Tag Archives: Ripper Street

RIPPER STREET – H Division Files: Waldo Mason

Damian Michael Barcroft interviews the prosthetic make-up effects and creature FX genius that is Waldo Mason. We talk Ripper Street, the Elephant Man and our love of movie monsters!


Waldo Mason with Joseph Drake as the Elephant Man on the set of the second series of ‘Ripper Street’

Phossy Jaw, severed heads, dismembered bodies and burnt, mummified, putrid corpses – welcome to the weird and truly wonderful world of Waldo! One of the leading make-up effects artists in the country, Waldo Mason has been creating everything from subtle scars to complete silicone bodies and alien creatures for over twenty years. As a fan of horror and monster make-up effects since early childhood, it is my pleasure and a privilege to present this exclusive interview…

Lon Chaney: One of the early pioneers of makeup effects and truly a man of a thousand faces

Lon Chaney: One of the early pioneers of makeup effects and truly a man of a thousand faces

DAMIAN MICHAEL BARCROFT: I was practically raised on horror as a child by my two uncles who would let me stay up late and watch all those great monster films of Universal and Hammer Studios whenever my mother was foolish enough to leave them in charge of babysitting. I’ve studied and written about these and more contemporary horror films as an adult but I’ve never forgotten the power and potency of those early movie monsters. I imagine you must have been similarly attracted to the genre in your own youth?

WALDO MASON: Yes, the Hammer and Universal films were the first exposure for me too, I would stay over at my friends house and watch midnight double bills of The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man etc. The 70’s TV movie of Steven King’s Salem’s Lot was also an early influence and whereas the early Universal films were very atmospheric if not that scary, that film made me sleep with the light on afterwards!

The classic and arguably definitive monster movie makeup designs from the Universal Horror Cycle of the 30s & 40s

The classic and arguably definitive monster movie makeup designs from the Universal Horror Cycle of the 30s & 40s

DAMIAN: The great Lon Chaney was perhaps the most celebrated of the early makeup artists but other influential greats include Universal’s resident maker of monsters Jack P. Pierce (creator of such iconic creatures as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and the Wolf Man) but I also admire Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton for their classic Hammer Horror films. I was wondering to what extent any of these films and filmmakers have inspired and informed your own work?

WALDO: I loved Jack Pierce’s monster designs, particularly the Frankenstein makeup, because it was made for a black and white medium and so was very theatrical in its execution, giving it a very classical, iconic look. But I preferred Phil Leakeys more gruesome take on the same character in Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein, made all the more impressive by the fact that it was done without moulds and created from scratch with cotton wool and latex every day! This illustrated to me that the things we make don’t always have to be sculpted and moulded, but can be fabricated directly. I’ve had to do makeups at very short notice this way and also use this approach for the anatomical details in autopsy bodies.

hammer1hammer4hammer2hammer3DAMIAN: The world of creature and makeup design was revolutionised in 1981 with the release of An American Werewolf in London which featured stunning prosthetics and robotic body parts by Rick Baker. Can you describe the first time you saw this and the impact it had on you?

WALDO: I watched it on a pirated VHS copy as I was about 13 at the time and stood no chance of seeing it properly, and it was a revelation. I lost count of the number of times I watched the transformation scene, trying to work out how it was done and I honestly believe it has never been bettered to this day.


‘An American Werewolf in London’ (1981)

DAMIAN: Rick Baker revisited the world of lycanthrophy for the remake of The Wolf Man. Unfortunately the film was a critical and box office disappointment which I thought was a shame because it is actually quite good and remains faithful to the 1941 original while still delivering a few shocks and twists of its own. However, I was disappointed by the reliance on CGI which detracted from the power of Rick Baker’s makeup – what went wrong?

WALDO: It was a troubled film, suffering from the departure of the original director, Mark Romanek and the original makeup and costume designers which may have affected the decision making process regarding the effects required and the build time involved. Ultimately I’m not sure why there was such a heavy reliance on CGI but I know that the original intent was to do as much as possible for real which was the reason Rick was on board and we actually made practical versions of some of these effects which for one reason or another ended up being achieved digitally.


Rick Baker on the set of the 2010 ‘Wolf Man’ remake starring Benicio Del Toro in the role made famous by Lon Chaney Jr

DAMIAN: Can you talk me through the work you did on The Wolf Man and did you get to meet the great Rick Baker?

WALDO: I was involved in the post attack carnage which covered limbs, bodies and injuries. These included actor David stern’s freshly killed body, the death of the Ben Talbot character and the viewing of his body, various limbs being lopped off in the gypsy camp attack and a man torn in half with his intestines spread over the ground, to name a few! And yes, I met Rick Baker who was really cool and had some great stories going back all the way to American Werewolf, so I was very pleased to have worked on The Wolfman for that, if nothing else!


‘The Wolf Man’ – Waldo’s silicone likeness of David Stern

'The Wolf Man' - Waldo's silicone body of Ben Talbot

‘The Wolf Man’ – Waldo’s silicone body of Ben Talbot

DAMIAN: Many Ripperologists such as myself loved the idea of Inspector Abberline investigating the werewolf murders in The Wolf Man which brings us nicely to Ripper Street. You worked as prosthetics designer on both the first and second series, how did you become involved in the show?

WALDO: I was working on a film called Byzantium in Ireland and heard rumours about a Ripper themed show starting up over there, so after making some enquiries I contacted the show’s line producer Cait Collins who was very receptive to my suggestion of providing some prosthetic content, and after the first series was completed I was invited back for the second run which was even more ambitious both in storylines and the effects needed to facilitate them!

ernestmanbyDAMIAN: For the second episode of the first series of Ripper Street you created the body of Ernest Manby who was brutally beaten to death. The head, neck and arms were fully articulated and the mouth opened to reveal the tongue which was cut out and even gold teeth. Reminding the reader of aspects of your work such as hair-punching (every hair has to be individually inserted with a tiny needle into the “skin”), how long does this process take from the initial design concepts to the finished piece ready for filming?

WALDO: We had four weeks to make Manby’s body and we started with a lifecast of David Coon’s upper body and pulled out a clay positive which I cleaned up and sculpted the wounds into. We only built an upper body due to cost & time and the body would be having a sheet covering his modesty anyway! Rather than doing initial designs I used descriptive points from the script along with photos of the belt buckle that leaves marks on his face and emailed progress photos to director Tom Shankland as we went so that he could have his input (“More, nastier”!). When he was happy the body was moulded by Robin Schoonraad and we set an armature into the mould and filled it with silicone.

Work on progress on Ernest Manby's body

Work in progress on Ernest Manby’s body

The silicone was then tidied and painted by Nikkie Grimshaw and the hair punched by Katy Hood. For the finishing touches I gave him mutton chops & stubble, chopped up the fiberglass core in the head and inserted dentures with the gold teeth for Jackson to discover in the morgue at Leman Street.

A physical reference model to depict a sufferer of Phossy Jaw

A physical reference model to depict a sufferer of Phossy Jaw

DAMIAN: The first two episodes of the second series of Ripper Street are notable for the appearance of the tragic Joseph Merrick better known to the world as the Elephant Man. Obviously audiences will remember David Lynch’s classic 1980 film with John Hurt playing Merrick and wearing the celebrated makeup by Chris Tucker who is one of the world’s leading genetic makeup experts. You must have been rather apprehensive about taking on such an iconic figure as the Elephant Man?

WALDO: Chris Tucker’s work on The Elephant Man is so definitive that it’s what most people visualise when you talk about Joseph Merrick, simply because more people have seen that version than photos of Merrick himself so yes, we had big shoes to fill.

DAMIAN: I believe the makeup for your vision of the Elephant Man consisted of a silicone cowl, pre-painted cap plastic encapsulated face pieces for each shooting day, knotted hair pieces, upper and lower dentures, a slip-on deformed hand and a padded undersuit to distort the body shape. Can you tell us how many artists were involved during this process and how you managed to coordinate each individual creative aspect?

WALDO: I was fortunate enough to have some very talented people on the crew, and luckily sculptor Ivan Manzella had always wanted to create a version of that makeup so I was happy to let him! Justin Pitkethly sculpted the misshapen hand alongside Ivan doing the face to maintain consistency and both were moulded by Tom Packwood. Nikkie grimshaw ran and painted the silicone cowl, hands and encapsulated face pieces and the hairpieces were made by Barney Nikolic. Chris Lyons from Fangs FX made us dentures based on photos I sourced of contemporary Proteus Syndrome sufferers’ teeth and finally Cerina Knott fabricated a padded undersuit to alter the actor’s body shape. For the shoot Emma Sheffield joined us to help apply the makeups, which generally took around three hours.


Joseph Drake as the Elephant Man with Emma Sheffield, Justin Pitkethly & Waldo Mason

DAMIAN: There are still many Merrick medical records and artifacts stored at the Royal London Hospital, what research and reference materials did you consult?

WALDO: I had attempted to contact the hospital regarding this but had no luck, so being that we were on a tight schedule we worked purely from web sourced reference photos of Merrick, his death mask and his skeleton.

DAMIAN: Tucker didn’t want the audience to be appalled by Merrick’s appearance and tried to make the face sympathetic and sad rather than hideous. Mike Barlett also created Elephant Man makeup for From Hell with perhaps a more horrific focus, what was your vision for the character?

