, leading lowlife chancer Elliot Finch (Sope Dirsu, Humans) to find himself transported to the inner workings of the largest criminal organisation in London.

Co-created by Evans with creative partner Matt Flannery, the nine-part series also stars Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), Paapa Essiedu (Press) and Pippa Bennett-Warner (MatherFatherSon).

Gangs of London also marks the first television drama from Pulse Films (Mogul Mowgli, Lost Transmissions), which produces the series in association with Sister (Chernobyl). It is directed by Evans, Corin Hardy and Xavier Gens.

Speaking at Content London late last year, the creative team behind the series offered a glimpse into how it was brought to the screen and the rigorous training process behind its spectacular action scenes.

Pulse had a long-held ambition to work with Evans after meeting him at the Sundance Film Festival where they both had films being screened…

Lucas Ochoa, Pulse Films’ chief creative officer of scripted film and television: What he’d done with The Raid 1 and 2, if you were interested in action cinema, changed the game. It was very eye-catching. We just started a conversation and what Gareth came back with, after talking about the title, was a wall of family trees. He wrote on the wall the names of these families, the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, and then the relationships between them and how they’re going to conflict over time.
Because it was such a vast matrix of these different characters with different agendas, television felt like the perfect medium to tell that story. The next step became how that could sit inside a city essentially going to war with itself.

Joe Cole stars as Finn’s son Sean, who must attempt to take his father’s place

Thomas Benski, Pulse Film’s CEO and co-founder: We all really wanted to do a sophisticated piece of storytelling. The visual style and the action are signature pieces. But Gareth and all of us gravitated to the idea of telling really compelling stories, with fascinating, unusual, diverse characters. He’s not a one-tone filmmaker; he has ambitions to do that, and that’s what we all got behind.

Sky snapped up the project after it was first pitched, with Sister coming on board to back the production…

Jane Featherstone, co-founder and head of Sister London: I’d seen Gareth’s work and he’s an extraordinary talent with an incredible authorial voice. I love television. I love watching movies, but I love making TV. So the idea of him bringing to television that incredible vision he has for thrills and violence, but also the moral complexity that he brings to all of his stories, was really interesting to me.
This is my city. I love London. I really loved getting under the skin of what you don’t see in London. It’s an extraordinarily complicated city but we don’t see it all. This show opened the door to that and I thought that was really interesting. Plus, it’s just really fucking exciting. It’s quite ‘blokey’ – I don’t mean women won’t like it, but I probably don’t gravitate to develop material like that, so I thought it would be a really interesting thing to explore.

Sky commissioned the series because it stood out as a “completely unique” proposition from anything already at the broadcaster or elsewhere on television…

Gabriel Silver, Sky commissioning editor: In a sense, it’s typical of what we aspire to do, which is something completely unique. We’re not only competing against all the other platforms and broadcasters, we also want to make sure every one of our shows is a stand-out against other Sky originals. This one absolutely is; it doesn’t take anyone seeing much more than the trailer to know we’re not making anything else like this.
You can talk about being quite niche in terms of the signature action that Gareth and Corin [Hardy, director] bring to it, even in terms of it possibly being quite a male-skewed show, and therefore it fits into a certain action-thriller genre. But it also has deep and broad themes and very strong storytelling. It’s actually quite a universal story.
We worked with [US cable channel] Cinemax on it and I felt like we had very similar ambitions for the show, so there wasn’t much in the way of translation needed. It’s set in London with a mostly British cast, but the themes are universal. It’s also a slightly heightened London – there’s a kind of ‘Gothamisation,’ which American viewers will totally understand.

Humans’ Sope Dirsu (right) plays Elliot Finch

Although this might be deemed a ‘male world,’ there is no shortage of female characters planning their own power grab…

Claire Wilson, writer: It is a male world and that means the female characters can’t be wallflowers, which was an exciting thing to write. Marian Wallace, played by Michelle Fairley, is the wife of the leader who gets killed in the first episode. We imagine she has taken a back step in her life over the last few years and become more of a silent partner. Then when he dies, she has to reinvent herself and we see this very badass, quite cruel woman appear.
It’s about all the characters finding their identity. One of the brilliant characters is Lale, who’s Kurdish and she runs gangs in London. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character like her – a female who is driven by revenge and by her wanting to defend her homeland, so she’s very complex and she just won’t give up on anything.
Then we have Shannon Dumani [Pippa Bennett-Warner]. She’s a single mother and you feel there’s something going on behind her. She’s sweet and she’s presented as a nice woman and but, as the story goes on, we start to work out you can’t be the daughter of someone like Ed Dumani without having something behind you. There are really interesting women in this definitely male world, but they’re pushing themselves forward and finding their feet in it.

