Crime drama Sherwood is coming to the BBC

As James Graham’s highly anticipated series Sherwood hits our screens, Danielle de Wolfe sits down with its creator and star cast to find out more.

Screenwriter James Graham is no stranger to tackling local divisive issues.

Whether it’s political debate as part of his Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War, royal upheaval as seen in The Crown or financial deception thanks to the ITV drama inspired by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, its immersive and thought-provoking material catapulted the screenwriter into the limelight.

Graham’s latest project, Sherwood, is no exception. This time however, he has chosen to tackle a subject that touches a little closer to home. Set in the present day and inspired by real events, the six-part original series is set in the Nottinghamshire mining village of the same name – the environment in which Graham himself was raised.

Describing the upcoming project as a chance to “invest in the characters and voices” he grew up with, the Emmy-nominated writer hopes the fictional tale will educate and inform viewers through a “crime thriller.” entertaining”.

It’s a series that shares directorial duties between Bafta Award winner Lewis Arnold (Cleaning Up, Time) and Bafta nominee Ben Williams (Humans, War of the Worlds). A gripping tale of post-Brexit Britain, Sherwood is 21st century life seen through the eyes of communities whose voices have long fallen on deaf ears.

“This is an opportunity to shine an artistic spotlight on these red-walled cities that have suddenly penetrated so deeply into our national psyche, and are once again being used as a political weapon in this ideological culture war that we are apparently all meant to fight,” Graham said defiantly.

“And then of course it draws on several true stories; a double murder and a manhunt – one of the biggest manhunts in British history.”

THE CASTING

Boasting a top-notch cast, Sherwood features a host of recognizable names, including Oscar nominee and The Crown star Lesley Manville as local resident Julie Jackson. Separated from her sister Cathy, played by Whitechapel star Claire Rushbrook, it’s a relationship that reflects wider divisions in a community, dating back to the 1984 miners’ strike.

With Julie’s stubbornness juxtaposed with her sister Cathy’s even-temperedness, the pair have opposing views when it comes to historic strikes. It’s a topic that Rushbrook is all too aware of, describing Sherwood as a project that “covers stuff you usually approach with trepidation”.

Joined by The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey as Chief Superintendent Ian St Clair – a renowned officer who rose through the ranks, his character is forced to work alongside Detective Inspector Kevin Salisbury, played by Cold’s Robert Glenister. Feet. Former rivals, the two officers are now reunited by force, responsible for solving the murders in question.

“It was important for me to play this policeman as someone who was the weight of all the force on him,” says Morrissey, 57. “He wasn’t a representative of the whole force. He was really an individual in that specific circumstance. I just felt, like with all the characters actually, that personal history dictated their behavior.

Describing Graham’s “emotional intelligence” when it came to creating the show’s characters, Manville says his own working-class upbringing allowed for a noticeable level of empathy when it came to his character Julie.

“I kind of grew up with a sense of community – not as politically sacked as this community, but I understand Julie. She’s been a very passionate supporter of striking miners. Her husband was a striking miner. And like you see it in her flashbacks, she’s tough – and that kind of stoicism has stayed with her.”

A stellar line-up is rounded out by Four Lions star Adeel Ahtar as Andy Fisher – a soft-spoken widowed local.

THE STORY

A project the screenwriter sees as both a “privilege and a responsibility”, the working-class tale depicts a village that has yet to recover from the historic divisions created by the miners’ strike three decades earlier. It’s every inch an illustration of how historical events continue to permeate modern society.

With glaring rifts already present within the small community, any remaining threads of camaraderie are severed entirely when two murders rock the area. The first victim is Julie’s husband, Gary – a former vocal miner who stood on the picket line in 1984. After his body was found just yards from their home, suspicion quickly swept through the community.

Described by its author as an opportunity to talk about “the death of industry and the search for a modern identity”, the project draws on the lives of the individuals caught up in the investigation.

“I remember the miners’ strike,” recalls Manville, 66, after a short break. “It’s something I grew up with and was familiar with, but I’ve never seen anything so beautifully written about this era.”

It’s a view shared by Manville co-star Adeel Ahtar, who notes that much of Sherwood’s appeal comes from the distinctive nature of Graham’s writing. Citing the writer’s ability to translate the anger and emotion of his local community into print as a “powerful” attribute, Ahtar highlights “an unarticulated quality” seen in the drama, with which he says viewers will definitely connect.

“It’s a community of people who feel like they’ve been neglected,” says Ahtar, 41. “And through that kind of storytelling lens, you can look at things in people’s emotional lives that are also overlooked. It makes the TV feel like a window into (their) world.”

But with suspicion hanging in the air, one of Britain’s biggest manhunts is underway. Trawling through the heart of Sherwood Forest – a place Graham describes as steeped in “mythology, energy, history and folklore”, it’s a tale that quickly turns into a “spy” drama according to star Glenister, 62 years old, whose son Tom plays a younger version of his character as part of the series.

Describing how “the spy cop theme” remains in the news today – “there are still people who write about their experiences of being spied on” the actor says – Glenister says the issues addressed in the frame of the series are more relevant than ever.

As for what the public will think of the project? The actor says people “could be anticipating a thriller”, when what they really get is a “why”. A project that offered Graham the opportunity to examine the relationship between the local community and the police force, Sherwood highlights a growing sense of mistrust – an issue that is increasingly relevant to today’s audiences. .

“I think before the strike, maybe, the police were part of the community. After the strike – and as a result, maybe they stopped being part of the community. And they became, I don’t don’t know, the enemy?” suggests Glenister.

“I had never thought about it before, but actually, of course, the police were part of this community, because these communities were small and intense and supported each other.”

Sherwood arrives on BBC One on Monday June 13