An interview with Jack Thorne for National Treasure
When you were approached to write National Treasure, what was it that made you want to be a part of it?
The way that George Faber [executive producer] talked to me about it, he basically said the time was right to tell a story about this issue. I guess that I was apprehensive about it because it was a big issue to go into but I did agree with him that it felt like this was a story that wasn't being told but needed to be told.
Doubt. The idea that you've been living with someone for that length of time and then you discover that they're not what you thought they were, or that they may not be what you thought they were. The more research we did the more it became apparent that this was a case where doubt affects every part of investigating these crimes. There isn't categorical evidence that says this person is innocent or guilty, it's very nuanced and so capturing that became increasingly important.
Why do you think now is the right time to explore this issue?
I think that there is enough distance and knowledge from these events in order to tell the story properly now. In the beginning there wouldn't have been enough people that had worked on it in order to tell the truth about what was going on and I think what makes our drama function is the little insights that, hopefully, we give into how these cases are, how detectives and lawyers worked on these cases and how people are affected by these cases.
What were some of the challenges you faced in writing the drama?
There was only one challenge and it was the challenge that I felt overwhelmingly from the very beginning - which is that a lot of people have been damaged by this. An awful lot of people have been damaged by this, how do you write something which manages to be a drama but has a responsibility at the heart of it. It wouldn't be responsible to tell a story which tried to encompass all stories involved in this case - so that being the case, it wouldn't be responsible because the drama wouldn’t be good and you're not then doing justice to the people involved. So when you're telling a partial story how do you still do justice to those people that aren't necessarily going to be in the full spotlight of it. That was a constant battle all the way through and one we're still talking about now in the edit.
Who were some of the people that you spoke to as research while writing the drama?
Victims of abuse, police officers who have investigated these cases, lawyers who attempted to prosecute them and lots of other people in between all these things. Things like the place where Dee lives, it had to feel like it was a place that existed in real life so you do some research to make sure you've got it right. There are lots of little bits of stuff all the way through it where you think “I need to get this right how do we make that happen”.
A great cast has been brought together for National Treasure - Andrea Riseborough, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and Tim McInnerny, among many others. What was it like working with them?
A lot of this show is about silence and the way that people's eyes are looking as they are talking. When you write a script you hope that people will give it life beyond the script. I think it's extraordinary what these actors have done, with Marc's [Munden, director] guidance through it all. It is one way that you see the layers of a life and see the damage of history riven right through them. I think that we were incredibly lucky to get this cast and it's not often when you say that. I couldn't have hoped for better but it's more than that, I was surprised at how good it was. I think they're incredible and I hope we've made the best of them as they are a sensational cast and Marc is a sensational director.
The bit I love about drama is that I grew up on the sofa with my mum watching stuff and then talking about it afterwards. The response I hope we get from this show, I hope people turn off the TV (after they've watched it not during it!) and I hope they sit there and say - this is really complicated, how do I feel about it? How has it affected me in ways that I wasn't necessarily thinking it might affect me? What is the right way to do these things? How do we catch these men without doing massive damage to innocent people? How do we do justice to the victims of these crimes? And I hope that we've asked enough questions that the Gogglebox generation will genuinely talk about what it means. But I hope they don't talk through it as they sometimes do on Gogglebox! I hope they wait until the end of the episode, but I hope when they do talk about it it becomes an involved discussion.