Like Evans, Corin Hardy is making his first foray into TV with Gangs of London. He dived into the project, which he says is full of emotion, large scale action sequences, surprises and excitement…

Corin Hardy, who directs four episodes: It was a real joy to have such an incredible cast come together with the likes of Joe Cole [Pure]. The biggest discovery to me was Sope Dirisu, who is not only an incredible actor who’s come from a theatre background, but he also had to train rigorously under Gareth’s regime with his stunt team to pull off the action in this, which a lot of the cast did but particularly Sope.
It’s all in camera and it’s done for real, which is really something to behold. Then with Michelle Fairley, Lucien Msamati and Nargis Rashidi, it was important to balance the tone and know could make a show that was grounded and based in a real version of London, but heightened in such a way to bring an epic cinema to it.

The project comes from Gareth Evans, the filmmaker behind The Raid

Ochoa: Because the show is so vast, directors could bring their own sensibilities to bear on different aspects of the series. We wanted it to be a very free environment for people to be able to do that. They all brought something individual to it.

For Evans, action is character. But the set pieces in Gangs of London also had to be unlike anything ever seen on British television…

Gareth Evans, co-creator, writer and director: Having come from a film background, particularly the action genre, one of the biggest challenges was to seamlessly translate things I’ve learned in action filmmaking and then fit them into what is ostensibly a much tighter, leaner British television schedule.
From the moment myself and co-creator Matt Flannery first met with the guys at Pulse Films and then later with Sky and HBO, we were encouraged to take bold decisions and not restrict ourselves in terms of scale and ambition. When it came to designing the action sequences alongside stunt coordinator Jude Poyer, the remit was clear: it had to be unlike anything else seen or attempted before in British television.
We spent months designing and shooting the large-scale action set pieces that make up this inaugural season of the show. Not only was I fortunate enough to have the benefit of a remarkably gifted action team, but we landed on our feet with the casting of Sope and Joe. Sope is not just a remarkably gifted actor, he also happens to be an incredibly gifted screen fighter. We had absolutely no right to give him the complex choreography that we did.

Featherstone: In terms of those action sequences, that process is something I had never ever seen or experienced or heard of before. They were planned for months, every single movement. Everything was filmed shot by shot, exactly what you see, and it was replicated on the day with the actors.
That process, in television, has never been allowed to happen before in my experience, and we’re very good in TV at saying, ‘We don’t do it like that.’ This show really opened up a different way of looking at how you can create these things. And given TV is so big now and we are competing with films, and succeeding a lot of the time, we need to be able to embrace new methods and approaches.
It’s a really groundbreaking approach in the show. It will be undersold, because you’ll watch it and not really understand quite how much extraordinarily new thinking has gone into making it.

The show’s creators are confident Gangs of London is like nothing seen on TV before

The production was underpinned by a sense of rebelliousness and experimentation, with the creatives confident this has resulted in a series that will keep viewers engaged both with the action and the characters…

Hardy: There was a rebellious feeling that we’re three genre film directors doing a TV show with very respectable companies, but there was also a really nice sense of experimentation and freedom. It’s my first TV show and I’ve had an insanely focused, hardworking time, but everyone’s been supportive to try to achieve this level of scale. It’s also important to me that the story and emotions are there.

Ochoa: Gareth said really early on, ‘I want to make a TV show where no one in the audience feels safe at any moment in time.’ In a great way, we managed to deliver that, whether it’s a drama scene or an action sequence, because of the way it’s built.
You never know what might happen or who might die or why, how or when, or who’s going to betray whom or fall in love with someone. There’s a really good love story, by the way. If you get to the end of it all, there’s quite a romantic denouement.

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Keeping it clean

Cleaning Up stars Sheridan Smith as an office cleaner who attempts to clear her gambling debts by entering the murky world of insider trading. Smith, her fellow cast members, writer Mark Marlow and executive producer Jane Featherstone discuss making the six-part ITV drama.

