Interview with writer, Sally Wainwright
Sally Wainwright is no stranger to hit drama’s, with ‘Scott and Bailey‘, ‘Unforgiven‘ and ‘At Home with the Braithwaites‘ to name but a few. Here she talks about her new BBC One drama ‘Last Tango in Halifax‘ and what inspired the story.
Where did the idea from Last Tango come from?
It’s my mum’s story; this happened to my mum. My dad (Harry Wainwright) died in 2001, and my mum (Dorothy) came to live with us in Oxfordshire, in our granny flat. My sister helped her put her details on Friends Reunited, and she discovered just two people there from her year at school (in Elland, West Yorkshire). One of them was Alec Walker. He was also widowed, and living with his daughter in Northamptonshire. They started writing to one another, and then he asked if she’d like to meet up. They fell in love with one another, and got married within six months.
It turned out Alec had always had a bit of a crush on her. They’d known each other since they were four, but they hadn’t seen each other since they were 16 when Alec’s family moved away to Harrogate. Alec was a delightful man; they made each other laugh endlessly. They were worried people would think they were daft getting married at their age, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were clearly in love with each other and the whole thing was just uplifting and life-affirming and joyous.
What made you want to tell your mum’s story?
Every time I told anyone mum and Alec’s story, their face would light up in utter joy that two people had found something so special so late in life, and it was just so obvious that I should write about it. It’s simply a great story. Uplifting, life-affirming, joyous. Those words just come to me all the time when I think about what happened. I hope people feel those things when they watch it. It was a lovely piece to write. I loved being in this world.
You have assembled a fantastic cast, what made you choose Derek and Anne to play the lead roles?
Well, we went for the best and we got them. It really was that simple. The brilliant thing about Anne and Derek is they embody the spirit of the show; it’s not about being old, it’s about being in love. And they are like my mum and Alec, it was weird being with them sometimes because it really wasn’t unlike being with my mum and Alec. They’re both so affectionate and happy, and with a real zest for life. Annie found out that Derek could jive, so they got together and lobbied for a scene that they could jive together in! It’s gorgeous, uplifting, funny. And they have a fabulous chemistmry, you really believe they’re in love, and have been for 60 years. I’m equally delighted, thrilled, over the moon about Sarah playing Caroline and Nicola playing Gillian. Apart from the sheer talent, they’re just all four of them the nicest people you could ever wish to work with.
So what can we expect from Last Tango?
Lots of surprises. Whilst the over-arching story of Derek and Anne is uplifting and life affirming, their dysfunctional families bring drama and chaos at every turn. We see Caroline, a head strong, successful career woman question her life choices and her relationship with her mother whilst Gillian makes some terrible decisions with disastrous consequences. Over six parts we really get under the skin of these characters and as their stories unfold I think audiences will really relate to them.