Crossfire: Louise Doughty on chance and the Leicester accent
What would you do if it happened to you? That is the the question Crossfire writer, Louise Doughty, wanted to leave on viewers' lips at the end of the gripping BBC drama. The author from Melton, in Leicestershire, in what is her first original drama for television, tells the story of a woman who is both victim and survivor of a shooting when gunmen open fire at a holiday resort.
Partly set in Leicester, Crossfire follows the ordeal of an ordinary British family caught in an attack at a resort in the Canary Islands. Three-time BAFTA nominee Keeley Hawes plays the lead, Jo, a former police officer who is holidaying with her family when the disaster unfolds. She recently said it had been the most physically taxing role she has ever played.
READ MORE: John Bishop's helping eldest son on tough journey after diagnosis Writer, Doughty, had been in Gran Canaria with her own family with the idea for Crossfire was born. But it was only after finishing the three-part drama that she realised it was an experience of her own, while she was a young commuter in London, that subliminally leaked into her writing process.
She told LeicestershireLive: "I had been at London Bridge Station when it was bombed by the IRA in 1992. I heard the bomb go off, but I was safely evacuated with hundreds of others. "That event turned up in my first novel in 1995 (Crazy Paving) and you would imagine that would have sort of put it to bed.
But looking back now since writing Crossfire, I realise how that has stayed with me." The image of two policemen running toward the commotion, as she and others ran away from it, was one that stayed with Doughty. She added that the media coverage after the incident in 1992 had been melodramatic and that was "fed into" Crossfire.Bestselling novelist, Louise Doughty, 59, has written a number of gripping reads but Crossfire was her first original drama for TV. Her most recent book, Platform Seven, has also been commissioned for television by ITV. (Image: Louise Doughty)
But perhaps, more significantly, it is the element of chance that Doughty subconsciously drew from. Much like the family in Crossfire, the writer once found herself in an extraordinary situation, just by chance.
"In 1992, I had been working as a part-time secretary in London while I wrote my first novel and I lived in a suburb of South-east London. I had a choice of trains from the small station. "I could either get one that meant I had to change at London Bridge or another that went straight to Charing Cross.
If I had made a different decision that day, I'd have been on the platform where the bomb exploded," she said. She added: "So it wasn't just the event itself - it was the near miss. In Crossfire, and in my writing in general, there are quite a lot of chance events or ordinary people who have something extraordinary or shocking that happens to them - I wonder if what happened in '92 feeds into it."
The most important theme for Doughty was that the story was told predominantly from the point of view of the victim-survivor and not the perpetrator - something she felt we saw "too often" in the media. The 59-year-old, who was born in Melton and lived in Oakham throughout much of her childhood, was also certain that she wanted the story to be partly based in the East Midlands.
She said: "Even though I've lived in London for 30 years now, I still feel very passionately an East Midlander and feel an irritation that so much of television is set in London. It means other regions are often neglected.
"We need to do better as the media as a whole, not just drama, but news and other things, too. People need to remember and politicians need to remember that we don't live in a Westminster bubble. "Leicester specifically is very diverse and I feel very passionate about that.
There's a lot of television that is very white and very middle class and we need to do better." The topic of accents can be a sensitive one here in the Midlands and they are often difficult to master, as seen in a number of British dramas. But perfecting the Leicester accent was not so much of a priority for Doughty - who was also a producer on the show - and the rest of the crew.
"When it came to the leads, Keeley and I had a conversation about accents. What she didn't want is to spend a lot of time perfecting a Leicester accent. "I just didn't want her to sound too London or too middle-class.
It wasn't a question of pretending all the characters were born in Leicester but making sure they did not sound as though they were all from the South." On the Leicester accent, Doughty added: "I remember it as a kind of "are ya comin' me duck?'." While viewers could spot a number of Leicester landmarks in the show, such as the city's town hall, most of the show was filmed in Tenerife, including - somewhat incredibly - the lead family's home.Keeley stars as former police officer Jo in the new BBC thriller (Image: PA Photo/BBC/Dancing Ledge Productions/Monica Lek)
Doughty told LeicestershireLive: "Nearly all of the interiors in the show were shot in Tenerife. The downstairs of Jo and her husband, Jason's, house was actually in North Tenerife.
"The location manager had to drive round and round looking for a house that could pass as a home in Leicester, which wasn't easy. We had to take over somebody's house and completely redecorate it to look like a British home," she said. In one of the last scenes of the first episode, two children are seen fighting over an electronic device downstairs, before they run after one another up the stairs.
Due to the timing of filming, the second half of the scene, upstairs, was actually filmed in the UK, Doughty told LeicestershireLive. The two parts were filmed several months from each other and in two locations nearly 3,000 miles apart. The inside of the town hall in the show was also shot in Santa Cruz, Tenerife's capital, and had to be completely dressed up.
Doughty added: "At one point we had the catering truck tucked near the set in Tenerife and it was quite funny because we had all these extras in British police uniforms down the side of this Spanish side street." Many of the British locations in the drama, apart from the overhead shots, were actually filmed near Watford, rather than Leicester itself, which the writer said was down to "practicality and logistics". But it is clear that the Midlands remains close to her heart.
You can watch Crossfire, which aired on BBC One from Tuesday, September 20 to Thursday, September 22, on BBC iPlayer now.