Interview with Louise Doughty - Writer of Platform 7

Platform 7 streaming exclusively on ITVX from Thursday 7th December

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Tell us where the idea for the book came from?

The novel version of Platform 7 was set on Peterborough railway station and it's a station that I've had a long relationship with. I grew up in the East Midlands, went to university in Leeds, which involved changing trains at Peterborough, then I did a postgrad in Norwich which meant I had to change chains at Peterborough and I then moved to London for the next 30 years of my life and whenever I went home I had to change trains at Peterborough. There was many cold winter night where I stood on that platform having just missed a connection. I used to have a standing joke that if I had been bad and died and went to purgatory, I would find myself trapped on Peterborough railway station on a freezing November night. That's where the idea came from: a railway station as a metaphor for purgatory, and a young woman who has died there in mysterious circumstances and is trapped there until the mystery of her death is solved.

Can you introduce us to the main character, what can you tell us about her?

The lead character of Platform 7 is called Lisa. She's a young woman, she's a ghost and as the story begins she has no memory about her past life let alone what caused her death. One night at 4am a man comes onto the station to throw himself under a freight train - she attempts to stop him and fails - and the next day, to her shock, he is back on the station as ghost. She begins to talk to him, and her memory starts to return. Then one day she sees Matty or Matthew, a man that she was in a relationship with in her living life. She sees him with her parents as they come to lay flowers on the spot where she died and she finds she's free of the station - she's able to follow the people that she knew in her real life, and she starts to unpick what happened to her.

In terms of a toolbox for a set for a story - talk about what a train station gives you as a writer.
It's a fantastic gift for a writer because you have a setting where there is huge amounts of action: there are scores of people passing through at all times of day and night. I spent a lot of time on Peterborough railway station myself as I was researching the novel and got to know the staff quite well: I really felt for the way in which this small community has to be dealing with customer's minor needs all day - why is the lift broken, why is my service six minutes late - and then suddenly they may have to deal with life or death situations.

Every staff member that I spoke to had witnessed a very serious incident or dealt with the aftermath: maybe on a station, or when they were working on the trains, either somebody had gone under a train or been injured or a fight breaking out. Railway station staff aren’t trained in the same way that paramedics or police officers are, and most of the time they have to deal with very mundane things but then suddenly they have to deal with these extraordinary situations. So creating that community was great fun and it was a terrific backdrop for the main story and I'm really glad we managed to preserve some of that in the TV version. Something that sounds quite unpromising actually turned out to be a great gift for me as a novelist.

Talk about your experience of creating a show, or a show being created by your book? And also your working relationship with Paula.

One of the more amusing elements of being adapted for television is that everybody asks, how do you feel about it, it's your baby and you have to let it go when another writer comes in and takes your work and changes it... I'm here to tell you that it's absolutely bliss. I love it! Paula Milne is a wonderful writer in her own right, she does very few adaptations, so I was very lucky to get her for Platform 7 and I have to be honest, when I wrote that novel I thought myself, well there's no way they'll put this one on film or TV but how wrong was I about that!

Tell me about your reaction to Jasmine coming in to play Lisa?

I was completely thrilled to bits when we got Jasmine Jobson for the lead role of Lisa. I'm a big fan of Top Boy, I've watched it since the very first series and I think what she brings to Platform 7 is something that's so necessary, which is that you feel that Lisa is an active participant in her own drama even when she's a ghost. In the novel the character of Lisa drifts around, thinking about things. In a work of prose fiction, you can get away with a character being relatively passive because you have interior thought. But on the screen, she needed to be much more dynamic, more of an active participant in the investigation of her own death. Jasmine's performance really brings that dynamic quality to Lisa's character: we first meet her as a ghost - but when you see her in flashback as a living woman, you realise how vibrant and strong Lisa was, and that brings real poignancy to what has happened to her. Jasmine really shows her range here, and it's a joy to see.

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Streaming exclusively on ITVX from Thursday 7th December.

November 30, 2023 3:00am ET by ITV Press Centre  

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