WALDO: We decided he should definitely be sympathetic, as his story arc called for him to be vulnerable but you can’t take too many liberties with his look because it’s so distinctive and we wanted to stay as faithful to the reference as possible. So it really became an exercise in making sure that such a large makeup could still be very mobile and expressive so that Joseph Drake could convey that vulnerability through his performance, both facially and vocally, which he did beautifully!

DAMIAN: We couldn’t possibly discuss all of your film and television work but I wanted to remind the reader of some of the other incredible projects you’ve been involved on: Alien vs. Predator, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Prometheus, and The World’s End, to name but a few. What’s been your most challenging or rewarding job?

WALDO: I would have to say The World’s End was probably the most challenging because of the breakneck pace of the shoot and the weeks and weeks of freezing night shoots in winter!

DAMIAN: And who has been the most demanding director to work with, I’m guessing Ridley Scott (Prometheus) who is so creatively involved in every aspect of production, right?

WALDO: Actually Edgar Wright was the most demanding, just because he is completely focused, has a very clear vision of what he wants and is a total perfectionist, all of which are good things, you just have to work harder… Ridley was surprisingly laid back actually, I thought he would be really tough to work with but he was great and knows exactly how to shoot a tricky effects setup to make it work.

DAMIAN: Was Ridley chomping on a cigar when you met him?

WALDO: No-one gets to smoke on a soundstage anymore, not even Ridley Scott!

DAMIAN: One of your recent projects is Fox’s new production of Frankenstein starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe who is a rather curious choice for Igor considering how the character is usually portrayed. The film is written by Max Landis (Chronicle) and directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and I imagine this is going to take a completely revisionist approach – what can you tell us?

WALDO: Very little I’m afraid, as Fox take their confidentiality agreements very seriously! I was originally going to do more on it than I have but due to schedule conflicts I had to scale back my involvement. But what I have seen of it looks great!

DAMIAN: I like to imagine your home as somewhat similar to Hannibal Lecter’s kitchen (Waldo did in fact work on the prequel Hannibal Rising) with shelves full of anatomical reference books and various body parts casually littered about the house. However, in all seriousness, do you think there is a rather dark side to your nature that attracts you to such a profession that is frequently so grisly?

WALDO: Haha! That’s actually a pretty good description of my workshop! No, there’s no dark side, I’ve just been lucky enough to combine my love of art with my love of film and make a career of it and shows like Ripper Street keep things very interesting for me!

DAMIAN: Waldo, thanks for this interview, I think you’re an absolute genius and your work continues to astound me. I wish you and all your silicone friends the very best for the future!

WALDO: You’re very kind, thank you!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~




Later that evening…

Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia

I’m a celebrity get me out of…

Alas, for Declan it was too late…


Declan Donnelly by Waldo Mason for Millenium FX

Thank you Waldo, one down – one to go…

REVENGE – Ripper style!


Miracle on Ripper Street

By Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to “Save Ripper Street”

At 09:30 this morning, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video invited various members of the press to attend a conference at the Andaz Hotel, 40 Liverpool Street, London, where they made the announcement that Ripper Street would be returning for a much deserved and indeed demanded third series.

Series creator and lead writer, Richard Warlow, together with Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Myanna Buring formed part of the panel for a Q&A session after the announcement which was then followed by a photo call.

Today’s news was greeted with cheers from fans all over the world and it is of those fans that I wish to both address and applaud this evening. Ripper Street is returning because of the passion of its incredibly talented cast and crew, the commitment of Tiger Aspect Productions but also the unwavering dedication of its fanbase which has had an immeasurable influence over the decision to commission a third, and quite possibly – even a fourth series and beyond!

Firstly, we must acknowledge David Saunderson who started the petition which has received a truly staggering 40,277 signatures including 19k likes on facebook and tweeted 1,966 times – not to mention the incalculable use of the following hashtag on twitter: #SaveRipperStreet

RSlaunch2If you played any part of the phenomenal success of this or even created your own petition (there were quite a few!), wrote letters, emailed and phoned the BBC to voice your anger and disappointment of the shows cancellation, I hope you feel justifiably proud and that you share a special connection to Ripper Street and its beloved characters when it returns to our screens. Hard to believe I know, but yes, against all the odds, Ripper Street really WILL return.

Another factor in the phenomenal success of David’s campaign was the contribution of a certain twitter account but I’ll let @SaveRipperSt speak for itself and like many superheroes, one of its creators wishes to remain anonymous:

“The day we set up the @SaveRipperSt twitter account we were also going to set up an on-line petition to accompany it, but David Saunderson pipped us to the post so we immediately put our weight behind his.
As well as encouraging people to sign the petition, we flagged up ways of complaining to the BBC: by e-mail, telephone and — very regular — tweeting. We also did much to ensure that Ripper Street topped that Radio Times poll. Though we included fun photos, we always wanted our campaign to be professional — rather than taking the crazed-fan approach — and never personal or overbearing. Our tweets about ‘resorting to Plan B’ (with an accompany illustration of a Victorian mob outside the Beeb) and ‘readying the billy club’ did prove particularly popular, though…
We were fully aware from the outset that, regardless of whether we sat twiddling our thumbs or taking to the streets, Tiger Aspect (the production company) would be beavering away behind the scenes to try to save their show. So what was our role? On one level, it was to give the fans a voice. (And that included us!) It was a forum where we felt that we could do something and be heard and communicate with like-minded people who appreciate high quality adult drama when they see it. But, of course, it was more than that because, although our followers numbered little more than 2,000, our reach — via retweeting — far exceeded that, and people really DID complain to the BBC in impressive numbers, quite apart from the 40,000 plus signatures on the petition. So, we’d like to feel that we at least kept the BBC focused; their minds on saving Ripper Street.
And, in the end, we played our part. The BBC News website ended its report on the revival of Ripper Street by quoting one of our tweets: “We #SaveRipperStreet fans may have been little more than a flea in the ear of @BBCOne in the greater scheme of things. But WHAT a flea.” And The Telegraph said “as today’s events have proved, people power cannot be underestimated.”
So how do we feel? Glad that Ripper Street will be returning to our screens for another series because, in the end, that’s what it was all about: saving a series with such high production values, superb acting and standout writing. Welcome back, H Division.”
– @SaveRipperSt

So, well done David, @SaveRipperSt and each and every one of you who made this possible – you are all now part of the history and legacy of Ripper Street and long may it continue.

For now, goodnight Whitechapel – best get some sleep as there is much work to be done…

Your friend,

Damian Michael Barcroft



BREAKING NEWS: Ripper Street Returns…

LONDON: 26 February – 09:30am

Yesterday I received an invitation to attend a press conference at a certain London hotel this morning and due to begin any moment now.

Amazon’s Prime Instant Video will be making an “exciting announcement” regarding Ripper Street and the stars of the show together with various members of the production crew and executives are in attendance for a Q&A session and photo call.

So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to Whitechapel – Ripper Street WILL return and it’s official.

This information was under strict embargo until 09:30 today but there were a few subtle hints…


I’ll keep you up to date with all the news!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~



Since June 2012, long before the first episode had even aired, I have been championing Ripper Street as an inventive, stylish and highly original British drama. How did I know it would be such a success and that I would love it so much? Well, to start with, given my interest in Detective Fiction and all things Victorian, it was right up my street and also the fact that so much talent was involved – everyone from the writers and directors to the stunning ensemble cast – I knew it would be one to watch. Indeed, every episode has exceeded my wildest expectations and it seems my faith in the show was well rewarded.

It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to interview and get to know so many of the Ripper Street family over the last year or so and I’m very proud to call many of them friends. Sadly however, our journey now seems to be at an end. So, for the very last time, please allow me to be your guide through the dark and bloody Ripper Street

Damian Michael Barcroft

Damian Michael Barcroft

By Damian Michael Barcroft

Featuring exclusive contributions from the cast/crew of “Ripper Street”


Original art by Veronika Arisu Kuncová



PC Dick Hobbs

PC Dick Hobbs

Leman Street…

PC DICK HOBBS: Errrr, Excuse me, can I help you?

DAMIAN: Sorry, I was just having one last look around – one final trip down memory lane… Hobbs? PC Dick Hobbs…

HOBBS: Yeah, that’s me. Well remembered…

DAMIAN: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Whitechapel so quiet. So, they’re all gone now, nothing but memories and – you…

HOBBS: Where else is there for me to go? I couldn’t just leave the place abandoned, someone has to watch over Whitechapel.

DAMIAN: Does anyone know what happened to them all?

HOBBS: Erm, well, I know Mr. Reid settled down somewhere nice, Hampton-on-Sea if I remember correctly. And… err.. Bennett, he did something similar I think… and then Jackson… Well, God only knows what he’s up to…

DAMIAN: You know something Hobbs, it was never quite the same without you. We all missed you.

HOBBS: Well that’s very kind of you to say so. I loved every minute of it until my last breath. I just wish I could see Reid, Drake and Jackson again. Miss those guys a lot.

DAMIAN: We all do Hobbs. Well, I’d better be off, should be meeting some old friends at The Brown Bear later this evening. You’ll be staying here then?

HOBBS: Standing guard until they return, if they ever do return! – Whitechapel needs its H Division.