During a screen career spanning more than 20 years, Sheridan Smith has won acclaim for her portrayal of real people in biopics such as The Moorside, Mrs Biggs, The C Word and Cilla. So it’s surprising to hear her reveal that the most stressful part of appearing in ITV drama Cleaning Up was playing Sam, the fictional lead character.

“My own thing is losing myself in Cilla or Mrs Biggs. You have so much research and you focus on their mannerisms. But you hide behind it in a weird way and it’s like, I didn’t know what to do with Sam really,” the actor admits. “That was the most challenging thing for me. You do end up getting angsty with it, because Sam’s living on her nerves. But I have learned to leave it there now and not take it home, if I can. I still go to my own personal stuff to get that emotion, so it’s always going to be hard to switch that on and off.”

In the six-part series, created and written by first-time writer Mark Marlow, Sam is part of an invisible army of minimum-wage cleaners who sweep, polish and dust the offices of a financial firm whose offices look out across London from the city’s towering Canary Wharf district. But struggling with an online gambling addiction and drowning in debt, the mother-of-two begins to use valuable inside information to bet big on the stock market in the hope of changing her fortunes.

After taking some time out of the limelight, stage and screen actor and singer Smith returned with an album last year and an acclaimed performance in BBC one-off drama Care, in which she plays a struggling single mum who finds herself having to care for her elderly mother when the local health authorities refuse to take responsibility.

Cleaning Up sees Sheridan Smith’s Sam enter the world of insider trading

“She is very vulnerable. I do love playing characters like that,” Smith says of playing Sam. “I also love that she’s such a good mum. [Having children] is something I haven’t done yet, or might not do, but at the heart of it she hasn’t had opportunities that maybe other people got. So I love that she’s got that fire in her belly. Also, the scripts were kind of written on the go because we did it in two blocks. So I didn’t even know what was coming later, which was kind of fun as well because when I was finding stuff out, it was like, ‘Oooh.’ I’ve never had that before. That was quite fun. It has been the longest job I’ve ever done, filming-wise. It was a long shoot, but it’s been fun.”

Cleaning Up completed filming a year ago but the timing of the six-part drama couldn’t be more topical, with gambling and, in particular, mobile gambling apps, being key to the story. It also highlights the plight of the thousands of office cleaners on controversial zero-hour contracts whose work often goes unrecognised or unnoticed.

Smith and co-stars Jade Anouka (Jess) and Branka Katic (Mina) went on a cleaning course to ensure their on-screen performances met the standard of real-life workers, while Smith says she also learned about the stock market and insider trading in a similar fashion to her character, who at one point reads a book called Investing in Shares for Dummies.

“It was confusing to me and completely went over my head when I first started reading about it all. But the great thing is it’s new to Sam as well, so it makes it easier to play because she’s figuring it out as well,” Smith says. “It’s fascinating to learn about it all. I didn’t know anything about that world.”

As Sam’s best friend and fellow cleaner, Jess also becomes drawn into her money-making scheme, hoping to provide a cash injection to her family’s struggling cafe. Anouka, whose previous credits include ITV thriller Trauma, says all the characters are relatable. “I can see people I know who could easily be in these situations. What drew me was these are real people, these are real situations – ordinary people getting themselves into extraordinary situations.”

Jade Anouka (left) plays Sam’s friend and fellow cleaner Jess

But while Sam’s cleaning job means no one would suspect her involvement in illicit economic activity, financial trader Blake (Ben Bailey Smith), who unwittingly becomes Sam’s initial source of information, doesn’t quite have the same protection as he picks up stocks for a mysterious buyer whose identity remains a secret through the first episode.

“Blake is playing with high stakes. That’s not lost on him. But to counteract that, there’s also a disturbing sense of nonchalance about what he’s doing, which should tell the audience he’s done it many times,” Bailey Smith says. “If you keep the amount small and the number of times you do it disparate, it will probably fall by the wayside rather than go under the microscope. Blake in that first episode is worried about the microscope, and what’s fascinating about Sam is she feels she’s so far away from that microscope, so why not do it? So I guess you’re seeing, in a funny way, where you can be in terms of tension, panic, worry, concern and fear deeper into the game in Blake, but you’re also seeing what it’s like to start [in Sam].”

