Last year The Street, Jimmy McGovern’s emotionally powerful BBC One series, proved an instant hit with both public and critics alike.
The show which ran with the tagline, “behind every door in every street, there’s a story waiting to be told” scooped British television’s top industry awards winning both the 2007 BAFTA and RTS awards for Best Drama Series.
The Daily Mirror dubbed it, “poignant, funny and wonderful,” while the Daily Mail reckoned it was “event television.” For its part, The Times raved that, “after weeks of watching awful dramas, having a McGovern drama turn up is like having Elvis walk into the room. McGovern is so persistently, noticeably, bracingly, not crap.”
Moreover, the first series is garnering international attention and has two Emmy nominations: for Best Series and Jim Broadbent is nominated in the best actor category. The winners are announced in New York on the 19 November.
Now, The Street is back for a second series which features six stand-alone episodes about characters who happen to live in the same street in Manchester. The series was shot on locations in and around Manchester this summer.
As he did in the first series, McGovern, the creator of such seminal works such as Cracker, The Lakes, Hillsborough and Gunpowder, Treason And Plot has mentored new writers. He has worked with them to create strong stories with universal appeal. These often explore the darker side of human nature, but do so with wit, intelligence and compassion.
The Street, which was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, has always attracted first-rate performers. The first series was lauded for the exceptional quality of its acting, The Times commented that: “the acting throughout the series has been exemplary.”
The cast assembled for the second series matches the first series. Each of the six compelling stories boasts some of Britain’s finest film, television and stage actors as well as introducing talented newcomers.
Timothy Spall (Auf Wiedersehen Pet) returns as Eddie, the put-upon cabbie with an unerring knack for getting himself into trouble.
David Thewlis (Naked, Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies) stars as identical twins, Joe and Harry, alongside Bronagh Gallagher (Holy Cross), who plays Joe’s wife, and June Watson (Strictly Confidential) as the twin’s mother.
Mark Benton (City Lights) is beleaguered postman and loving dad Wayne, with newcomer Michael Taylor (Mischief Nights) playing his friend Damien.
Gina McKee (Tsunami: The Aftermath) and Lorraine Ashbourne (True Dare Kiss) star as sisters.
Vincent Regan (Troy) and Julia Ford (All About George) play a husband and wife whose marriage is rocked by Tom, played by Will Mellor (Sorted).
Emerging talent, Toby Kebbell, who earned rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as band manager Rob Gretton in Anton’s Corbijn’s film Control, plays the leading role of Paul, alongside Jodhi May (The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, Friends And Crocodiles) in the final story of the series.
An ITV Production for BBC One, The Street is produced by John Chapman and executive produced by Jimmy McGovern and Sita Williams. BBC Executive producers are Eleanor Moran and Polly Hill, BBC Commissioning Editor, BBC Drama.
Leading directors Terry McDonough (Instinct, Vincent, Eleventh Hour) and David Blair (The Lakes, Malice Aforethought, Takin’ Over The Asylum) who did such fine work on the first series, return.
Chapman, ITV Productions’ producer, enthuses about the calibre of the cast and crew that the series has drawn.
“It is a huge privilege to work on The Street, bringing back together many of the outstanding talents who made the drama so distinctive first time round, as well as helping to take the series forward.”
Williams, Executive Producer for ITV Productions, adds: “We are thrilled to have won both a BAFTA and RTS award for Drama which confirms our belief that great drama representing believable characters with whom we can all identify stands out.”
McGovern explicates the thinking behind The Street: “I place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, but in every episode we can still identify with those characters and think ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.”
The Liverpudlian writer firmly believes that: “Everyone has at least one story to tell. I know that from bitter experience because every time I go into the boozer, someone comes up to me and says, ‘Have I got a story for you!’
“I go to this card school every week in a certain Liverpool pub and it can be quite annoying when I’m trying to play a hand while someone’s telling me their life-story. There are some great stories out there. Unfortunately, they haven’t always happened to writers!”
His job is to hammer the raw material into one-hour BBC One episodes. He works hand in hand with up-and-coming writers to achieve this end. “I do a polish at the end of their scripts,” McGovern explains. “It’s not merely for the sake of it. It’s to impose a single authorial voice on all six episodes. Otherwise, the series could be all over the place in theme and tone.”
Williams is quick to emphasise the vital role McGovern plays in the whole project.
“What is exciting and continues to be exciting about The Street is not only Jimmy McGovern’s writing, but his work with new writers who bring their raw talent to the project. It is also testimony to Jimmy’s writing that The Street will continue to attract the best actors in British drama today.”
Chapman takes up this theme: “Jimmy attracts the best people. People genuinely loved the first series, so you can go to anyone and offer them a part and they’re likely to accept.”
The producer outlines what he sees as McGovern’s strengths as a writer: “He stands out because of his humanity, his self-deprecation, his passion for life, his empathy with people and his real skill in crafting scripts. Those are the attributes that make him such a sound storyteller as well as such a charming guy to sit and chat to.
“Like all really good writers, Jimmy has themes which he keeps returning to. Redemption is a preoccupation and a major theme in this series. It shows his fundamental belief in human nature. He demonstrates time and again that human beings are infinitely fallible, but always able to redeem themselves, forgive each other and behave honourably. He’s such a humane writer.”
McGovern reveals that he always follows Flaubert’s famous dictum to young writers: “Write what you know.” He draws on his own experiences to add credibility to his work. “I do mine my own life for material,” the writer declares.
“It gives it more authenticity, especially when you’re surprised by how you feel. When you put those emotions into a script, they have the smack of authenticity. It endows a script with so much more richness if it comes from your own life.”
The writer continues that many of the stories in this series of The Street home in on the idea that an apparently tiny act of deception can soon take on a life of its own which can spiral out of control.
“I love that kind of stuff,” McGovern beams. “It’s amazing how little things can suddenly become much bigger when you lie about them. You often lie to spare someone pain but it only makes it worse. That’s a great source of drama.”