DAMIAN: Indeed it does. Well, Merry Christmas Hobbs.

HOBBS: Thanks mate. You too.

Sir Arthur Donaldson

Sir Arthur Donaldson

Tenter Street…

DAMIAN: Good evening to you sir.

SIR ARTHUR DONALDSON: It will improve as darkness takes hold…

DAMIAN: I suppose if you had to spend eternity haunting somewhere, Tenter Street would be the place for you!

DONALDSON: It certainly has its attractions.

DAMIAN: You know, you were the first Ripper Street interview I ever did – seems like a long time ago now…

DONALDSON: Yes, I seem to recall that it brought about feelings of pleasure. I usually have to work far harder to achieve those sensations…

DAMIAN: Well, I just wanted to say thank you. Our interview gave me the confidence to pursue all the others that followed.


DAMIAN: Well sir, Merry Christmas.

DONALDSON: Same to you Damian. And I think I can speak for all the cast when I say your contribution to keeping Ripper Street in the social media spotlight has been absolutely outstanding. Personally, it was a genuine honour to play the villain in that all-important debut episode (as well as something of a pressure!) and this will remain a credit to be hugely proud of in the years to come.

The Brown Bear…

DAMIAN: Miss Cobden! Thanks for coming. Please sit down, will you join me for a drink?

JANE COBDEN: Certainly will sir…oh look sawdust on the floor, how quaint! Where is everybody?

DAMIAN: Well, I invited everyone but it looks like this is it – just you and me!

JANE: Nevermind. The ole Christmas do is a funny thing at the best of times, but round here you never know what they all get up to.

DAMIAN: So, are you all ready for Christmas?

JANE: Ah yes. Me and the great unwashed of Whitechapel have been planning a lovely day. What have you been up to?

DAMIAN: Just revisiting old haunts. Remembering ghosts from the past…

JANE: For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne…

DAMIAN: Indeed, let’s drink to old friends.

JANE: Don’t go all sentimental on me will you? – I’m all for flouting gender stereotypes and all that, but I can’t be doing with a grown man weeping into his sherry.

DAMIAN: Quite right. Well, Merry Christmas Miss Cobden, and whatever the future might hold for Whitechapel, a very happy new year!

JANE: And to you… oh, and do cheer up old boy. It’s not like it’s the last time we’ll all be together…is it? Hey, look! – the rest of the gang are arriving…


My thanks to:

Jonathan Barnwell as PC Dick Hobbs

Mark Dexter as Sir Arthur Donaldson


Leanne Best as Jane Cobden


Ladies and gentlemen, I present the cast and crew of Ripper Street…

Edordo Ballerini

Edordo Ballerini

What can I say? Ripper Street was one of the greatest experiences of my professional life. The production was superb in every way, my part of Mr. Goodnight was delicious, the cast and crew were brilliant. I shall never forget my time in Dublin. Such a shame the show was cancelled. It deserved a better fate than one of its victims.

– Edoardo Ballerini (Frank Goodnight, Series 1: A Man of My Company/What Use Our Work?)


Jonathan Barnwell

Jonathan Barnwell

Ripper Street was my first job, straight out of drama school… so I had never experienced any of it before. To be honest, it was an absolute dream, it really was. I will never forget Matthew, Jerome and Adam, they really looked after me – they looked after everyone, they had an energy about them which was infectious. They were just a joy to be around – and so were MyAnna and Charlene. But the show just would not work without the incredible crew.

RIP PC Dick Hobbs

RIP PC Dick Hobbs

I will always be really proud that I was a part of such a brilliant show, it was the perfect start for me – and I have Kate Rhodes James to thank for that.”

Jonathan Barnwell (PC Dick Hobbs, Series 1)


Ed Bruce

Ed Bruce

“It has been a wonderful journey working with the great writing team, cast and crew on Ripper Street. Myself and my team have thoroughly enjoyed adding our stamp and making Dublin appear as 1889/90 London.

Personally working with directors like Andy, Kieron, Colm, Tom & Chris has been my highlight. Each very talented, bringing their own stamp and style to the show. I look forward to seeing them on set in the near future.

It is always a joy to have a mandate for the highest quality asked of all departments by Stephen Smallwood and Tiger Aspect. Each team brought their A game to this show.

VFX got to work closely with the remarkable Mark Geraghty helping extend his beautiful sets into wider vistas. There was a great balance between practical and visual effects.

It was also a great pleasure to collaborate with Prosthetics and Makeup, especially working with Waldo Mason on Se02ep03’s Phossy Jaw design.

As a team we’ve made something we’re all very proud of. I look forward to working again with the same cast and crew, whether it be Ripper Street or something completely different.

I tip my hat to Tiger Aspect, Stephen Smallwood, the wonderful writers, cast and crew of Ripper Street.”

– Ed Bruce (Visual Effects Supervisor, Series 1 & 2)


MyAnna Buring

MyAnna Buring

“Being part of the Ripper Street family and getting to play Long Susan for the last two years has been so much fun… Richard Warlow, and subsequently Toby Finlay, and our other writers created such a rich world for all of us to work in and inhabit – and everyone threw themselves into it – from sound, set design, props department, directors, casting, costumes, hair, makeup, camera, lights, cast, production, crew… It was a privilege to work with such talent and dedication… The audience response has been tremendously heart warming this year particularly and I tip Long Susan’s feathered hat in thanks to all for this support…”

– MyAnna Buring (Long Susan, Series 1 & 2)


Jamie Crichton - Writer

Jamie Crichton – Writer

Ripper Street is a show that exemplifies television at its best: it entertains whilst simultaneously informing. Where else can one interweave stories about the genesis of physical force Irish Republicanism and the War of Currents into the same episode? The London matchgirls strike, the telegraph boys, religious cults, heroin, the Elephant Man – just a few examples of the diverse worlds we learned about during the course of the series, each integrated seamlessly into compelling crime stories. These are narratives rich with history, and it will be sorely missed by those who appreciate finely crafted drama.”

– Jamie Crichton (Writer, Series 2: Dynamite and a Woman)


Simon Dennis - Director of Photography

Simon Dennis – Director of Photography

“Having worked on Ripper Street and first hand witnessing the amazing inventive scripts, the incredibly authentic & extremely well crafted sets & props, the faultless & exquisite costumes, the intuitive & correct choice of directors, the wonderful hard working proud crew & technicians and of course the top draw first rate talent of the key cast and surrounding characters it baffles me that such a ‘respected & followed’ show has been cancelled! For me as a creative element it was a privilege to work on this exciting show that has everything TV lacks in our country – Solid, compelling well executed drama! BBC don’t know a good thing when they make it.”

– Simon Dennis (Director of Photography, Series 2)

Photo by Simon Dennis

Photo: Simon Dennis

Photo: Simon Dennis

Photo: Simon Dennis

Photo: Simon Dennis

Photo: Simon Dennis


Craige Els

Craige Els

“I cannot praise highly enough the talent, in every department, that goes into making Ripper Street the fantastic show that it is. I was privileged enough to spend 3 weeks working with the team on the final two episodes, and the professionalism & creativity combined with a sense of fun made it a fantastic experience. The scripts, cast, and production values make it a truly unique show, the likes of which our general TV scheduling sorely lacks. I’m astounded that this is the end of the road for a show that has such a huge following/fan-base, and some of the best ratings around – but nevertheless I’m grateful to have been even a part of it. The BBC will rue the day they let this one go!”

– Craige Els (Botha Brother, Series 2: Our Betrayal Parts 1 & 2)


Photo: Garret Farrell

Photo: Garret Farrell

“To be part of the team that brought such a wonderfully gritty and real depth to the Victorian city of London and in particular, Whitechapel was a real honour and privilege.

The show with its colourful characters and language really connected with people and it was only through both the fantastic cast and crew’s commitment to bringing really verisimilitude to the screen that this was possible.

From gruesome murders to hilarious one liners it had everything and will be looked back upon by both the audience and anyone who had a part in bringing it to life with the fondest of memories.

For my part, every day brought new challenges and opportunities to breath life into the murky underbelly of London through the soundscape and it’s a great feeling when you see it all come together in such a believable and sometimes terrifying fashion!

From the Brothels and Gaming houses of Tenter Street to the Jail cells of Leman street I for one will miss the Journeys we took through Whitechapel.

Farewell Ripper Street.

Take care


– Garret Farrell (Re-recording mixer, Series 2)


Toby Finlay

Toby Finlay

“As I write this, we remain dead. If there exists a reprieve, some last minute vaulting heroism from the wings before the curtain drops, it has yet to stride brightly forth. On Monday night the final show of the second series will air, and we have to assume this is last orders, final call, the end of the end.

But what a blast it was while it lasted. What a privilege to write for such a cast, who would push themselves so hard and so deep in their performances. What a pleasure to have a production team who would tirelessly render my most outlandish locations and theatrics real in every sordid detail. But more than any of that: what an unparalleled, astonishing, bittersweet joy to feel the eruption of anger and disbelief from fans of Ripper Street at its cancelling. We tried to make the best show we could, the show we wanted to watch; and it’s a happy thing, even at this disappointing time, to know that so many people connected with that.

Thanks for coming along on the ride with us.”

