Interview with Poppy Cogan - Screenwriter and Executive Producer of "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder"

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Monday 1 July

PHOTO: Cara (Asha Banks), Pip (Emma Myers), Lauren (Yali Topol Margolith), Zach (Raiko Gohara) and Connor (Jude Collie) (Image: BBC/Moonage Pictures)

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June 21, 2024 - Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here:https://amzn.to/3VSdQYq

Interview with Poppy Cogan, screenwriter and executive producer of "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder"


Can you tell us about the show?

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is like a mash up of Booksmart, Veronica Mars and the podcast Serial. It’s a proper whodunit, with a brilliant mystery at its heart but it’s also a mixture of genres. There's lightness and comedy, but as the series progresses, it cranks up to an exciting thriller, there are even flashes of horror. It’s got a bit of everything.

What are the major challenges for adapting the novel?

The novel was such a hit and had such an emotional connection to its fans that it felt like a huge responsibility to do it justice. So that was the first challenge and then there were some more executional challenges that we had to think about. Part of the charm of the book is that it is written in quite a graphic style. It has interview transcripts, typed up notes, handwritten post-its, which give the book a fun visual feel. Of course, we needed to find a different way to get the information across on the screen, everything needed to come to life. Another big challenge was working out what we should leave out. We’ve only got six 45-minute episodes, and there's a lot of material in the book so it was about honing that, figuring out what was okay to leave out and what we needed to keep. It was a challenge, but Holly was really helpful with this.

How did you adapt the book to make its story and structure work across six episodes of television?

It's a brilliantly plotty story with lots twists and turns. In terms of the process, at the very beginning we had a two-week writers’ room. I and my three co-writers, Ruby Thomas, Ajoke Ibironke and Zia Ahmed, got in a room together and we mapped out the whole series and broke it into episodes. We tried to theme each episode so that there's a real feeling of escalation through the show, of jeopardy and darkness building as Pip delves deeper into the secrets of her town. We had all read the book forensically but in the plotting of the show we had to almost do away with the book and work it out as a TV show then return to the book to check that the key plot points fitted into the new structure. It was great fun but took a lot of attention to detail. Holly was great at making sure we hadn’t missed anything important.

What was the casting process for Pip and Ravi?

Pip is such an iconic character. She's got this earnestness and this good girl quality, but we needed to make sure she never became irritating. In the novel you have access to her internal thoughts, her insecurities etc. and so you empathise with her. It was a balance that wasn’t always easy to achieve in the scripts. So much of the charm in the end comes down to the actress who plays her. When we saw Emma’s audition we knew immediately she was perfect. She had this physical comedy about her that adds so much to the charm of the character. She just nailed it. Ravi was interesting to cast because we saw a lot more experienced actors, but Zain just completely shone in his audition. He had an easy-going charm, a real naturalness and the chemistry between him and Emma was there from the start. The whole team knew he would be perfect.

Can you explain what the murder board is and what part it plays in the show?

The murder board is really important, it grows to cover a whole wall of her bedroom where Pip spends a lot of time processing information. It is so helpful in expressing where Pip is in her investigation and in showing her thoughts. The murder board practically had its own crew because it had to be right for each shot, for every episode. That is one of my favourite things, actually, seeing those shots of Pip in front of the murder board. It looks iconic.

Why are you excited about the series?

I'm excited for so many reasons. I'm really happy with the way the scripts turned out. I think the show is funny and thrilling, and the characters that were in Holly's book we've really brought to life. The cast are a dream, Anna Maxwell Martin and Gary Beadle as Pip’s parents and Mathew Baynton as Elliot Ward are all such talented actors. We felt so lucky to get them and they give the show some adult gravitas. I’m excited to see the chemistry that Pip and Ravi have and how it develops across the series. I know that fans of the book are hugely invested in their relationship, so I hope they’re pleased with how we’ve told that story. And then the actors in the friendship group bring this wonderful warm heartedness and humour, I think people are going to fall in love with them. I’m also excited to see the relationship between Pip and her best friend Cara. Asha Banks who plays Cara Ward is super talented, and her and Pip’s friendship is beautiful to watch. And finally, I’m excited to bring the visual world of Little Kilton to life. The director Dolly Wells has an amazing eye and she did such a great job creating a world that feels quintessentially English but with a twist - a picture-perfect town with a dark underbelly. There are also some thrilling action set pieces that have you on the edge of your seat.

Why it’s a story for now?

I’ve got three teenagers and I’ve noticed how much pressure there is on them to always be right about everything, to know the right answer to things. When I was their age, we had more space to work things out without judgement. It was easier. One of the central themes we explore in the show is what it means to be a ‘good girl’. Over the course of the series Pip is forced to explore the nuance around people and situations. Pip's character arc takes her on a journey from a good girl who sees the world in black and white to a more complex character who is more aware of the shades of grey.

What do you feel you've achieved with the series?

We've achieved a fast paced, thrilling teen show that has something for everybody in it.

Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here:https://amzn.to/3VSdQYq

About

Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here:https://amzn.to/3VSdQYq

It’s the Summer holidays, but teenager Pip Fitz-Amobi is focused on an unusual school research project. In Little Kilton five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell went missing. Her boyfriend Sal Singh sent a text confessing to the murder before being found dead, seemingly taking his own life. Andie’s body was never found. Case closed. However, Pip isn’t so sure and is determined to prove Sal’s innocence.

The six-part series is based on Holly Jackson’s smash hit novels and stars Emma Myers (Wednesday), Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland, A Spy Among Friends), Gary Beadle (Rye Lane, Small Axe), Mathew Baynton (Ghosts, Wonka) and newcomer Zain Iqbal.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was filmed in and around Somerset, England. Commissioned by the BBC, the series is produced by Moonage Pictures (The Pursuit of Love, The Gentlemen, Bodies) in co-production with ZDFneo and Netflix.

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Monday 1 July.

Source BBC iPlayer

June 21, 2024 3:00am ET by BBC iPlayer  

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