Q&A with Sally Wainwright for Happy Valley Series 2

Sally Wainwright directing Happy Valley

BBC One and Red Production Company released a Q&A session with writer and director Sally Wainwright as publicity for season 2 of Happy Valley. The new series begins in February on BBC One.

Sally Wainwright is writer, director and executive producer of Happy Valley. She directs 4 of the 6 episodes. Neasa Hardiman directs the other 2, so the entire second season has women directors.

Q: Were you expecting the first series of Happy Valley to be as successful as it was? What do you think people enjoyed so much?
A: A bit of a buzz started to develop as we were filming. We had an idea we were working on something a bit special, but you don’t like to acknowledge it because you’re scared of tempting fate. I think it was a combination of things that made it work. The stories worked, and we had a caring and hard working cast and crew.

Q: What can viewers expect from series two?
A: More good stories (I hope) and more compelling, breath-taking performances.

Q: What has been your inspiration for Happy Valley?
A: For the first series I was inspired by a number of things: Jez Lewis’s documentary Shed Your Tears And Walk Away and I also loved Nurse Jackie and wanted to create my own Nurse Jackie. So Sergeant Catherine is my effort at a British Nurse Jackie. I also loved Juliet Bravo from the 1970s and I wanted to do what I thought of as a modern take on what a female uniformed police officer would be doing in West Yorkshire 35 years later, in 2014. The inspiration for series two has been a desire to see more of Catherine and the world she lives in. How she copes when she realises she hasn’t laid all the ghosts to rest.

Q: Did you always intend to write more than one series of Happy Valley?
A: Always. I never plan to write one series of anything. You only write one series if it’s not successful, and you don’t get recommissioned. This is telly, not film. You always want to do more. You love your characters and you want to spend more time with them. I wanted to do a second series of Unforgiven, I wanted to follow what Ruth did next, and ITV said no, even though it was massively successful and probably one of the best dramas ITV has ever made. I still think that was a sad decision. I could have written that character for another three series and people would have watched it and loved it. There’s a thing at the moment that doing a second series is risky, but I think that’s rubbish. A second series of a successful show is often even better than the first series. There’s a confidence and assuredness with a second series from everyone involved. It’s when shows get into fifth, sixth, seventh series that the rot tends to set in.

Q: Happy Valley has such a fantastic cast did you have any of the actors specifically in mind when you created the characters for series two?
A: Shirley [Henderson] I always pictured as Frances. Kevin [Doyle] I always pictured as John. Susan [Lynch] I really wanted to get for Alison. Well, any part really, I’ve wanted to work with Susan for about twenty years. So I was very lucky to get them, but it doesn’t matter in the end: casting is a curious thing. I’ve never regretted casting anyone ever, even when it’s not the person you first thought of.

Q: Can you tell us anything about any of the new characters we will meet this series?
A: I hope they’re all interesting, certainly the performances are, so I barely know where to start. I had to think very carefully about who I would bring back, and why. I hope series two feels like a continuation of what we set up in the first series whilst moving on in a way that’s satisfying and compelling for the audience.

Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley. Image by Ben Blackall

Q: You have directed the majority of this series, how did you approach the challenge of creating,writing and directing?
A: With great excitement. I work hard and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do – to direct and write. It’s only now at the age of fifty+ that I’ve found the courage and managed to surround myself with the right people to make that happen. I am hugely indebted to Nicola Shindler for her courage and her genius and faith in me, and to Matthew Read at the BBC. Also I had a great team; my 1st AD Nathan Juckes, my script supervisor Angie Pontefract, our DoP Andy McDonnell and my editor Richard Cox, to name but a few. And of course Sarah [Lancashire] I can’t begin to tell you how supportive she’s been.

If you haven’t seen series 1 of Happy Valley yet, it’s available on Netflix, Amazon Video and iTunes. I highly recommend it.

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