Spooks – The Beginning – Empire Online

Long-running TV shows have often had surprising origins. The Sopranos began life as a feature film, 24 was originally about a fireman, while Cheers was nearly set in a hotel. For Spooks, it all stemmed from a fateful browse…

Jane Featherstone (Producer, Kudos Film And Television): [Producer] Stephen Garrett was walking through a bookshop and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to do something on spies?” He approached David Wolstencroft, who’d written (Channel 4 medical drama) Psychos, to start writing a more domestic, character-based piece for Channel 4. But when we started talking to the BBC, Lorraine Heggessey suggested we take it into more of an action-thriller spy area.

Lorraine Heggessey (BBC One Controller, 2000–2005): We were trying to reinvent drama on BBC One, and wanted something with adrenaline and pace and great stories and sex appeal. Spooks was going to be part of this whole relaunch of the channel brand.

Featherstone: David started the script from scratch and wrote the most brilliant first draft that got greenlit at the BBC.

Bharat Nalluri (director, pilot episode): Normally you’d cut that down before shooting but we decided to keep it at length and just get everyone to speak with pace. We squished an hour and 20 minutes into an hour, which you never did on television because people were terrified you’d lose the audience.

Jenny Agutter (Tessa Phillips): It was good writing – people like (playwright) Howard Brenton. I remember first meeting about it and thinking it was terrific. I enjoyed le Carré but this was a whole world I hadn’t looked at or read about.

Nalluri: My pitch was to make it like a movie. From day one, it should have ambition and scale, and we shouldn’t be afraid to give it that shine and gloss, to make it slick and stylish. We gave it a 5.1 movie surround sound mix, which cost us the Earth, and nobody did that.

More on: http://www.empireonline.com/spooks/part1.asp

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