Looking for trouble
Happy Valley and Last Tango… writer sally wainwright reveals what's behind some of TV’S biggest shows
Sally Wainwright’s dramas Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley have won numerous awards including several BAFTAS, and kept millions of us glued to our screens.
In this week’s South Bank Show on Sky Arts, Melvyn Bragg talks to Sally, 54, about her life and career, which included scriptwriting for Coronation Street, before going on to create the popular ITV comedy-drama At Home with the Braithwaites in 2000. She went on to make Unforgiven and Scott & Bailey for ITV before writing Last Tango… and Happy Valley for the BBC.
Sally, who lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and two sons, took time out of her hectic schedule – she often gets up at 2.00am to write – to talk to TV Times…
what’s it like to be the subject of a South Bank Show? I was flattered. I watched the South Bank Show in my late teens and it was an oasis of culture on TV.
How important was working on Coronation Street to your writing? Its influence was huge. I came away knowing that drama comes from things going wrong. Drama is when bad things happen to good people.
which show was the turning point of your career?
At Home with the Braithwaites. It was the first original drama I had commissioned and it went down really well. At the time, I just thought that was normal. It had huge viewing figures, it got good reviews and it was brilliantly acted.
How much say do you have in casting for your dramas?
When I’m directing, I do the casting and as an executive producer, I would say, ‘I really want this person’. With Happy Valley, I knew I wanted Sarah Lancashire to play Catherine, so I approached her early on.
Your next project is a drama about the life of 19th-century Yorkshire landowner anne Lister. what can you tells us about that? It's something I’ve been passionate about doing for nearly 20 years.
It's about a woman who married a woman, but it’s much bigger than that. She was a brilliant, courageous and outrageous woman – a prolific diarist, a great scholar, great traveller and a mountaineer.
is there any one of your shows that you are most proud of? I'm as proud of those that didn’t do as well, like Bonkers and The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, as I am of Happy Valley.
are there plans for any more Last Tango… or Happy Valley?
I haven’t ruled out doing more. I hope there will be more of both.
Drama is when bad things happen to good people
At Home with the braithwaites
Scott & bailey
last tango in Halifax