The original idea for Me and Mrs Jones came from a magazine article where a TV actress was talking about the lack of good comedy roles for women in their 40’s. This gave us the germ of an idea for a show where a woman (Gemma) fell in love with a younger man (Billy) only the dilemma wasn’t primarily that he was younger but that he was her sons friend.
We wanted her to be a single mum with an older son (Alfie) and two younger kids, an ex who was a bit useless (Jason) and a man on the horizon who seems perfect but something about him is just a bit off (Tom). We also knew early on that we wanted Me and Mrs Jones to be more of a romantic comedy than sitcom, with the audience investing in the relationship between Gemma and Billy that’s at its heart but also to fall in love with Tom without realising it.
Me and Mrs Jones
We were going to take the idea to America to pitch out there but before we left we met with Producer Serena Cullen who loved the idea of a woman falling in love with her sons friend. She told us if America weren’t interested she was! In the end we sold a different script to Fox and were able to develop Me and Mrs Jones with Serena who had the same vision for it as us. With the help of Simon Wilson at the BBC we got a two script commission. At this point we met with Beryl Vertue (Hartswood) who shared the same enthusiasm for the project that we all did and she agreed to Executive Produce it.
With the support of the BBC’s Cheryl Taylor we did a read through with some of the actors for Danny Cohen, an intimidating process but it gives the commissioners an idea of what the show will sound like. After the read through we got the pilot which we delivered around Christmas 2011 and because of holidays and things the BBC commissioned a third script before deciding on a series. It was a very tense time for us wondering if this was the end of the line or the beginning.
By this point we had spent two years moving through the process and waiting can feel like torture at times. Then in January 2012 we got the call saying we’d got the series. That gave us till May to write the remaining episodes.
Tom bumps into Gemma at the school gates and asks her out but she reacts nervously.
Once you get the yes suddenly everything moves at break neck speed. It was a challenge but we set about planning the series, running story ideas past Serena and Beryl. It’s vital to have a producer you can trust in terms of story telling. Both Beryl and Serena let us run with the scripts but were there to help focus us and offer up ideas and solutions. Once the episodes were mapped we would divide the scenes up and then go over and over them. Often reading them aloud to each other on iChat.
We love to work in a collaborative way and we were lucky that Beryl and Serena carried that process on into the filming of the show. We were there for all the filming and participated in discussions about the cast and the look and the feel of the show. Nick Hurran the director had such a clear vision of the show and we will never be able to thank him, Harry Banks the designer, Lisa Cavelli Green the make up designer and Caroline Pritchard the costume designer for bringing our scripts to life just as we imagined them.
As a writer you are often powerless over the process and we would encourage all writers to be as involved as they can in the show they created.
Watch Oriane and Fay's interview about the series for BBC Media Centre.