Look­ing for trou­ble

Happy Val­ley and Last Tango… writer sally wain­wright re­veals what's be­hind some of TV’S big­gest shows

TV Times - - Interview - Judy Ewens


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

Happy Val­ley

Scott & bai­ley

last tango in Hal­i­fax

The South Bank Show Wed­nes­day / sky ARTS / 8.00Pm

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