Cleaning Up was created by Marlow, who teamed up with lead director Lewis Arnold and prodco Sister Pictures to bring the series to ITV after conceiving the story while watching big-screen blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street. A former video editor, Marlow had been “trying to be a writer” for five years until Arnold introduced him to Sister founder Jane Featherstone (Broadchurch, Humans).

Jane Featherstone

“Lewis and Mark sent me the first draft and I read it and loved it. I was like, ‘But you’re a brand new writer, so this is great but can you do a rewrite?’” Featherstone recalls. “I said, ‘Here are my thoughts on it, if you can do a rewrite, I’ll take it on, because if you can’t there’s no point in being a TV writer.’ That’s the process of scriptwriting, that’s normal. We do that on every single script, but I didn’t know if Mark could do that – and it turned out he could. So I took it on and we did 15 more drafts and then took it to ITV when it was this very beautiful thing Mark had really honed. They greenlit it within about a week.”

Marlow then faced the “daunting” challenge of writing the remaining five episodes, having only ever written a handful of pilot spec scripts. Thankfully, he had an idea of how episode two might begin and that kickstarted the process, which he describes as a huge learning curve.

Key to the script was getting the character of Sam right – an exercise the writer completed with the help of input from Arnold. “I knew the idea of the show was big but it would fall down if you didn’t believe the character would do something,” Marlow explains. “So I spent many weeks talking to Lewis about what we needed to get Sam correct, particularly in the first half of the first episode, so when we see her going down this criminal path, you totally buy that this person is going to do this. Lewis was helpful in getting that right. Then, once we were happy we had a character that worked, that was the version Jane saw.”

Filming was largely split between London’s iconic Canary Wharf district and a housing estate in the shadow of tower blocks, where Sam lives with her two daughters. A suitable home was found on the Isle of Dogs, with Featherstone admitting it was important to get the location right.

“I’m really fussy about that sort of thing and getting it right, so we built the interior of the house in a studio and used the exterior on the Isle of Dogs,” she says, revealing that cameras weren’t allowed to film on land owned by the Canary Wharf management company due to the subject of the drama. “But there’s a patch of land in front of Canary Wharf Tube station, not owned by Canary Wharf, so all the scenes in Canary Wharf have to be there, all on private land.

The ITV drama is set in London’s financial district

“All the banks also said no to filming but there’s a floor owned by an office rental company in one of those very tall buildings and we rented that, so we were there.”

While broadcasters can be nervous about commissioning scripts from fresh writers, Sister Pictures’ involvement put ITV at ease, giving Marlow the space and support he needed to write the drama, which is distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. Featherstone says the story was “irresistible” to her, though the fact it isn’t strictly a ‘genre’ piece was one of the most difficult elements of the project.

“Everyone’s desperate for stories but it’s difficult to make things that don’t have a genre underpinning them,” she explains. “It’s the hardest thing of all, because there’s no body. What we did have was a criminal element in terms of the jeopardy, and the stakes are there because of what Sam’s getting involved with. But really it’s a family drama.”

Featherstone and Marlow have discussed storylines for possible second and third seasons, though they admit Cleaning Up’s future rests with viewers and whether they follow Sam’s morally dubious journey into the murky world of insider trading.

For her part, Smith says she would also be keen to come back to the show, which begins on ITV on January 9. And as a keen observer of the creative process through production, she is now developing plans to set up her own prodco and build a future off-screen.

“There are a lot of exciting things [I’d like to produce],” she says. “There are lots of things I’m planning to do this year, a lot of great acting roles, so I’ve still got that. But, going forward, that’s the next dream – being creatively involved and maybe doing some more behind the scenes. Who knows, I might direct; I don’t know. That might be 20 years down the line. I’m just exploring the whole thing of being able to develop things with people and have much more say in it all.”

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Love and marriage

Bafta- and Emmy-winning writer Abi Morgan’s drama The Split is described as an authentic multi-layered exploration of modern marriage and the legacy of divorce.

The story plays out through the lens of the Defoes – a family of female lawyers at the heart of London’s emotionally charged divorce circuit.

