EXCLUSIVE: BBC1 has commissioned Working Title Television to produce drama strand The Secrets, which will pair emerging writers with established acting and directing talent.
The strand will comprise 5 x 30-minute dramas, with a five-week shoot launching in London this week ahead of broadcast later this year. Director Dominic Savage will oversee all five episodes, which are connected by an explosive secret.
Playwrights Nick Payne and Elinor Cook make their TV debut for the strand, alongside emerging talents Ben Ockrent and Sarah Solemani. Executive producers are Juliette Howell for Working Title Television and Lucy Richer for the BBC. The strand was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, controller, BBC drama commissioning, and BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore.
The first of two episodes from Payne will star Olivia Colman, Alison Steadman and Steve Oram in the story of a vet expecting her first child, who has access to drugs that put pets to sleep, and a mother who is chronically ill and wants to die.
The writer’s well-received play, Constellations, starring Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins, was nominated in 2012 for the Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Ockrent, a playwright, has previously written on Big Talk’s Youngers and Shed’s Waterloo Road, while Cook won the 2013 George Devine Award for most-promising playwright. Actress Solemani is known for her roles in UK comedy series Him & Her, The Wrong Mans and Bad Education, and recently wrote and starred in Sky Living’s well-received Aphrodite Fry.
The commission represents a renewed commitment to emerging writing talent by the BBC after its decision to stop the long-running Writers Academy following the departure of its head, John Yorke. The initiative has been replaced by smaller-scale Shadow Schemes.
Meanwhile, drama executives including Caryn Mandabach have expressed concern about the lack of support for new writers across the industry.
The order follows the announcement at the 2012 Edinburgh International TV Festival of the BBC’s Drama Talent Scheme, aimed at showcasing new writers alongside established creatives and cast.
Savage said: “Working with new and talented writers along with the best actors the UK has to offer is a real privilege and I can’t wait to get started.”
Richer added: “With the creative hand of Dominic Savage and his unique collaborative way of working, The Secrets will bring critically acclaimed and outstanding voices, writing original pieces, to screen on the BBC.”