– Toby Finlay (Writer, Series 1 & 2)


Photo: Steven Hall

Photo: Steven Hall

Photo: Steven Hall

Photo: Steven Hall

“I got a call in January 2012 to go to Dublin and work on a new TV Drama called Ripper Street. As is common with TV Drama series, they were spending a lot of money on the first 2 episodes so decided to add a 2nd Unit DOP and an additional Camera Operator on episodes 1&2. I thought the cast were excellent, I’d worked with Jerome Flynn years ago on Soldier Soldier and I knew Matthew MacFadyen from my time on Spooks and Ashes to Ashes (he’s in a couple of episodes and his wife, Keeley Hawes, was the central character). As with all TV Drama’s the schedule on Ripper Street was pretty crazy, but being based in Dublin for 2 months was great fun and very enjoyable. I thought Dublin doubled for 19th century East London very well, but to be honest the choice of location was more to do with Irish tax breaks than available and accessible Victorian architecture. The central set was built in a disused barracks near Kilmainham Jail – which was also used as a location, and we also shot at Dublin Castle and the old Poolbeg power station. As a viewer, I thought Ripper Street was very good and certainly delivered in a visual sense. Mark Geraghty’s Production Design was a ‘triumph’ as the critics would say and with some simple but effective CG set extensions the tight budget goes a long way.”

– Steven Hall (Director of Photography, Series 1: I Need Light/In My Protection)


Kieron Hawkes – Director

“Whenever I hear people say things like this I think it’s bullshit, but I honestly really did love working on Ripper Street. The crew are incredible; every department was razor sharp both artistically and technically. It would genuinely be impossible to make a show of this scale and size, in the time, without an amazing crew that work together like a well-tuned machine. The cast were nothing but a joy to direct. The atmosphere on set, because of them, felt open and creative. It’s tough going into an established, successful show, and more so as a relative newcomer, but I was made to feel welcome and part of that creative process from day one. It seems bonkers to me to cancel the show at this point, as well as sad. Having been part of the show, and based on my witnessing of the enthusiasm, creativity and brilliance of the production side of the project, I can guarantee the best of the show was yet to come, but certainly on it’s way. Ta.”

– Kieron Hawkes (Director, Series 2: Threads of Silk and Gold/A Stronger Loving World)


Photo: David Hobbs (see youtube link below for more pictures)

Photo: David Hobbs (see his youtube link below for more pictures)

“On the Set of Ripper Street 2, on the final days filming with the lead actors Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Roger Yuan & Damien Molony with David Hobbs & Barbara Gergely from Mr Hobbs Coffee. Also thanks to Mark Noonan/Production for contacting me, as first point of call.

The Photos were taken in Clancy Barracks in Dublin on the Friday 30th August 2013 .

I was hired by the Main actors, to offer a Mobile Coffee /Traditional Barista Service to all the Actors and Crew / Extras as a way of saying thankyou, to everyone for their hardwork and support while filming in Dublin. Matthew Macfadyen came to me early on to check everything was ready and was really happy, and agreed to pose for some nice photos with me and Barbara.

I would just like to wish all the Actors & Production Crew all the best, and I hope there will be a Ripper Street 3, as the Series has been a breath of fresh air, in terms of Real Quality Drama, and the standard of acting has been excellent and original, the special effects and action scenes, really cool, and when I met Jerome Flynn he, looked like he had been training with Mike Tyson with the make up he had on.

I applaud the BBC for producing this series.”

– David Hobbs (Owner of Mr Hobbs Coffee)




Rebecca Hughes

Rebecca Hughes

Rebecca Hughes

Rebecca Hughes

“Working on Ripper Street has been the highlight of my summers. Both seasons were just as amazing to be a part of as each other and I would do anything to go back and do it again. The cast and crew were simply amazing to work with and I wish them the best of luck in the future.”

– Rebecca Hughes (Supporting artist, Series 1 & 2)


Joseph Kirwan

Joseph Kirwan

“What can I say about what has happened except “craziness”. It’s the only word that makes any sense of it. Ripper Street was an amazing place to work, unbelievable crew and an amazing cast. It never felt like going to work, there was just so much fun on set. Well done to everyone involved and hopefully we will see it back soon.

I will leave everyone with just the words “WHALE OIL”. Hopefully Jerome will read this and get a chuckle from it : ) Joe”

– Joseph Kirwan (Set Medic)


Aaron Ly

Aaron Ly with Kunjue Li

“Working on Ripper Street was such an honour for me. What an amazing cast and crew. Not to forget the amazing stunt team who worked with me on episode one.”

– Aaron Ly (Wong King Fai, Series 2: Pure as the Driven)


Hannah Mamalis

Hannah Mamalis

“Getting cast in Ripper Street was my first role and so it will always be very special to me. However, it’s only now I think I’m truly beginning to appreciate how incredibly lucky I am to have worked on such an accomplished, entertaining show, teeming with such a talented group of actors, writers and directors. Despite having a small role, I was overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of spirit surrounding the whole production and not only did I learn so much from both cast and crew, I also had loads of fun. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that they all just happen to be incredibly sexy.

Really and truly though, thank you one and all, always.

Hannah x”

– Hannah Mamalis (Ettie, Series 2: Become Man)


Photo: Waldo Mason

Photo: Waldo Mason

“I’d just like to say what a pleasure it’s been to work on both series. Everyone has been fantastic to work with, at every level, and I will miss the experience very much. Thanks especially to Cait for getting me on board and Sharon & team for their fantastic collaboration.


– Waldo Mason (Special Make-up effects, Series 1 & 2)


Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

Ripper Street. A world unlike anything else on British Television. By turns it has been: gloriously violent, beautifully grimy and then surprisingly tender amidst all this. It wears it’s genre stripes with pride, but is centred (like all great television) around compelling characters.

It shows a world that we think we know (the East End of the Ripper) and every week casts it in a new and fascinating light, always developing and growing the landscape; mythic and boldly stylish in how it achieves this.

I loved directing the two episodes I worked on because I knew all the time: I would watch this and I would love this. I got to work with incredible people and collaborate in the making of something to be proud of.

The tenacity of all those involved in managing to make something this proudly distinctive in a grey landscape, where so much is insipid and dull, is truly heartening. It shows that British TV still has balls.

It is particularly pleasing to see the reaction to the decision to axe the show. But who could have thought it would go down without a fight? They want to behead Ripper Street? I hope they like bloody spittle in their eye.

– Colm McCarthy (Director, Series 1: The Weight of One Man’s Heart/Tournament of Shadows)


Charlene McKenna

Charlene McKenna

“I guess it’s just unbelievable that our journey was so ruthlessly cut short when we were just in the middle of telling our story. That said I’ve had such a ball on this show and will miss my Ripper family more than I can say. Rose was SO much fun to play a wonderful fire ball of contradiction and heart. The cast and crew are diamonds every one and I know they’ll go on to create more genius in the future. x”

– Charlene McKenna (Rose Erskine, Series 1 & 2)


Sheila Moylette

Sheila Moylette

“As an actress who’d just graduated from film school here in Dublin, the chance to be even just a small part of a prime-time BBC drama was such a blessing… and I was even luckier in the fact that it was the beautifully made Ripper Street! (My scene was filmed on the very last day of Series 2, so yes, very lucky indeed!) Its opened many doors for me professionally, and I’ve proudly told all my family, friends, and peers all about the show and my brief-but-fabulous time on set… I mean, how many peeps get to go to work and run about in a 100-year-old skirt and a legit corset (which the lovely costume ladies informed me works like jeans; tight at first but they adjust to your bodyheat)!?

On set, and at the wrap party, I got to meet most of the talented cast and crew, and throughout, there was one very common thread linking all the chatter; everybody was not only incredibly proud of the show, but they all spoke sincerely of how fortunate they felt getting to work on such a fab, friendly, warm and professional set! And I really couldn’t have asked for a better start in the industry. *Thank you* so very very much to all who made my experience possible and so memorable, I truly hope season 3 happens in the new year!

Sheila Moylette

Sheila Moylette

And on a final note, since filming, I travelled to London and walked through Whitechapel on a Jack the Ripper tour… and I discovered that ol’ Jack very possibly murdered one of my ancestors, Rose Mylett! So I certainly felt a much deeper connection to my character of ‘Agatha’ (one of Miss Susan’s ‘Tenter Street’ gewls) and the women portrayed on the show.”

– Sheila Moylette (Agatha, Series 2: Become Man)


Lorna Marie Mugan

Lorna Marie Mugan

Ripper Street has been such a creatively stimulating show to work on. It has been a real privilege to work with the talented ensemble of cast , writers, directors and the various creative teams in camera, art, makeup/hair and wardrobe. There was a great sense of commitment to excellence right across the production from the beginning . This blossomed and grew, delivering a compelling second series and opening new paths and possibilities for the characters . There are many great stories yet to be told.”

– Lorna Marie Mugan (Costume designer, Series 1 & 2)


Chris Patrick-Simpson

Chris Patrick-Simpson

“I had a ball working episode 6, the cast and crew were wonderful and so professional, I feel it is a great privilege to have worked on such a classy well made drama! As a fan of the show I think it’s such a shame that it has been cancelled”.

