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Casualty: I co-wrote the gangs storyline

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Andrea Page Andrea Page | 10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Saturday's episode was my first Casualty script and I couldn't have asked for a more exciting introduction.

It's a three-part story, which is unusual for Casualty, and it pitches the Holby Emergency Department (ED) team into the aftermath of a violent gang-related shooting and the police investigation.

Jade (Dominique Jackson) and Stevie (Franz Drameh)

Jade (Dominique Jackson) and her boyfriend Stevie (Franz Drameh)

I came to Casualty through the BBC Writers' Academy so this was also my first time working with other writers (David Bowker and Emma Goodwin) on a story that runs across three episodes.

We met up with the production team to thrash out what we wanted this story to be, then the writers and script editors sat down to come up with an overall story 'arc' for the three episodes.

I've been asked if real-life events inspired this story. Yes, in that EDs are on the front line, dealing with the effects of youth-on-youth violence.

As part of our research, Rob Jackson, nurse clinician at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, showed the writers and some of the Casualty team what this damage really looks like in an unflinching presentation about situations from his ED.

Obviously I read a lot of articles and other materials to get as much background as I could.

But I think our starting point was even more basic: what's going on in a young person's life that makes using a knife or gun seem like a real choice?

To get our heads around that we also met with ED staff at Kings College Hospital in south London (where there was a fight between two gangs days before our visit).

We also talked to police detectives, community liaison officers and community workers who support young people.

Their insights helped us to build our story around Stevie, who's on the very edges of a gang through his half-brother Kris.

Because 'gang member' is a label - all kinds of young people are affected by gang culture, whether they want it in their lives or not.

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Watch the fallout from the shooting

The best thing, apart from getting to write the second episode of this three-parter, was seeing how much everyone on the Casualty team cared about making this story real.

It was great to have so much support, long before one word got written. It was hard work and a lot of fun piecing it together.

And frustrating sometimes, when a scene you really want to write just works better in another episode.

I'm thinking of a moment between Kris and Stevie that's in part three. Things did change as we wrote and the script editors, Emily Groves and David Davis, had to keep a clear view across all three episodes.

Talking to them made me realise this moment should happen after my episode. You're constantly talking to your script editor about all kinds of details, and to make sure the characters act and talk consistently.

I realised early during the research that I wanted my episode to explore how girls get treated when they come into contact with gangs.

Jade's a 'real' girlfriend - a so-called 'wifey' - and I wanted to know what that could mean for her and for girls who aren't seen this way.

That led eventually to the issue of rape. Sadly, it is sometimes used by gangs to punish or intimidate - that is, as a weapon.

So Jade is another victim of Stevie's decision to fire a gun. Her scenes after the rape were difficult to write, but also satisfying because of the bond between her and Tess.

Jade and her friend Tia live in the same world with similar pressures, but they react differently.

By the end of the episode Jade's the one deciding what she wants - a small but important step. I hope it comes through in the story, that there's always a choice.

Andrea Page is a writer on Casualty.

Casualty continues on Saturday, 17 March at 9.35pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.

For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Very satisfying story and the best part is jade started to live in her own ways after what had happened with her.It was sad to accept that only girls are the victims of gang's. But what you have justified with your story has made every girl's vision towards their life would definitely be changing.


    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    I love casualty and this storyline but that women who plays the police officer is an absolutely terrible actress, makes me want to turn over whenever she is on screen!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry but casualty has gone downhill since the start of this new series. The story given may be ok but it is long and drawn out the acting is pretty unbeleivable i give casualty one more seies if they don't change the writers.

  • Comment number 4.

    To be honest i found the story predictable. It started off with the attempted shooting of a white drug dealer and then escalated into the usual story of black gang warfare, black on black crime with the ring leader/ worst character being of the darkest complexion with the shades getting lighter as they become more of the victims. This wouldn't be that bad if the BBC endeavoured to show black people in a varying light, but as they don't it just further feeds into the media's negativity whilst i feel as i'm not getting my moneys worth via my TV licence financing this. I watched all 3 episodes hoping that at the end that it wouldn't be a story that is 1) re-hashed over & over by the BBC & 2) that i couldn't have written myself. I would like to say nice try but unfortunately the trio of episodes fell flat.

