A prolific writer with credits including Stormbreaker and Foyle’s War, Anthony Horowitz tells Tim Dams about his latest New Blood
New Blood is your first BBC drama – how did it come about? I have been an ITV writer for a very, very long time. About 80% of my work has been for ITV. But I began conversations with [former BBC head of drama] Ben Stephenson and mentioned to him that I had a new crime format. He was very interested, particularly as he was looking for material that would play younger, for an audience in their twenties and thirties. I sent Ben the first script on Monday for New Blood, and by Friday he had commissioned it.
Why didn’t you take it to ITV? For a long time I have argued that the three breaks in an hour of ITV drama makes it extremely difficult for a writer to maintain any degree of emotional honesty. Or just to keep the narrative rolling. I have long wanted the purity of the BBC1 hour.
What spurred you to write New Blood? My interest is what it is like to be 20 – 25 years old in London. And that is what gives this show its freshness. The leads are not those slow middle-aged problem-carrying detectives you see so often on TV. They get drunk, they bicycle everywhere, they are always asking for a pay rise, they cling to their jobs by their fingernails. The show has got that smile to it, which I think has been missing from British television.
So it’s not a dark, grungy show? I am slightly wary of more battered women, more chopped up women, more kidnapped children – all that stuff. I want something that makes me smile but which has the same danger, and the same excitement.
What kind of shows would you compare it to? People have talked about Spooks, Starsky and Hutch. I often mention Lethal Weapon because that gives you an idea of the bromance at the heart of it, and the banter and the fun – in a dangerous and quite violent world. The action is a little heightened. At the end of episode three, the two boys are chased through a London hotel by two chamber maids with AK-47 machine guns. They get to the roof and realise the only way out is to jump off the roof down into the swimming pool below.
Tell us about the casting? It’s brave of the BBC to launch a major 9pm show with two unknowns who are carrying the whole thing on their shoulders. I wanted the boys to be outsiders. I didn’t want them to be British – Anglo-Saxon white British. That puts them into too much of a mould: what school they went too, what class their parents were. So I thought I would go Eastern European and Iranian.
And it’s in London? We shot a lot in East London. London is very much a third character. The London you see is cosmopolitan and multinational. It is very now – London with all its energy.
What’s the climate like for TV writers now? The atmosphere has changed while I have been a writer. It is now a fantastic time to be a TV writer. If I asked someone in the street five years ago to name half a dozen TV writers, they wouldn’t be able to name one. But now names like Sally Wainwright, Jed Mercurio or Vince Gilligan are household names because television has become authored.
Television has become what literature was 20 years ago – it’s a hotbed of new ideas and people trying to do original things rather than making tired formats. Now you can watch shows like Breaking Bad, The Good Wife or The Night Manager. 20 years ago it wasn’t like that – TV has come of age.
You’ve written over 40 novels as well as plays and TV screenplays. How do you fit it all in? It boils down to no social life! That’s not true entirely. But I love writing – I adore storytelling – I love the whole business. I work very, very long hours. So does Jill. Sometimes we will sit together in our Clerkenwell home and it will be 11.30 on a Friday night and we are both at our desks doing stuff.. I think being married to the producer creates an environment where work comes first. It always does. My children know this as well. Work comes first – that is the rule in the family.
Which medium do you enjoy most – plays, TV or novels? Probably TV – I love the collaboration, the excitement, the speed. I love the fact that a TV page has got fewer words on it than a page of a novel. There’s more white space, so less to do! What excites me is that Ben and Mark are going to be stars in six months time. And they are so nice, and they have been such fun to work with. You don’t get that with a book.
Newcomers Mark Strepan (The Mill) and Ben Tavassoli (No Offence) star in Horowitz’s new BBC1 investigative drama, New Blood.
The 7×60-series is produced by Eleventh Hour Films (Safe House, Foyle’s War, Vexed), which is run by Horowitz’s wife Jill Green.
Directed by Anthony Philipson (Cuffs, Our Girl) New Blood portrays modern London through the eyes of two outsiders – one Polish/British and the other Iranian/British.
Strepan and Tavassoli play the roles of junior investigators working at the Serious Fraud Office and the police. Brought together by two seemingly unrelated cases, they come up against the uber rich and powerful – corporations, individuals, governments and the new breed of criminals who hide behind legitimate facades and are guarded by lawyers.
The series producer is Eve Gutierrez.
New Blood is available on the iPlayer now and airs on BBC1 at 9pm on Thursday 9th June
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