– Chris Patrick-Simpson (Samuel Gaddis, Series 2: A Stronger Loving World)


Amber Jean Rowan - Ida

Amber Jean Rowan – Ida

“I loved working on Ripper Street it was such a lovely experience, the cast and crew were very sweet and such fun. Ripper Street has opened lots of doors for me so I am very grateful for being a part of it 🙂

I love the show!!

You’re all legends!

X x”

– Amber Jean Rowan (Ida, Series 2: Become Man)


gillian saker

Gillian Saker and Jerome Flynn

Ripper Street was my first ever professional job. I couldn’t have possibly had a more wonderful introduction to the industry; the cast and crew are kind and nurturing and there was a genuine and contagious excitement that could only come from working on something that everyone loves and cares about deeply. Truly, truly grateful. Big love to all!”

– Gillian Saker (Bella, Series 1 & 2)


Elva Trill

Elva Trill

Ripper Street is an all round cracker of a show. It has characters to fall in love with and storylines that keep you waiting with bated breath for the next episode. Being a part of Ripper was a blessing and it couldn’t have been more enjoyable.”

– Elva Trill (Stella Brooks, Series 2: Am I Not Monstrous?)


Jonathan White

Jonathan White

“For the Irish cast & crew, Ripper Street has been a source of both joy & pride. A wonderful working atmosphere, convivial yet diligent. And the immense satisfaction at seeing the end-product which can hold its head high with the best TV drama in the world. Acting, direction, design but above all writing of a superior calibre. If it does go, as we say in Irish Ní bheidh a letheid ann arís – Its like will not be there again!”

– Jonathan White (Madam, Series 1: The King Came Calling)


Goodnight Whitechapel and a very Merry Christmas!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~


Edmund Reid and friend

Edmund Reid and friend

Good news for the future of RIPPER STREET… Maybe?

Although its early days, it looks as though Ripper Street could return for a third series after all! Less than a week ago, and much to the anger and frustration of thousands of fans across the world, the BBC announced that it would not be commissioning further episodes.

However, earlier today, many websites were posting rumours that the BBC were in talks with potential backers including the video-on-demand company, Lovefilm, to invest in the shows future. Additionally, a spokesperson has apparently said that they are “looking at partnerships that could enable Ripper Street to return but at better value to licence fee payers”.

So, let’s wait for more official and confirmed statements before getting too excited but it at least seems as though talks are happening.

In the meantime, you can send a message to the BBC and potential investors and show your support for the show by signing any or all of the petitions listed below which have a slightly different focus but share two common factors: they all want to see Ripper Street back on our screens and they were created by passionate fans just like you!

Commission Ripper Street for a third series or one-off specials
(Petition by me, Damian Michael Barcroft)
In addition to the sudden and depressing realisation that we will never get to fully explore the lives of our favourite Whitechapel residents and learn of their collective future and fate, the news that the BBC has axed Ripper Street paints an altogether more unsettling portrait of the television industry and indeed the cultural appetite of its audience as a whole…


Reverse the BBC’s decision to cancel Ripper Street
(Petition by David Saunderson)
As TV licence holders, taxpayers and Ripper Street fans, we object to the BBC’s rash programming decision to cancel quality drama Ripper Street because it was not “successful” in the ratings against mindless reality show I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here…


BBC America: Put Ripper Street back on the air now, not Feb 2014. Also reverse Ripper Street cancellation
(Petition by Lynn Miesch)
Ripper Street fans in the US are requesting the following from BBC America:
1. Reverse the cancellation of Ripper Street.
2. Begin airing Ripper Street Season 2 immediately
3. Give Ripper Street back the original time slot of 9pm Saturday


(Petition by Tamlin McPherson)
It has been a long time since the BBC produced good quality, well written drama with exellent production values and a spectacular cast. This series as being cancelled because it was placed head to head with a reality tv show, this wouldn’t be happening had it’s time slot not been changed, we urge Mr Cohen and the BBC to re-think the decision to cancel this excellent television drama…


To the BBC: Please re-think your decision to cancel Ripper Street
(Petition by Steffon Worthington)
We believe the decision to cancel this excellent crime drama is short sighted, especially as it’s ratings had been compared to ‘I’m a Celebrity..’ on another channel. A transient tv show is no equal in terms of programming quality. Ratings, of which Ripper Street has a good number anyway, should not be the only criterion on which to continue a programme…



Damian Michael Barcroft


Sarah Gallagher – RIPPER STREET’S first victim!

Damian Michael Barcroft talks exclusively to actress and model, Sarah Gallagher, a name to look out for in the future who has already achieved great success in Irish theatre and television. Sarah also has the distinction of being the very first victim in RIPPER STREET!

DAMIAN: Sarah, congratulations on being a part of Ripper Street history!

SARAH: Thank you. It feels wonderful to have been involved in such a great production. I am happy that I was a part of it and had great fun filming too.

DAMIAN: Obviously it was recently announced that the show would not be commissioned for a third series despite being a huge hit with many critics and a very loyal fanbase. What were your initial thoughts on the show’s potential when you first read the script?

SARAH: It is hard to tell, when you get handed a script, whether something is going to blow up or just go under the radar. The subject of course is one that has always been popular so one would assume that it would be a hit. Once I got on set I realised that it was going to be big and how much work had been put in. But of course you can only hope that something is going to be popular.

Inspector Edmund Reid discovers the body of Maud Thwaites (Sarah Gallagher)

Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) discovers the body of Maud Thwaites (Sarah Gallagher)

DAMIAN: Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be cast as Maude Thwaites in the first episode of series one, I Need Light?

SARAH: Well firstly I was sent sides [DAMIAN: “Sides” are script excerpts used for audition purposes] for both Maude and Rose. When I read through I thought that the characters were very interesting and from that it made me excited about reading for the parts. I hadn’t met with Tom Shankland [Director] at the casting but was asked to come in and have a talk to him about the character of Maude. I could tell from meeting him and chatting that this was going to be a good production so I got on board.

DAMIAN: I can’t help but notice your stunning red hair which reminded me of Mary Kelly’s, the fifth and supposedly final canonical Jack the Ripper victim. Is this pure coincidence or was your hair colour and style a pacific requirement in the script or from the casting director?

SARAH: I think that the hair colour was in the minds of the director and the stylists. When I first read the sides for some of the characters, red hair was in their descriptions. And with the hair and makeup department, they had reference pictures and a lot of the women in those had red hair, so it seemed that the colour was something they were consciously thinking about.

DAMIAN: One of the show’s greatest achievements is the atmospheric production design, can you describe your first day on set?

SARAH: I was blown away by the sets on the first day. I remember wandering around Whitechapel, the facades were so real and they had constructed alleyways and interiors so beautifully and realistically. From that I knew it was going to be a production of very high quality.

DAMIAN: It is through the discovery of Maude Thwaites’ body in the grisly crime scene at the beginning of the episode that effectively hooks the audience and sets the tone for not only the first episode, but the entire first and second series, was it difficult to film those scenes particularly those that follow in the prison cell at H Division police station?

SARAH: Not at all, everyone on set was great. And of course so professional. It never felt uncomfortable or stressful. It’s a testament to the cast and crew who made everything run so smoothly. They could have been difficult scenes, but everyone on set made it a fun experience.

Reid and Drake examine the crime scene

Reid and Drake examine the crime scene

DAMIAN: The depiction of the horrific injuries to Maude Thwaites were eerily reminiscent of some of the original Ripper murders, how long did it take to apply the special makeup effects?

SARAH: I had seven pieces of prosthetics on my face, which were applied so excellently by the makeup girls. They took 4 hours every day to put on, it was all very relaxing. I actually quite enjoyed getting my makeup done. If I was filming a scene where I had to be naked then two people would work on me, one for the prosthetics and one for the body makeup, to make me look dead.

DAMIAN: I presume that Matthew Mcfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg were complete gentlemen while filming the scenes in which your character lies naked in the prison cell, what was it like to work with them and under such circumstances?

SARAH: They were indeed complete gentlemen the whole time while filming. I think in those circumstances they were more wary than I was. You just have to make sure that everyone is comfortable. Before filming I was of course asked if I was comfortable with being moved or hands being placed anywhere. Once they knew I was at ease it worked very well.

Just your average girls night out in Whitechapel! Sarah on the set of 'Ripper Street'

Just another girl’s night out in Whitechapel! Sarah on the set of ‘Ripper Street’

DAMIAN: The original Whitechapel murders occurred in 1888 and the first series of Ripper Street is set a year later, why do you think audiences continue to be fascinated with this grisly period of Victorian history?

SARAH: I think it is the fact that they were never solved. When you don’t get closure there is always continual fascination. People watch to see if they can find out anything else, if they can find any more pieces to the puzzle. And the spin that Ripper Street is taking is very exciting so it was bound to be popular.

DAMIAN: Following the broadcast of the first episode, there was some negative publicity from certain newspapers and websites regarding its alleged exploitative portrayal of women. The programme is set in Victorian London where it is estimated that there were up to 120,000 prostitutes working during the 1800s. Do you think that the show accurately portrayed those aspects of Victorian society and what was your reaction to the controversy?

SARAH: I don’t think that the show would be the same if all those aspects were not included. This was the reality of the time. If you are going to censor it then what is the point. I think that you are always going to get people who complain, when you put something on in a primetime slot. The overall response was one of positivity so I think that overshadows anything negative.

