In the Dark - Danny Brocklehurst on adapting Mark Billingham's novels for BBC One
Writer, Director and Producer
How important was the casting for you with the lead roles of Helen and Paul? How do you find the right people?
Helen Weeks is central to the whole show and she is in 90% of the scenes, so finding the right Helen was crucial. I wanted her to have a warmth and wit but also be strong and formidable. She is damaged emotionally and that is a huge part of the story, so we needed an actress that would bring out all these different sides. I’d been a huge MyAnna fan so we offered her the role and thankfully, she said yes.
Ben Batt is another actor I had wanted to work with and when we saw his audition for Paul, we knew he'd fit the role perfectly and would be great alongside MyAnna.
Watch the trailer for In the Dark
What can you tell us about MyAnna’s character, Helen?
Helen, as created by Mark Billingham, is a headstrong, no nonsense cop - she has seen it all in her work and it has toughened her. I loved the character because she is so complex. Her personal story gave her a vulnerability that contrasted with her outer layer. But in bringing her to the screen, I wanted her to have more humour, more immediate warmth, so I wrote her the way Mark had created her but with that extra ingredient.
What can you tell us about Ben’s character, Paul?
Paul is perhaps not all he seems. The theme of the show is that no one really knows anyone. To some degree, we are all ‘in the dark’. In story two (episodes three and four), everything Helen thought she knew about Paul - loyal, supportive, the ideal boyfriend - is thrown in to question.
The lead characters both work for the police force, what research did you do to make this work on screen?
I took my lead from Mark’s books - which had been well-researched - but after the scripts were written, we brought in a police advisor to make sure they were watertight and credible.
Watch Mark Billingham and Danny Brocklehurst discuss adapting In The Dark.
What was it like adapting the books into a script suitable for a four-part series? Was there much discussion with author Mark Billingham?
Mark was involved throughout. He was very open to changes - some huge - and always understood what I was trying to do with the adaption. They aren’t totally faithful adaptions but I have kept the spirit of the books and certainly the central themes.
What was it like filming around Manchester?
I live in Manchester so I’m always happy to make shows there. The first story is set in Derbyshire so it was brilliant to get into the local countryside and then in stark contrast, film part two in one of the toughest parts of inner city Manchester.
Watch an interview with Danny Brocklehurst from BBC Writersroom's 2017 TV Drama Writers' Festival
Do you have a favourite scene that stands out to you?
There is a scene in episode two in which Helen has to reveal brutal truths to Paul about two different events. They collide in one huge scene and the acting is truly terrific.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the show?
The show is very much in the crime genre but I hope that the audience will appreciate that it is first and foremost a character drama. The themes are very identifiable. This isn’t just plot, plot, plot - it is a show that is more interested in the complexity of human beings than merely solving a crime.