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Thaddeus O'Sullivan discusses directing on BBC One drama Silent Witness
13 Jan 2020 : Nathan Griffin
The Irish director returns to helm episodes three and four of Britain’s longest-running crime drama, Silent Witness.

Titled “Close to Home”, O’Sullivan’s two-part instalment airs on BBC One at 9 pm this Monday, January 13th and Wednesday, January 15th.

This story ("Close to Home") is about teenage boys who have been kidnapped, forensics has proven they were kept alive for months before they were killed and their bodies dumped in this rural community,” said O’Sullivan when discussing the dark premise of this week’s show with IFTN. “Where have the boys been all this time, and what has been happening to them? And who killed them?”

“It's a dark story by Ed Whitmore,” continued Thaddeus. “I've done about three or four episodes now with Ed and his stories get darker and darker!”

O’Sullivan has featured as a returning director on the BBC One series for several years now, highlighting the varied and diverse subject matter as a key factor toward his continued working relationship with the show: “The thing I like about Silent Witness is the freedom the writers have with the subject and story lines. Another writer I've worked with is Tim Prager. He's more interested in social issues and I've done two episodes with him – one a story featuring a couple with disability (played by disabled actors) and another about knife crime in south London. So between these two, I’ve had the chance to tell a range of great stories by very engaged writers”.

The primetime Emmy-nominated director expanded on how the producers’ willingness to allow directors personalise the look and feel of the show makes the show very attractive to cast and crew alike. “All the producers I've worked with on the series have wanted to give directors as much freedom as possible. Directors are free to hire DoPs, Editors, etc. If you start the season you may get to hire Costume and Design as well, but usually they're already on board. The producers like the show to look good and so there's an expectation that director and DoP will bring a distinctive look to each story.”

“In Silent Witness the non-regular parts are always substantial – unlike some long-running series – and (mostly!) well written, which is why it attracts some very good actors,” said O’Sullivan. “I think it's the range of subject matter that makes it feel, as a director, that you're not working to a prescription.”

Discussing what viewers can see in tonight’s episode, Thaddeus noted the extra lengths the show is willing to go to for authenticity. “In the story tonight we went to great lengths to use a small village that's clearly isolated in a rural community. TV productions based in London like to work close to the city (avoiding travel time, overtime, etc.) so it can be a struggle to get completely out of London for some desired look. But the ambition is there on SW, the production is willing to try but it can make for a killer shooting schedule trying to achieve it all.”

On the topic of upcoming projects currently being worked on, O’Sullivan hinted at the possibility of something closer to home. “At the moment I'm working on a few projects. Two with the writers I've just mentioned (not Silent Witness projects). One I hope will go into production in Ireland in July. And I am also working with our own great Mark O'Halloran (with whom I made Citizen Lane with recently). We'll see!”

The first of the two-part instalment, Silent Witness: Close to Home airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One.




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