The horrific injuries eerily reminiscent of the Jack the Ripper murders

DAMIAN: Was there ever any concern as to whether or not to accept the part given the graphic nudity and violence involved?

SARAH: When I read the sides and went to meet the director, I knew that the production was going to high quality, so I didn’t have any concern. I don’t have any issues with nudity or violence if I think they are bringing along the storyline and for this piece of course they are necessary.

DAMIAN: In my previous interview with Mark Dexter (who was also in the first episode as the villainous Sir Arthur Donaldson) we talked about Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s work, The Madwoman in the Attic, the 1979 study which examines Victorian fiction from a feminist perspective and exploring the notion that female characters either embody the image of “angel” or ” monster”. Would Maude, and indeed other female characters depicted in the first series, including Long Susan (MyAnna Buring), Rose Erskine (Charlene McKenna) and Emily Reid (Amanda Hale), fall into either of these two categories?

SARAH: I don’t think that any of the characters necessarily fit into either of those categories. I think that they have aspects of these characteristics but as Gilbert and Gubar say it is important to kill off both figures (angel and monster), as the characters are much more than that. As women in that era they had to be strong and resourceful and at the same time play the part of the innocent angel in some cases to get by. It is too easy to just lump characters into one or the other.

DAMIAN: Finally Sarah, in addition to the shocking scenes in the backstreets of Whitechapel and at the police station, we see your character in a number of crime scene photos which are juxtaposed with a framed portrait of Maude on Mr Thwaites’ desk in their home. This then leads to a touching subplot and back story for your character in which we learn Maude was saved from, and then forced back into prostitution by Mr Thwaites’ financial difficulties. To what extent do you think this subplot reveals the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of the Victorian gentleman?

SARAH: I think that it is very revealing how women were treated and of the hypocrisy. Women had no other choice but to work the profession they did, and yes sometimes it was for their family and to support their husbands, and they were exploited and looked down upon when they had no other way out. I think the subplot is important in showing how gentlemen of the time saw their women and treated them.

DAMIAN: Thank you for sharing your memories of Ripper Street with our readers Sarah.

Above/featured image copyright of Eric Molimard

Sarah is represented by Rachael Power, managing director of the ADA (Actors Direct Associates) Agency currently representing artists from the UK and Ireland. ADA launched in July 2010 and has had great success with actors on both sides of the waters appearing high profile television programmes, commercials and documentaries.
My sincere thanks to Sarah and Rachael for this interview and I wish them both every success with their future projects.
Twitter: @ADA_Actors – @RachaelPowerTV  – @SarahFGallagher


If you are frustrated and disappointed by the BBC’s misguided decision to axe Ripper Street, please consider signing the petition below for a third series or one-off special so that the story and characters can reach the suitable conclusion that they deserve.


Thank you,

Damian Michael Barcroft


Don’t miss the penultimate episode of Ripper Street tonight at 9 on BBC1

Watch it live and show the BBC the extent of their mistake in not renewing Ripper Street for a third series!


I received an email this morning from my friend and mentor, Toby Finlay, whose sublime artistry over the written word is matched only by his kindness and generosity in inspiring and supporting writers such as myself. Needless to say, it is always with the greatest pleasure and amusement to find Toby lurking about your inbox because you can always depend on his mischievous wit and wisdom to brighten even the most tedious of days. Indeed, for those who haven’t had the privilege of such an email, although you will have almost certainly encountered his shenanigans on twitter, think Captain Homer Jackson in one of his particularly poetic moods.

However, today’s correspondence took an altogether more melancholy turn. Before I heard the sad news elsewhere, Toby wanted to let me know that Ripper Street had been cancelled. Toby has written four episodes for the series and has had a significant role in developing several others. Along with series creator and lead writer, Richard Warlow, Toby is arguably one of the most significant players in the second – and tragically final – journey that has made us fall in love with Reid, Drake, Jackson, Susan, Rose and the rest of the gang all over again. The reason I mention this, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I belabour the point, is that Toby should have had more pressing matters to attend to but he took the time to be the first one to inform me. I think I mentioned his kindness and generosity.

In addition to the sudden and depressing realisation that we will never get to fully explore the lives of our favourite Whitechapel residents and learn of their collective future and fate, today’s news paints an altogether more unsettling portrait of the television industry and indeed the cultural appetite of its audience as a whole. Before we discuss this further, I want to take issue with the British Broadcasting Corporation themselves and the following quotes are extracts from the BBC’s own website which explicitly state their mission, vision and values:

Our mission:
To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.
Our vision:
To be the most creative organisation in the world.
Our values:
Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.
Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.
We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.
Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation.
We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.
We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.

I would argue that the BBC are not only failing as an organisation in their endeavour to uphold the admirable objective to “inform, educate and entertain” but also guilty of not really understanding their licence fee paying public or at least not acknowledging the hopes and dreams of its audience in terms of what we expect from prime time entertainment.

We want to be challenged with adult dramas that deal with stimulating plots and provocative themes and issues. Ripper Street not only manages – or should I say managed? – these things on a weekly basis, but given its social and historical context, also most certainly adheres to the BBC’s remit to “inform, educate and entertain”.

Furthermore, the BBC’s website also states its six public purposes which include “stimulating creativity and cultural excellence”. Despite producing many quality dramas over the years, and I do acknowledge the BBC’s rich cultural heritage – not only in television but also radio, I find it most difficult to relate today’s decision to cancel Ripper Street to any of their aforementioned aims and objectives. Indeed, in my humble opinion, the BBC is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from its more commercial and unsavoury rivals.

In order to justify the licence fee, the BBC needs to stand out from its other terrestrial television competitors rather than emulate them in their planning and commissioning of their much heralded promotion of “Original British Drama” or is this only applicable to those that are written by either Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss or indeed both? Yes, and since I’ve mentioned these two gentlemen who seem to enjoy the artistic freedom to pursue any personal indulgence or obsession, what an excessive extravagance to promote Doctor Who and Sherlock so heavily when the BBC clearly did not apply the same enthusiasm or passion in their advertising for Ripper Street.

Additionally, the BBC’s decision to axe Ripper Street also highlights the cultural bankruptcy of the commissioning panels and powers that be, an epidemic that is spreading throughout our television schedules at an alarming rate and embracing the mind numbing and increasing trends and appetites for reality television.

We have been refining the art of storytelling as a human race since we were cavemen. Stories that have made us laugh and stories that have made us cry. These stories have transcended the spoken word and prospered throughout literature, theatre, film and television. If reality TV continues to plague our screens and our popular culture, I fear what will happen to our art – what is says about its artists and about their audience. Indeed, what will become of the next generation of actors, writers and directors?

So as sad as today’s news is, this isn’t just about Ripper Street, it’s about the many half-witted dullards who make up the high viewing figures for reality trash and encourage the television industry to create more of the same.

After hearing today’s sad news from Toby, I decided almost immediately to start an online petition. By the time I finished work someone had already beaten me to it. Good! I’m glad, I not only hope you sign both my petition at the bottom of this page but also theirs and that you might even create one of your own. Indeed, I hope everyone who reads this will not just take a stand against the cancellation of Ripper Street but also make your frustration known that we demand that the BBC invest in quality drama and its artists.

Tell them that we demand a third series, or at the very least, an opportunity for the writers, directors and actors to complete the legacy of Ripper Street and bring closure to our beloved characters by way of a one-off special.

Ironically, one of the BBC’s stated values reads as follows “We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together”. There may be some truth in that!

The are more stories to be told.

More tears to shed and more laughs to share.

We demand to see them on BBC1.


Thank you,

Damian Michael Barcroft

An exclusive interview with writer Toby Finlay

Oscar Wilde wrote that the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I simply couldn’t resist any longer – presenting the first part of my exclusive interview with the screenwriter of the feature film Dorian Gray plus episodes of Peaky Blinders and, of course, Ripper Street – Mr. Toby Finlay.

~ By Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Damian: Toby, thanks for agreeing to do this – again, I think it was Wilde who said no good deed goes unpunished!

Toby: Don’t quote Wilde at me or I’ll draw a gun. There was a time I had hundreds of his epigrams rattling round my head. I’d be spewing Wilde at the supermarket. In my sleep. Actually this kind of interview isn’t a punishment. When we were promoting Dorian Gray I did a couple of particularly asinine interviews… but this is fine. This is tolerable. We can do this. Just… No Wilde. I’m serious. Gun.

Damian: As you know, I’m a great enthusiast of Victorian Gothic Literature and I also have a particular fancy for the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Now, the reason I mention this is because of another of his admirers, the Parisian poet and writer Charles Baudelaire wrote the splendid book The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays in which he praises Poe as the most powerful pen of his age. Also, Baudelaire in perhaps his most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal/The Flowers of Evil (1857), a volume of poetry exploring decadence and eroticism, modernity and the urban metropolis – were obviously themes which you yourself developed in the script for Dorian Gray (2009). Additionally, given the aforementioned collection of poetry, I was intrigued by your own use of the flower and the burning petal motif in your adaptation which I don’t think was in Wilde’s original story. Is it significant that you taught English in Paris before you became a screenwriter and was Baudelaire’s work something you were familiar with and perhaps even influenced by during the writing of Dorian?

