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Morrissey on drama producing

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07 October 2010

Interview: David Morrissey is one of the UK’s most acclaimed actors, the Bafta nominated-star of State of Play and Red Riding.

He also a director and producer, running his own indie - Stagereel - with his brother Prof. Paul Morrissey. Morrissey’s latest project is Sky1’s new crime drama Thorne: Sleepyhead which airs this Sunday (10th October).

As well as starring in Thorne he developed the piece with author Mark Billingham, and executive produced the series through Stagereel.

The Morrissey brothers previously ran another indie, Tubedale, which co-produced Patrice Leconte’s highly regarded feature The Man on the Train and several David Morrissey-directed shorts and his feature directorial debut Don’t Worry about Me.

Ahead of Thorne's transmission, Morrissey talked to Televisual about his work behind - rather than infront - of the camera.

Why did you decide to go into production and set up an indie?
It’s a desire to do things from a conceptual point of view. Lot of times as an actor you come in late in the process. You leave early and I want to be involved from A-Z really. I wanted to see a process through.

I was always a very nosy actor. I liked being on set even when my character wasn’t called. I was looking to direct and work with writers, but didn’t know to go about getting employed as a director. So I decided to make a short film and financed it myself. At one point I had to draw up contracts and employ people and I had no idea how to do that. My brother Paul was a businessman. So I went to him to help me with the business side of that. And he did that - and enjoyed it.

We made a number of shorts through our company Tubedale. The success of those shorts meant that I got work as a director. Then Paul and I carried on with company and did some co-production deals that I really enjoyed. We worked with Patrice Leconte on The Man On The Train. And we made our first feature which I directed and produced called Don’t Worry About Me.

How did you come to develop and star in Thorne?
I was in New Zealand and I read one Mark (Billingham)’s Thorne books. I liked it and Googled it and found out that he said that if it ever came to screen he’d like me to play the part. When I came back to England I met him, and we decided that Stagereel and Mark would form a company together.

How did you get the commission from Sky?
Sky came to us. We were working on the project, as a company developing it for telly. We hadn’t gone to any broadcasters - we were preparing our pitch and Sky came to us. Mark’s books were already on Sky’s radar. They found out I was involved which they were very happy about - and have been very supportive through whole process.

You can see that their desire for the future is to make a lot more drama and be a big player in that field. And I support that. I’m a big fan of the BBC, ITV and C4 and BBC. There is good room for another strong player in there and everyone needs strong opposition. Sky’s commitment to drama can only be good thing for all of us.

What have you got coming up next?

We have got quite a few things in development. We’re developing two films with the UK Film Council before they go under. And there’s a couple of TV projects that we’re working on as well.

What’s your sense of the outlook for British TV drama right now?
Every industry in Britain is having to face terrible cuts - the police, health and education - and even drama. It is going to be tough. But I would say that when I look at the screen, things like This is England ’86 and Sherlock show there is great drama being made. I travel around the world a lot and we have got a lot to be proud of and we need to encourage that.

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