Interview with Karen Lewis
(Cue theme to Last Tango in Halifax)
David Whittle : Now Last Tango in Halifax is back on the telly this autumn, so me and Nick Ahad decided not to stay in Yorkshire, we went out of our lovely county last weekend to find out what was going on in the brand new series. We go behind the scenes now with Last Tango in Halifax.
(voices of crew in the background)
Nick Ahad : So, we’re in a stock room in a Co-op in Lancashire, with Karen Lewis, the producer of Last Tango in Halifax. Why am I in a Co-op in Lancashire?
Karen : Because we’re doing a couple of really big scenes in here and its very difficult to film in a supermarket, and the Co-op is one of the very few, if only, that would ever let us film, and we usually have to go in when it closes on a Sunday, which is what it is today. But they’ve let us film one scene before they closed, and after that, we have to film here till 10:30. And its in Lancashire because its just location-wise, its easier for us to film there, although Gillian is supposed to work in Rippendon.
Nick : … Cos you do know this is a very Yorkshire set drama, I mean the clue’s in the title. Ha ha ha.
Karen : I do know. But originally, it wasn’t called that, its was called “Anthony & Cleopatra” because Alan and Celia were equated with Anthony & Cleopatra, if you remember that line from the Shakespeare play, “age cannot wither her, and something something something …”
Nick : “… and beauty cannot …”
Karen : Yeah that’s right. It was called that way, until we finished shooting and editing and everything. And then the BBC was having a Shakespeare season, and they thought it would be massively confusing to have something going out with Derek Jacobi in it called “Anthony & Cleopatra” … So it would confuse the audience and lots of people, you know, wouldn’t actually switch on.
Nick : And third series, Karen. Did you ever think when you started this it would go to as many series as it did, and can you just run and run this?
Karen : Well, I think that because the story was so much about this older couple finding each other, maybe not. But the thing is, Sally the writer, Sally Wainwright, and in fact the actors just loved it so much they want it to run and run. And its not over yet. We haven’t … you know, it could easily go again.
Nick : You mentioned Sally Wainwright. Happy Valley, which you were very much involved with as well. She’s on a great run, and that’s actually great for Yorkshire as well, isn’t it?
Karen : Yeah. Well because as you know, Sally is from Halifax, or grew up in Halifax, and the Calder Valley and everywhere around there, I mean that’s her vernacular, her landscape, its her inspiration. And as you can see, all the characters are so well drawn, and so authentic, and real, and truthful, and funny, and mad, and sad, and that she’s … Yeah, she’s on a roll. She’s a genius writer. She can write something as dark as Happy Valley and then something like this, which has dark and light in it.
Nick : Obviously we’re here in Lancashire today, but Yorkshire is the backdrop for Happy Valley, for Last Tango. How important is it, that something like an area in Yorkshire for dramas like this?
Karen : Oh well, with Sally, Sally’s very very keen that we find everything that she writes, every location is usually specific, you know. So for example, a street that, erm, the street … (lowers voice a little) sorry I’m wondering now whether they (the production crew) can hear me. The street that we filmed where Catherine lived in Hebden Bridge, she already knew that, she’d already been there, she already imagined it. And another drama that I produced for her and with Red, Unforgiven, the farmhouse in Lad, she already knew that, her friend grew up in it. We managed to, as much as possible, to get the location that she has imagined. So yeah, for her, its all about that, its about truth, its about authenticity, and its lovely, I think, for the people of an area like Yorkshire, to see it reflected on television cos often you get a lot of Manchester, a lot of London, or the South, but to be so specific just makes the drama more truthful.
Nick : Well we are absolutely delighted that you’ve had us on set, and you’ve asked us to be quiet because there’s all sorts of stuff going on back here. We got people with gaffer tape, you’ve got people talking to each other in their headsets. Can you explain to those of us that don’t go on film sets a lot, what’s going on today? There’s seems to be dozens of people around working.
Karen : There’s 50 on a film crew and I think when we particularly want to go to someone’s house that we’ve used as a location, its always a complete shock to the people when they finally see us turn up.
David : So, a few hours left here, and then its going to be quite a late night for you tonight, isn’t it Karen, cos obviously you’re filming now in terms of working so long, so obviously you’re going to be filming until 10:30?
Karen : Oh no, days are always 11 hours on camera, so its always 11 hours on camera. A normal day, its on camera at 8, so breakfast is from 7, and then you’re on camera from 8 until 7.
Nick : And that’s why we saw all those catering trucks where we were at …
Karen : Yes, its like an army, they have to follow us around to feed us because obviously lots of time you could be at the back of beyond, not in a town like this where you can actually eat stuff and everything. No, we have to be catered.
Nick : Brilliant. Thanks so much for having us on set.
David : There you go. That’s Karen Lewis, Nick, and you and I met her last weekend on the set of Last Tango in Halifax. And Karen is also the producer of Happy Valley that did so well earlier on this year and its obviously been recommissioned next year. But we were, just to sort of let everybody know, we were in the … weren’t we in the freezer stall …?
Nick : We were in the freezer and that’s why we got done, weren’t we. I felt like we were told off by her, because we were talking, and at one point she, well everyone would have heard, she went quiet because they were filming again.
David : That’s fantastic. So we went over last weekend …
Nick : Hey, we might end up in there, with our voices.
David : With the frozen fish fingers and the gateaux, Nick … We’re never going to be in it. So yeah Karen Lewis from Last Tango in Halifax. And also before 4 o’clock today, we’re going to be catching up with Nicola Walker who plays Gillian, and new boy Rupert Graves, lots of fun. He’s of course, from Sherlock.
Nick : He’s a bit of a silver fox, isn’t he. In fact I just retweeted that picture you took of him in which apparently according to someone he looked like a fat Antonio Banderas.
David : I said that that day when it was first tweeted. But yeah, Rupert Graves, obviously, Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock …
Nick : I actually recognised him from that because when you said Rupert Graves, I was like, “and who is he?”
David : Rupert Graves’s done so much great stuff. Scott & Bailey, another brilliant drama series filmed not a million miles away but yeah, we’re catching up with Nicola Walker and Rupert Graves before 4 o’clock today.
Order from Amazon UK
Order the Series 1 & 2 (Regions 2 and 4 compatible) DVDs from Amazon UK. Your purchase using this link will benefit Nicola’s nominated charity.
Go to Page 2 for the second part of this interview, featuring Nicola and Rupert Graves.
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