Toby: I’m not sure how significant living in Paris was to my writing, though it was deeply significant to my drinking and smoking. But certainly one reason I moved there – and I was 21 at that time – was because I was already heroising writers like Baudelaire, Hemingway, Rimbault… The guys everyone heroises when they’re a dumb young man with a pen in his hand. (I’m also a fan of Poe, incidentally, though that came later.) So yes, I was familiar with Baudelaire – had been since maybe 15 or so: in fact the primary reason I took French A-level was so I could learn (sort of) to read him in the original French. The image of the flower of evil was something that must have struck a sustained chord in me: as you say, I riff on flowers in Dorian Gray, and I do it again quite explicitly in one particular episode during the second series of Ripper Street.

I’m not sure why. Maybe the answer to this is related to my answer to your later question about birds: some objects, as physical ideas, just have a magnetism to them. I think Milan Kundera, in The Art of the Novel, talks about hats and hatstands in his work as “magical objects”: it’s a term which he does not really qualify, but one assumes he simply means ordinary props to which a writer is inexplicably drawn and which become somehow imbued by the currents of the story with a kind of aura. Maybe flowers and birds are just magical objects to me. Though hatstands are pretty groovy now I think about it.

Damian: Baudelaire highlighted Poe’s short story, The Man of the Crowd (1840) as a significant example of “the flâneur”, an urban explorer and connoisseur of the street. I’m fascinated by this idea of someone watching and observing life through the perspective of mysterious and strange individuals who we will perhaps never truly know or understand. I think there is an element of this in your work and I was wondering to what extent you would agree that a writer must inevitably become something of a flâneur himself?

Toby: I’m not sure a writer must inevitably be anything, other than capable of long bouts of solitude and concentration. But I’ve always liked that term flâneur, and I do enjoy walking in foreign cities, just taking in the wildlife. I used to walk the streets of Paris endlessly and I’ve done it in New York too, after Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy left a deep mark on me years ago. In my mid 20s I lived near Waterloo and used to walk along the Thames every day. I was born in London and feel like a creature of the city. The city is in some ways where all that’s best and worst about human beings can be found, and while I would never presume to give advice on either the art or the craft of writing, wandering that territory with an open mind is probably not unhelpful in the long run to a writer.

Damian: Before we discuss Ripper Street, I’m curious to explore your writing process. Where do you write? Does the room have a view, if so, what can you see? Do you write to music – what do you listen to? What books are on your bookshelf? Paint me a picture of Toby Finlay.

Toby: I think I might prefer to remain for the most part shrouded in shadow. I will however tell you the following. My musical holy trinity is Dylan, the Beatles and Bowie – but I never write to them, even though I do often write to music. My bookshelves are mostly fiction, poetry, drama – and are disordered… but if I scan them there are certain names which will always send a raw quiver to the core of me. TS Eliot. Raymond Chandler. Virginia Woolf. Beckett. Cummings. Byron. Roth. DeLillo. I think Don DeLillo is the greatest living writer in English. I hold Underworld up there with Ulysses as a bookend to the 20th century. All of those authors, along with plenty more, make me feel on a daily basis like I should stop pretending to be a writer.

Damian: How long does it take to write a script for an hour-long drama like Ripper Street? And rewrites?

Toby: It varies but generally you’re looking at a few weeks from idea to first draft by way of some sort of outline. My outlines for the first series were much more detailed than for the second, I guess because those in charge had faith that I already knew the world and characters. You always need rewrites to refine the story. Hemingway said the first draft of anything is shit, and like a lot of things he said it was true. But some stories need more reworking than others. Ep 6 of Ripper Street Series 1, for instance, took more time than ep 5, which was written faster and came out – give or take – fully formed. Then you have the invariably depressing process of production tweaks depending on what is or is not physically achievable. Anyway the whole thing moves at light-speed compared to movies.

Another way of answering this, which is certainly true for myself and I believe true of many writers, is that writing is fast but rewriting can take a long time. I mean this in terms of writing as a solo affair, not including notes or production issues. My own first draft is never the first draft I deliver. Writing a first draft is essentially plopping a mass of clay onto your worktop. You may need more or less of it, and it may suggest alternate forms to you, but that only becomes clear the more you work on it.

Damian: As we’ll explore later, your stories feature much historical and cultural detail. Do you undertake any necessary research before even beginning to write or do you research particular elements as you work your way through the script?

Toby: Both. A lot of the time I don’t fully know what I need to research until I start the story. And the key thing for me is always character: that’s my priority. If it came down to choosing between compromising the integrity of the character story or bending history, screw the history. Ripper Street isn’t documentary. But ideally one satisfies both.

But very often I set out to research one thing and then find some detail that opens a whole other doorway, and I become less interested in the first thing. This is one reason I get baffled when I hear about other writers (not on Ripper Street, I hasten to add) hiring researchers to do the heavy lifting for them. Quite often, what you think you’re looking for is far less interesting than some tangential nugget you stumble across on the path.

Damian: As a writer, is there a frustrated part of you that would like complete control over your scripts or do the directors you’ve worked with pretty much share your vision most of the time?

Toby: On Ripper Street I’ve had an excellent relationship with my directors in both the first and second series. I haven’t a bad word to say about them. In fact I’m likely to work again with Colm McCarthy, who shot the series 1 episodes we’re discussing. That said, I am a huge control freak and no amount of control will ever be enough for me. I would like to direct myself, particularly film. But there’s so much about the film industry I truly loathe. Really I should be writing novels where I can pore over every word and full stop and typeface until my obsessive-compulsive disorder implodes and I send myself fully insane.

Damian: Dorian Gray, Ripper Street and Peaky Blinders (above) are set during the Victorian era and just after the first World War. Is this a period of history which you feel particularly comfortable writing about or have a special interest in?

Toby: When I was first offered Dorian Gray, the primary attraction was in approaching British period drama in a wholly anti-traditional, anti-Merchant Ivory, anti-doily way. I think I said in interviews at the time that my primary inspiration was American Psycho – and I stand by that. The 1880s in London were, like the 1980s in New York, a period of bloated decadence in the last days of an empire on the brink of contraction and decline. I said at the time there were parallels between the character of Dorian Gray and Patrick Bateman – though a more obvious and relevant parallel as creatures of their era would, I suppose, be Jack the Ripper and Patrick Bateman.

The Ripper lore itself wasn’t particularly interesting to me – I felt Alan Moore’s From Hell (the book, not the dreadful film) was impossible to top (Alan Moore has been a hero since I was 12 – add him to the bookshelf answer). But there is much else in the period that I find intriguing. So many old certainties in a state of rupture and decay amid the anguished spasms of modernity. I’ve always loved the novels of Conrad, and that sense of an empire beginning to behold its own heart of darkness was appealing to me. A black prism through which to view phenomena which are in fact, one way or another, timeless. Maybe this relates to your question elsewhere about Colonel Faulkner and contemporary wars.

Having said all that, the ideas of my own that I’ve worked on and am working on presently are not period. I’d never want to go back beyond Victoriana, historically speaking; and after Ripper Street I can’t imagine I’d go near that era again either.

Damian: How did you come to be involved in Ripper Street?

Toby: I knew Richard Warlow from years back, from before we were both writers. I was working as a script-reader and he was a film executive, though I don’t think I ever actually worked with him. Anyway we’d met and always got along, and I assume he and Will Gould – producer of the show – asked me to meet about Ripper Street because of Dorian Gray (they’d read the script, which was somewhat harder edged than the film turned out to be). The story I pitched was some vague notion about Jewish anarchists and Russian spies. I thought they’d smile and show me the door, and then hire some people with actual experience in TV (I’d never written TV before this). But amazingly they had faith. I have a great deal of gratitude to both Warlow and Will for that.

Damian: I now want to focus on the fifth episode in the first series of Ripper Street, The Weight of One Man’s Heart. Obviously you worked in close collaboration with series creator and lead writer, Richard Warlow, but I was wondering how much of the plot was planned in advance – for example the overall story arc – and how free you were to just take the characters in any chosen direction?

Toby: At the start of that first series Richard Warlow had a lengthy document with his ideas for main characters and their backstories – he’d particularly thought out Reid and Jackson – and a sense of the overall arc he wanted in terms of the mystery concerning Reid’s daughter and of why Jackson and Long Susan had fled America. But he was – and remains – very happy to give writers the freedom within their episodes to plot as they please. We had a rough idea of what story elements from the over-arching narrative needed to occur in which episodes, but that shifted somewhat during the process. Which suits me, because I’m the kind of writer who largely likes to be left to his own devices. For instance, the whole of ep 6 with the anarchists and Russian spies and the Bloom brothers – that was all stuff I just came up with and they let me run with it. I can’t speak highly enough of Richard Warlow as being the driving force of this show whilst also being a collaborator of great generosity.

Damian: The episode opens with Sergeant Bennet Drake in his cottage shaving in front of a mirror. The camera lingers on his many tattoos which were previously highlighted to great dramatic effect in episode two. We know that Inspector Edmund Reid has his own scars, indeed both physical and emotional, but it seems that Drake’s tattoos also seem to represent his own scarring and history. Was this episode always destined to become predominantly about Drake and his past?