Leading divorce lawyer Hannah Stern (Nicola Walker) has walked out on the family firm to join a rival company, and she now faces her sister Nina (Annabel Scholey) and mother Ruth (Deborah Findlay), also successful family lawyers, on the opposing side of high-profile divorce cases.

When their father Oscar (Anthony Head) returns after a 30-year absence, Hannah, Nina and youngest sister Rose (Fiona Button) are thrown further into turmoil.

Speaking to DQTV, executive producer Jane Featherstone and director Jessica Hobbs reveal how the six-part series balances the demands of episodic and serialised storytelling, and discuss the importance of casting.

They also talk about making the series with both BBC1 and US cable channel SundanceTV, and the buoyant TV business in which Featherstone’s recently established production company Sister Pictures is finding its feet.

The Split is produced by Sister Pictures for BBC1 and SundanceTV and distributed by BBC Studios (formerly BBC Worldwide).

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Split opinions

Award-winning writer Abi Morgan explores the highly charged world of divorce lawyers for her latest BBC drama, The Split. DQ visits the set to hear how the female-led series was influenced by US legal dramas – and Sex & the City.

Abi Morgan was chatting to another mum while watching her daughter playing hockey when she was hit by inspiration for her newest television series. The woman, dressed in jeans and a jumper, was frantically responding to calls and texts on her phone while trying to also concentrate on the fiercely contested school match. Intrigued, Morgan asked her what she did. She was a divorce lawyer.

“I loved the contradiction of this woman, who was very dressed down to watch the game, dealing with all these acrimonious exchanges all while she was trying to keep an eye on the match,” recalls Morgan, the Bafta- and Emmy-winning writer of Suffragette, The Iron Lady and The Hour. “We got talking about her job and one of the key things she said to me was that it’s an area of the law that, unusually, is predominantly populated by women. It is regarded as the unsexy end of law but its about so much more than being in a courtroom. And immediately this incredible landscape unfolded.”

A year later, with Sister Pictures producer Jane Featherstone (who the writer worked with on River and The Hour) on board, Morgan is chatting with DQ in what used to be the Holborn office for one of London’s top law firms. This is the wonderfully apt set of The Split, a sexy, glamorous, romantic and entertaining six-part drama set in the world of female divorce lawyers for the rich and famous.

Abi Morgan

“I had just come from writing Suffragette, which featured this incredible, diverse group of female soldiers,” Morgan says. “I wanted to do another very strong group of women but also women who could look incredibly sexy and powerful and hold their own in what would have traditionally been a male domain.

“And I loved the idea that it meant we could really look at modern marriage. I am always fascinated by the truths we tell each other, particularly when you are just a few women alone at a book club or mums’ night out.”

Morgan doesn’t mind admitting The Split was influenced by hit US legal dramas The Good Wife, Suits and Law & Order. It’s a British show but it’s unusually, and surprisingly, glossy. The series is set in a monied world of billionaire businessmen divorcing their first wives for a younger model and young footballers organising their pre-nups before they marry. Each episode will feature a case of the week, while stories about the lawyers and one particular divorcing couple will arc the series.

The star of the show is Unforgiven, Spooks and River actor Nicola Walker, who is almost unrecognisable in her glossy lawyer uniform. “The interesting thing about this show is that everyone is incredibly well dressed,” continues Morgan. “When we were researching, I was chatting to one lawyer and I asked whether her handbag was from Marks & Spencer – I got that a bit wrong: it was a £25,000 tote from Bottega Veneta.

“There is a bit of a Sex & the City vibe with the clothes. That is not something we normally do on British television but it is totally authentic to this world. They all wear heels, even if they kick them off the moment they sit at their desks. They are groomed and glammed up because they have to be. Their female clients are rich women who should be able to recognise their handbags, while they are also dealing with successful men. They need the men to find them attractive but also to know that they can do their job.”

Walker plays top divorce lawyer Hannah as her life is about to turn upside down. After 20 years of working for family law firm Defoe, she quits when her formidable mother Ruth (Deborah Findlay), who runs the company, refuses her a promotion. So she moves to Noble and Hale, a very different, more corporate company, working alongside former lover Christie, played by Barry Atsma. Their flirty friendship leads to her questioning her long marriage with Nathan, portrayed by Episodes star Stephen Mangan.

