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Jimmy McGovern kindly took the time to answer a few questions on the series for me recently - many thanks to him for his time and effort.


Q: Which Cracker story are you most proud of?


A: The very first one: The Mad Woman In The Attic. I thought Michael Winterbottom directed it superbly. When I first watched it, about twelve years ago, the story went like a train. But all film and television drama has quickened since then.


Q: Which did you find the the most difficult to write?  


A: One Day A Lemming Will Fly. I wasnít supposed to write it, you see. Another writer (a well respected theatre writer) was supposed to do it. But he handed in an appalling script and so I had to write it from scratch in something like a week. Iím sick of the huge respect shown to writers from the theatre. I know from bitter experience that many of them cannot tell a story.


Q: How much of yourself did you put into Fitz?


A: That would be telling. LoadsÖ


Q: Do you have your own particular favourite moments/scenes from the series?


A: I love the sequence in which the prime suspect in Mad Woman In The Attic is arrested as soon as he leaves hospital, then abused in the police car, then slammed in the cell. Though I say it myself, itís a good demonstration of the importance of sound and camera angle.


I also like stammering Seanís rage to Fitz in the police cell in To Say I Love You.


And, of course, all the stuff to do with Fitzís motherís death in Brotherly Love. She was based on my own late mother.  I think Brotherly Love is an under-rated story. I think the subject matter (prostitution) put people off.


Q: How much input did you have into the stories you didn't write, and in particular the way the final series ended?


A: Very little. I had my own problems trying to write the ones I had to write. I wanted to leave after the second series ended but Sally Head, executive-producer at the time, wouldnít let Jimmy Beck rape Penhaligon unless I agreed to come back for the third series. Thatís why I wrote Brotherly Love. But by the time Iíd finished it, I was knackered. I wasnít just writing Fitz, you see, I was living him. And it was taking its toll.


Q: Was there any particular reason why the original scripts were used as the basis for the novelisations? 


A: Iím afraid I havenít read the novelisations.


Q: Was Fitz and Panhandle's relationship always meant to be ill-fated?


A: I wouldnít call it ill fated. Difficult, yes. Up and down, yes. But not particularly ill fated.


Q: Did you always plan to write the Bilborough death/Beck & Penhaligon plotline - or was it something that just developed over the course of the series? And did you have no choice but to kill Beck off?


A: After series one Chris Eccleston wouldnít come back for series two. We didnít want him to simply disappear; we wanted to get some drama out of it. So I phoned Chris and told him in detail about his big death scene and he agreed to do it. The trouble is, Chris was magnificent in that death scene. Everybody remembers it. And, when Chris did leave, his phone never stopped ringing with job offers.


So Lorcan Cranitch decided to get in on the act and he refused to come back as Jimmy Beck for series three. Again, we didnít want him to just disappear so I had to phone Lorcan and give him a blow by blow account of HIS death scene and Lorcan too agreed to come back for it. When you see major characters die in a drama series itís almost always down to contractual stuff.


The Penhaligon rape strand was different. I was hoping to be asked to write a Prime Suspect in which Jane Tennison got raped. But then Cracker happened so I used it in that.


Q: What was your opinion of the US version?


I saw only the first one. I thought it was okay. But only okay.


Q: Why do you feel the series was such a success?


A: I honestly believe it was the first post-feminist drama series. And it happened just as everyone was getting sick of political correctness. The timing couldnít have been better.


The Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006