  • Comment number 5.

    Congratulations!

    Brilliant storyline, I think it ran for a good amount of time. Unlike the story lines in eastenders, corrie & emmerdale. they run too long so its gets boring.


    I have been hooked on casulty for years, this story has been the best. Well Done

  • Comment number 6.

    Please explain the advantage of only writing part of a story,
    and how you work with the other writers.
    Must be hard to get the story you want to get across.
    who is the head writer?

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm sure this is a great story but I didn't enjoy it. Casualty was the wrong place for what seemed like an attempt at a new youth oriented soap opera.

    Obviously it's challenging to keep this show fresh, provoking and fun to watch but please no more of this type of storyline and definitely not 3 episodes long!

    Quite enjoyed the bilious dog in the ambulance - well done Neville(sic) for cleaning up and stealing the show!

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with suzyb, the actrress playing the cop is very bad. Perhaps the bad writing contributed to her poor performance though.

  • Comment number 9.

    I totally agree with Devon I am so angry about this 3 partner it was if there was diktat from BBC bosses this series looks horribly white so lets get some black faces in what is it about black people? Oh yea gangs and hoodies and zero aspirations. It was interesting to contrast the "ailments" of the white cohort – the biggest issue for the white girl whether she should continue to play the flute all nice middle class issues , The third dreadful episode on Saturday was so surreal as to be laughable at one point I was so angry I thought I was having an out of body experience dreadful dialogue acting it was so strangely muted for such a “dangerous” episode not one bit of the programme felt authentic or challenging it was like some after school special about don’t hang around with bad kids! Consider the two female character one black grandmother and the posh lady and her dog with the quite simply awful doctor who is obviously a robot who showed more compassion for the dog. In fact I felt the entire thing was so racist I would not be surprised if the BNP used clips of it on their next rally as a recruitment video.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello, I’m the series producer for Casualty. Thanks for all your comments about the gang episodes which I’ve read with interest. It's great that people are talking about this important subject. Reflecting the diversity of modern day Britain is a duty of the BBC and we worked hard to ensure that our representation of the young people in these Casualty episodes was fair and balanced. The episodes were based on extensive research with NHS experts, reflecting their experiences of gang life – from the work they do in the community, schools and hospitals - and, in the main, the feedback we have had has been very positive.

    Devon (#4) and melazed (#9) - I would argue that Casualty clearly does show black people in a varying light as demonstrated in this storyline. These three special episodes focused on the problems faced by a group of young black people in a divided community, plus Casualty already has several regular professional characters who happen to be black - including Tess, Lloyd and Noel. These three in particular are all strong role models and were all involved in a positive way during this storyline.

    Suzyb (#2), reggietrumphet (#1) and kez007 (#5) – many thanks for taking the time to post your comments and I’m delighted you enjoy the show.

    Please do keep watching - we have some really exciting episodes coming up including a testing Saturday night shift for Jordan & Yvonne and a subterranean adventure for Sam & Dylan guest starring the lovely Connie Fisher.

  • Comment number 11.

    @Nikki Wilson. Clearly the BBC didn't try hard enough. The representation of black people has never been correct on the BBC. Yes, you do have black characters in causality but they don't remind me of anyone I know, the BBC tend to write a storyline and then add black people for affect instead of the other way round. Also, your researchers meed to find out what other problems young black people are facing in divided community, because I can assure you that gang warfare and drugs isn't the only problem. 
    Nikki, you started your sentence with
    "I would argue" I'm making a point, there is really no need for you to " argue" with me. The tv licence payer, the person writing comments with the intention of you bettering your approach.  I would like you to re-look at the tone of your response to myself and melazed and then to the others who said they enjoyed the show. The writing is clearly on the wall. 

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh no, that terrible actress who plays the police woman is still in this episode! Please get rid! I have watched casualty for years but cannot stand watching her appalling acting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    i am writing to comment on casualty in general, the series is nowhere near as good as it used to be, the acting is bad and the storeylines are terrible.
    I think you should find new writers, the stories seem really amatuer.
    The acting by some of the actors is really bad, this could possibly due to the directors/producers.

    Holby on the other hand is far more superior, which suprises me because i thought they were linked.

 

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