Annabel Scholey (left) and Nicola Walker play divorce lawyers in The Split

Meanwhile, 30 years after leaving the family for the nanny, her father (Anthony Head) returns to their lives wanting his slice of the firm Ruth has spent so long building up. It shakes the world of Hannah and her sisters Nina (Annabel Scholey), who is also a divorce lawyer, and millennial Rose (Fiona Button), who has eschewed the high-pressure world to be a nanny.

“I loved the idea of this intergenerational piece,” says producer Featherstone. “It is definitely about modern marriage but it is also about relationships between mothers, daughters, siblings, husbands, brothers and all of those things. It is not just about sexual relationships but also the responsibilities you have within a family. Ruth, the matriarch, has trained her girls to be as independent, strong and fiery as her, but that creates its own problems.”

Morgan, a child of divorce herself who has never married her long-term partner, actor Jacob Krichefski, says the impact of such a significant life event as divorce is examined in terms of both the lawyers and their clients.

“I’ve had divorces within my own family and seen it happen to friends, and I know how complex and difficult and painful it is,” she says. “This also came out of a desire to look at the legacy we give our children when we bring them up and also the ideas about marriage that we inherit.”

Walker shares a laugh with director Jessica Hobbs during a break

Fittingly for such a female-centric drama, it has an all-female creative team. As well as Featherstone and Morgan, Lucy Richer and Lucy Dyke are coproducers, while Jessica Hobbs (Broadchurch, Apple Tree Yard, The Slap) directs the show, which launches on BBC1 tonight. It is distributed by BBC Studios.

The incredible office that doubles for the glossy and modern Noble and Hale was until recently the London headquarters for Olswang, which happened to represent Featherstone when it came to signing her work agreements. The Split’s research team came to talk to solicitors in the office and, when they heard the company was moving out (after a merger), they asked to lease it, having already spent a year trying and failing to find the right spot for their fictional company. The details of the law firm have been copied down to the smallest item, from the trainers under the desks and different-coloured files (to intimidate the opposition) to Olswang-branded sweets. A bowlful of Nobel and Hale sweets sits in the impressive reception that overlooks Holborn.

London is officially the divorce capital of the world and Morgan and the producers have drawn on rich research with real-life lawyers; there were also two legal advisors to ensure all the events in the show could really happen.

“The whole thing is fascinating and we’ve looked at some real cases of when a private fight goes public,” says Morgan. “You see how emotional everyone gets and think, ‘Oh so that’s why Fiona Shackleton came out of court with her hair soaking wet’ [when Heather Mills doused the lawyer in water during her divorce hearing with former Beatle Paul McCartney].”

Featherstone adds: “And it is astonishing hearing what some of the judges say in front of them. They are incredibly opinionated and basically tell them they are damaging their children, damaging themselves and are stupid people who shouldn’t be wasting their time. That’s not to say we are going to mock people who are going through this. The tone of the piece has a light touch but the emotions are all there.”

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Goodbye Broadchurch

It’s the beginning of the end for Broadchurch as the third and final season debuts on ITV. Stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman and creator Chris Chibnall reflect on the show’s success.

It’s an increasingly common trend in television drama that viewers head into a new season of their favourite show knowing it will be the last time they will visit this set of characters. Fans of the past two seasons of Broadchurch will know, however, that the show’s third and final season is unlikely to be a happy occasion for many of the residents of the coastal town.

Still picking up the pieces from the events of season one and two, in which – spoiler alert – Joe Miller killed schoolboy Danny Latimer but was subsequently found not guilty in court, season three sees DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), pictured above, investigating a serious sexual assault in the community.

Chris Chibnall

Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan return to play Beth and Mark Latimer. They are joined by Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lenny Henry and Georgina Campbell along with Sarah Parish, Charlie Higson and Mark Bazeley.

Arthur Darvill also returns as local vicar Paul Coates, Carolyn Pickles as newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe and Adam Wilson as Ellie’s son Tom.

All eight episodes have once again been written by series creator Chris Chibnall. Broadchurch is produced by Kudos, Imaginary Friends and Sister Pictures for ITV, and distributed by Endemol Shine Distribution, which has sold it to 180 countries worldwide. Remakes have been produced in the US (Gracepoint) and France (Malaterra).

