Back in 2013 when MOOR interviewed Danny Brocklehurst (International Emmy winning writer of fabulous TV shows like Ordinary Lies, The Driver, Clocking Off and Shameless), we discovered that he enjoys writing in local Heatons cafés most mornings. So, when we wanted to catch up with him, where better to meet than in a couple of local cafés, where we quizzed him over coffee and brunch.
As several of the story lines he wrote in what used to be Kro Bar later appeared in one or other of his famous TV shows, we wondered if he still likes to work this way? “Ha, yes, I still tend to do quite a bit of writing in a café in the mornings – after I’ve dropped the kids at school I feel I need a bit of social interaction before I spend the rest of the day working from home. I have an office over in Media City and if it’s a nice day I enjoy cycling over there, but during the winter months I tend to stick around The Heatons more. Current favourite cafés are Nook and Thom’s [we meet Danny in both]and when I do my annual tax returns I’m shocked to see just how much I spend on coffee!” So does he get inspiration from those around him? Are any of his characters based on his fellow Heatonians? Danny laughs again but it’s a firm no. “I do like to stay aware of how a variety of people are speaking in everyday life so cafés, trains and buses are great for that, but no, I’m not looking for characters over my morning coffee – the customers of Heatons cafés are safe, I’m not eavesdropping on their conversations!”
As well as working solo, Danny has done plenty of collaborative work and finds it refreshing to have someone to bounce ideas around with. He recently worked with the thriller writer Harlan Coben on The Five, the drama series that went out on Sky earlier this year, and although he loves the collaborative part (discussing story lines, characters and plots) Danny prefers to write the actual script on his own. Work on the second series (currently dubbed ’The Four’) is already well under way, so watch out for that!
Danny worked as a journalist for many years, on The Guardian and Manchester Evening News amongst others so we wondered: is that where script writing skills come from? “Partly, script writing is very different from story writing or journalism though. Novelists paint the entire story, by describing a character’s thoughts or feelings, whereas a script writer [he shows us a script he’s working on – a thick wodge of typed pages with lots of squiggly notes and crossings out in red!]makes his characters speak the actual words to reveal their feelings or mood, whilst at same time describing the scene to create the required setting for the words to be spoken in – an “elaborate blueprint” for a TV show in effect. These ‘instructions’ become the basis of the director’s notes for use when filming, so he’s always aware of the writer’s intent.”
So do you get involved in casting when a show is about to get made? ”Yes, I’m very involved in all stages of a show I’ve written these days, though not so much the actual filming as it takes such a long time. The whole process is very collaborative so I’ll be involved in interviewing a director, discussing with him his vision for the show and I’ll suggest actors for certain roles (Griff Rhys Jones in Ordinary Lies for instance – it was a bit of a ‘left field’ thought but he worked really well as Patrick, the ‘absent father’) and I’ll be there at the editing stage, too, discussing final cuts. I’m lucky that I get to be involved the whole way through!”
So does he write sometimes with people in mind? “Very rarely. I developed a show called The Driver with David Morrissey in mind so as far as I was concerned, that part was always his. But that was an unusual situation to be honest.” Danny is also currently working on something for Channel 4 that’s a little bit lighter, he says it’s closer to Shameless. “Obviously, it’s very different writing a show with more laughs in it but after I’ve been doing something quite dark for a while, it’s a blessed relief to be working on something that’s a bit more fun. I hope it gets picked up and we can make it.” Surely with Danny’s reputation everything he writes gets ’picked up’? “Oh I wish! Not at all. I’m lucky in that what I do create gets taken seriously and I can get people to look at it, but no, it’s far from a given that everything I do will eventually reach the TV screens.”
Would he ever write for kids? “My eldest boy and I have an idea about something we’d like to work on together. He’s only nine but I’m confident that if it appeals to him it could appeal to other kids. It’s just a case of finding the time.”
As this is MOOR we have to ask Danny where his favourite places are in The Heatons. He’s a fan of The Nursery and The Plough if he’s going out with a mate for a drink. As for eateries, La Cantina is a current favourite with him and his wife [Photographer Bev Brocklehurst]. He says he sometimes plans to go into Manchester for a night out, but like a lot of us, often finds it’s just too much of a faff so he tends to socialise in The Heatons a lot. Clearly a fan, has he any plans to leave The Heatons…or is this his permanent home? “I think so, my kids are happy in their schools. I really love it here and Bev and I have a lot of friends. So unless I’m offered gazillions to go and write in the States…. But even then, I think I’d commute!”