The moment Wentworth Prison fans have been excitedly anticipating and dreading in equal measure arrives this week; as the tense second series of the hit prison drama reaches a nailbiting climax that will leave viewers stunned. It’s been a rollercoaster of a series; matching the quality if not exceeding the fantastic debut series. Viewers old and new have embraced Wentworth Prison and it is the ensemble efforts of the writers, crew, cast and production team that have created such a successful show.
I was lucky enough to catch up with writer, Pete McTighe, to chat about his work on Wentworth. Pete has been at the forefront of the Wentworth team since day one, penning the very first episode and five of the other episodes of the first series. After the runaway success of Series One, a further two series were commissioned and Pete has written his fair share of these episodes too, including the explosive finale about to hit our screens.
For a PauseLiveAction exclusive, I present the fruits of my conversation with Pete below as he shares the secrets, triumphs and challenges of working on one of the strongest dramas currently on television.
How long does it take to write an episode of Wentworth and what is the biggest challenge of doing so?
Generally I’m pretty focussed and quick – it’ll take a week or two depending on the content of the episode. When I wrote Episode 1, I finished the first draft in 7 days as we had a very tight deadline for delivery to the broadcaster. I force myself to be quite regimented when I write, I’m in a routine now where I try to write for about 8 or 9 hours a day (with short breaks), or give myself a daily page target and don’t stop until I meet it.
The biggest challenge comes from the closed environment of the prison – it’s a great device to slam characters together and create/build tension between them, but can also be problematic – for instance figuring out exactly how someone could escape from prison in a grounded and believable (but also exciting) way.
Do you have a favourite character to write for?
For Series 1, it was Jacs and Franky. For Series 2 and 3, I’d have to say Ferguson and Boomer. It was a real thrill writing Ferguson’s introduction, that was something I’d been eager to do ever since we started the series. I loved Maggie Kirkpatrick’s interpretation of the character back in the day and as a writing team we were all interested in finding a new take on her. Pamela Rabe just nailed that character. We were so lucky, our producers & casting people put together an amazing ensemble.
Which moments or scenes are you most proud of writing for Wentworth?
Particular scenes? I’d probably choose Franky and her father’s first meeting in the visitor’s centre as my favourite (Series 1, Ep 3). Then I’d choose a key scene from the Series 2 finale which you’re about to see (you’ll know it when it happens!), and then probably the scene in Series 1, Ep 1 where Bea is in solitary and Jacs is singing. It still gives me chills, and I was chuffed to find a way to get that iconic song into the first episode.
As far as episodes go, I’ll always be most proud of Series 1 Episode 1, just because it was so positively embraced by viewers and critics and even die-hard ‘Prisoner Cell Block H’ fans. But also Series 1, Episode 3 because it was a powerful Franky episode that had personal resonance for me, Series 2, Episode 1 for Ferguson’s introduction, the Series 2 finale because the story we were telling was such a thrill, and the Series 3 finale because it’s EPIC. I’d love to tell you more about it but… spoilers!
You wrote Episode 12 coming up; can you give us any hints as to what is in store?
It’s the end of a Series-long arc for Bea, who is desperate to avenge Debbie’s death – but when it comes to the crunch, will she really be able to go through with it? Wanting revenge is one thing, committing cold blooded murder is another. It was fantastic being able to explore Bea’s psychology under extreme desperation and play out the culmination of her plan.
Has work begun yet on a third series? How is it going, if so?
Yes Series 3 has already been shot, and is locked in Ferguson’s filing cabinet. She told me no peeking til 2015.
How does a story idea make it from the first stages of it’s conception into your script?
We have a fantastic team of writers and we all brainstorm the stories for each series together and come up with an overall plan of where we’re heading. We than break that plan down into individual episodes, assign writers, then plot those episodes in-depth.
So it’s really a team effort – we have the brilliant Marcia Gardner, John Ridley, Adam Todd, Timothy Hobart and Stu Page across Series 2 and 3.
I thought the Ferguson backstory episode by John was incredible, as was his episode about Vera. And Adam’s Ep 11 was a fantastic rollercoaster ride – they were my highlights from this year.
What do you do to unwind when you are not writing?
Mainly I watch loads of television. I try to watch Episode 1 of most dramas that get broadcast in the US and UK, so at least I can see what’s out there and what’s working and why. But at the moment my list of things to watch is stacking up – there aren’t enough hours in the day.
What are some of your favourite TV programmes?
My first love is genre/sci-fi/supernatural stuff, followed by meaty thriller/mysteries. My favourite new shows over the past year or so have been things like The Returned, The Honorable Woman, The Leftovers, Happy Valley, Utopia, The Crimson Field, Line Of Duty, Broadchurch and The Americans. I started watching The Game this week which is incredible and coming to the BBC shortly, and my friends’ show Cara Fi which is pure brilliance – check it out on S4C/BBC iPlayer.
Favourite shows of all time? Doctor Who & Twin Peaks. Then too many to mention.
What are your hopes for the future and any future projects or challenges?
Right now I’m very lucky – working on UK script commissions for my own original projects, and writing on some really exciting new dramas that you’ll see in 2015. I can’t talk about them yet as they haven’t been announced. Follow me on Twitter (@petemctighe) and I’ll keep you posted.
Any other info/a message to readers of this interview?
Yes, thanks so much for embracing Wentworth – it means a lot to everyone who works on it. I hope you all enjoy the finale! 🙂
Are you excited for the Wentworth Prison finale? Give us your thoughts using the comments box below and for more Wentworth and TV chat and news, you’d do well to follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Our_manPLA
Written By Our Man In The North