“When Chris first sent me the script for the opening episode of Broadchurch six years ago, I was struck by one defining element,” says executive producer Jane Featherstone. “I loved the characters, I loved the beauty of the world, I loved the powerful whodunit narrative, but above all I loved the way it explored a small-town community in such depth. Chris’s intention was always to inhabit a space that meant we could stay with our characters and our town after the crime had happened, to really examine the long-term effects of a tragic incident on a community. Our characters had lives before we joined them and they will continue to exist after we have gone.

“The great privilege of longform storytelling is building a meaningful relationship between our characters and the audience, and I am excited for the audience to see how Ellie, Hardy and the Latimers have fared in the last few years. It is a fond farewell for those of us involved in the series for so many years but, as far as I am concerned, the community of Broadchurch will carry on living long after we’ve gone.”

Chibnall describes the series as an “extraordinary journey” that now comes to an end with a new investigation into a serious sexual assault. Since second season finished in 2015, he has been working with script executive Samantha Hoyle and support organisations, police and survivors to research the storyline.

“I wanted to tell this story because these crimes are increasing,” he says. “Representations of, and attitudes to, sex have become more oppositional and confrontational. Sexualised images are all around, access to porn is easier and seemingly more common. It’s an issue for couples, for parents and families, for individuals and for communities. And, amid all this, the gender divide often feels more polarised than it has in decades.

The third season of Broadchurch follows the investigation into a serious sexual assault

“To explore this, I needed to call on DS Ellie Miller and DI Alec Hardy one last time. This story begins three years after we were last in Broadchurch. Lives have moved on. Some people have left, some have arrived – and there’s a new case to test this old partnership. There are new suspects, new revelations and fresh truths to be confronted in the lives of Broadchurch’s residents.”

Former Doctor Who star Tennant admits he will miss Broadchurch, playing DI Hardy and working alongside his co-stars.

“It is sad to think we will never return to this world and to these characters because I feel so fondly towards them, but I will always feel proud to be associated with this show,” he says.

“There is a massive personal legacy having worked on this show. We all feel like we have been doing something very special and that we are all a part of each other’s lives now, so I’ll miss seeing people every day but hopefully I will see them fairly regularly. I will certainly miss Chris’s scripts but I look forward to watching them elsewhere and I hope it won’t be the last time we will work together.”

Season three sees Tennant’s police officer more settled in Broadchurch, with more focus on his relationship with his daughter Daisy as he rallies against the attacker he is hunting down.

“His focus becomes trying to understand the person who would commit this crime, trying to get inside their skin, and that is something he struggles with initially,” Tennant adds. “That has been an interesting conflict to play, Hardy trying to come to terms with what sort of man would do this and almost feeling ashamed for his own gender, which has been a very interesting take that Chris has afforded him this series.”

Sarah Parish and Lenny Henry have joined the high-profile cast for the new season

Part of the charm of watching Broadchurch has been the chemistry between DI Hardy and Colman’s DS Miller – and Colman says this is purely down to her being such good friends with Tennant.

“Chris Chibnall has written them brilliantly,” she says. “They are really good mates – possibly each other’s only mate. It feels like they have been friends for longer than they have, the way they bicker but they clearly deeply respect each other and would staunchly defend each other against other people.

“It really helps that David and I get on so well. You can sort of tell that Hardy and Ellie like being together because David and I like spending time together. It makes it much easier. I will miss working with David – if we could stand next to each other on set every day, I would be so happy. We giggle, he is never late, knows all of his lines… He is a dream person to work with.”

The topics raised in season three also struck a chord with Colman, who has experience with the subject of sexual violence from previous roles.

“So I have become passionate about all of these issues – violence against each other, and that ties in with sexual assault obviously,” she explains. “I’m really pleased to be a part of this story and it’s amazing how people don’t know how common this is. People need to know, I think.”

From the chilling opening of season one, where the body of a young boy is found on the beach, to the nail-biting court case of season two, Broadchurch has always kept viewers on the edge of their seats and, with more shocking revelations to come in season three, it looks like it will do so once more.

Chibnall adds: “It’s been a strange, mad honour to experience the passion of audiences for this story and these characters. But all good stories come to an end. I hope this one has enough twists and turns, laughter and tears to go out in style.”

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