Toby: Initially I was only down to write one episode – episode 6. Ep 5 at that stage didn’t have a writer attached, but one idea which had come up in the storylining room was of some kind of heist, possibly with returning soldiers from some distant imperial outpost. After I delivered ep 6, Warlow and Will Gould were pleased with my work and offered me ep 5 as well. I liked the idea of doing a heist story which was really about something else (i.e. the characters); and there was a sense that in the series Drake hadn’t had a chance to really take centre stage yet, so it was agreed that he should be the focus of this episode.

But at that stage the nature of his past was still a little vague. Warlow had from the beginning imagined Drake as returned from some distant war with all the accordant trauma… But I don’t think it had been fully decided what war, and what trauma. And certainly there was at that point no notion of Faulkner or any such character. Nor was there the premise of Drake being turned away from Reid, being conscripted into the crime story. It was all in the air, so I felt like I had carte blanche here to really dig in.

And so, the whole notion of Egypt and Egyptology and the creation of Faulkner came when I set about researching and writing. I liked the idea of a Colonel figure who was essentially Drake’s corrupted father, who could dominate even Reid and was therefore capable of turning Drake from Reid. And the Egyptian stuff gave him mythic stature, as well as a kind of folklore and creation myth he could have shared with Drake as part of Drake’s “education” and passage into manhood. I spent a few happy days in the British Museum, read The Book of the Dead… And so much of the imagery seemed potent. Particularly, given his love for Rose, the notion of the weighing of the heart.

To give a minor example of how over-arcing strands of the series are moulded: in the original draft of episode 2, Warlow had written Drake as having a tattoo of some kind acquired in mysterious circumstances while at war. When I got into the Egyptian mythology, I wanted to play with Sekhmet as goddess of both love and war and wanted that to be his tattoo. Thus a design was found and that tattoo was retro-fitted into ep 2, so that it could be alluded to visually and in the story and then picked up in my ep 5.

Damian: This is possibly one of Flynn’s finest episodes in terms of providing him with the material for dramatic range and emotion. Which came first, the story of Colonel Madoc Faulkner or the character development of both Drake and Rose Erskine?

Toby: As above, Faulkner came about during the writing of the episode. I think Warlow and Will and I all felt that something should develop here between Drake and Rose because it’s set up in (I think) the first episode when he saves her and first lays eyes on her. But Drake’s love would be unrequited, because (a) it’s more interesting and (b) Warlow had plans for Rose in the later episodes. So I guess the answer would be that everyone wanted this ep to progress their relationship, and that probably preceded everything else on a story and plot level.

Damian: I loved the fleeting glimpse of Drake’s aftershave, a bottle of “Romantic Bay Rum cologne astringent – 58% Alcohol”. Not only might this serve as a hint of the romantic elements of the story that follows and Drake’s hopes of wooing Rose but it also seems to be a reference to the Western elements of the series – particularly in this episode – wasn’t “Bay Rum” a favourite of the cowboys in the Ogallala barber shops?

Toby: I think I put Bay Rum in the script because someone told me it’s what a man of Drake’s position would probably slap on. That in itself wasn’t a conscious Western allusion. Everything else, however, was. I love Westerns.

Damian: In my interview with Mark Dexter [Sir Arthur Donaldson from the first episode of series one] he told me that he was talking to someone in America and they said that Victorian London is basically Britain’s version of the Wild West in terms of backdrop to drama. Indeed, in your episode there are several nods to the genre, perhaps most notably the scene with Drake and Faulkner in a rowdy bar. Faulkner pulls a gun on Drake and the other patrons leap to their feet, chairs scraping as they back away and flee the bar. Is this sort of scenario a deliberate attempt at evoking the Wild West?

Toby: Definitely. As I said, I have a great love of Westerns and the frontier mythology, particularly the revisionist stuff of Leone and Peckinpah. The way Drake and Faulkner end up, rifles on each other… It’s that classic stand-off between former comrades. I was probably thinking of something like Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

Damian: Your scripts always seem to be rather multilayered and there are many themes and ideas in this episode that may have escaped the attention of general audiences on their first viewing. Firstly, I want to pick up on the copious references to Egyptian history and culture which begin with the aforementioned tattoos and quickly continue into the following scene with Drake and Rose outside the theatre as they are about to see a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. We then have some lovely moments including Rose quoting lines from the play, “Where souls do couch on flowers, we’ll hand in hand, And with our sprightly port make the ghosts gaze…”, and on the subject of flowers once again, Drake has already given her a bunch of roses while delivering the line, “Nothing’s more lovely than a Rose”. Even in this simple and yet effective little scene, we establish many of the episodes plot strands and themes with great precision and economy: lonely Drake desperately looking for someone to share his life with, Rose wanting to escape from the dark world of prostitution into the limelight of the stage and the foreshadowing of the all important Egyptian mythology which resonates throughout the entire episode. Is this pure serendipity, the result of hard work and rewrites or just sheer genius?

Toby: I’m certainly no genius, but nor is it serendipity. What does that leave? Hard work I suppose. Writing ought to be layered, dense with thought. As I said, I rewrite a great deal before I even submit a script and begin production rewrites etc. Those choices you mention were all deliberate, though they certainly didn’t all occur to me at once. But one of the parts of writing I enjoy is seeking out the connections and rhymes that make something feel like more than just the story it tells. So for instance: I wanted Drake and Rose coming out of the theatre. What have they been to see? Well, there’s this strain of Egyptology, so Antony and Cleopatra seems a good fit. Plus it’s a love story, in which a fine man and soldier is ultimately broken over his love for a woman… It just felt right. You swim by night through dead flotsam from the beacons of connection to connection and hope you eventually reach some sort of sunny shore.

Damian: On the subject of dramatic motifs, it would be remiss of me not to mention those bloody birds. Indeed there are enough avian references in this episode to keep Tippi Hedren in therapy for years! On chancing upon the lovebirds in the marketplace at the beginning of the episode, the bird seller says, “Mr Drake! Why, a drake’s a duck, is it not? You’re practically related! Birds of a feather”, and in another scene, Madoc Faulkner excuses himself by stating that his eggs are getting cold. Furthermore, the name Faulkner is somewhat reminiscent of a Falcon/falconer and this link is possibly made explicit in his line to Drake, “You shall not come between the falcon and his prey”. And there’s more, other characters have bird-like names including Harris (a Harris hawk?) and Lynch (Lynch bird?) and I’m sure I saw pictures of birds hanging on the walls in some of the scenes with Drake, Rose and Long Susan. Finally, at the end of the episode, Drake opens the birdcage and as the two lovebirds fly to their freedom, he notices a feather in his hand which he then gently blows away. Earlier in the story, there is a discussion about the Egyptian ceremony of judgement in the Brown Bear pub…

“FAULKNER: The Egyptians placed heart-scarabs with the dead, so their own heart would not betray them. Do you recall the ceremony of judgement, Sergeant?
DRAKE: If memory serves, they believed the gods placed the heart in scales against a feather. The feather of Justice. If the heart spoke of no sin, the scales balanced, and the soul could join the afterlife.”

Drake’s final scene at the end of the story is obviously another allusion to the Feather of Justice and we are reminded once again of the title of this particular episode, The Weight of One Man’s Heart [originally called The Weighing of the Heart], (if the heart became heavy) “if it outweighed the feather… the dead man’s soul was consumed by a terrible demon… they called it the Weighing of the Heart”. I understand the significance of all this with regards to Faulkner’s character and fate but can you please just clear up any ambiguity in relation to Drake’s mortal soul, his sins/redemption at the end of the episode and also explain why you obviously have some sort of weird fetish with birds?

Toby: Again, everything you cite here was a deliberate choice. Once I start riffing on something in my head, connections begin to appear, and then further ones… It’s probably a bit overblown in this episode but the operatic nature of the story means we more or less get away with it. I hope.

As for the ambiguity… I’m happy to let it remain ambiguous, for it to speak to different people in different ways. On a purely technical level it allowed me to tie both strands of the story together with one visual motif (the feather) and for Drake to then bid that symbol goodbye, to put both Faulkner and Rose behind him, and attempt to live another day as a man forging his path as best he can through the world.

And as for birds… I don’t know but I really do have a visual fetish for them. I’m writing two other things at the moment, both wildly different, both with bird riffs. Basically I just don’t have that many ideas. The title, by the way, changed purely because it sounded better; and that final title was actually spoken by Faulkner in the film, right before he puts the gun in his mouth, which appealed to me.

Damian: Ripper Street boasts an impressive rogues gallery with a generous assortment to rival those to be found in Gotham City. We’ve had greedy, corrupt and just plain crazy but Faulkner is not really a villain is he?

Toby: I wouldn’t describe Faulkner as a genuine villain, no. He feels that he and his men have been wronged and he’s full of rage and a desire to claim some kind of justice for them. Armed robbery is probably a misdirected outlet for that rage – so it was therefore important to me that, while he was inviting his men to fill their boots with gold at the mint, his own motivation was more symbolic: it was the destruction of the room in which they press military medals. As he says to Drake at the end, it was never about the gold. It was about making a statement.

Damian: Faulkner is a master of manipulation as are most terrorists or anarchists. He completely exploits Drake’s relationship with Reid and Rose to further his own agenda. However, I think you justify his rhetoric by writing him as both sympathetic to the audience and quite possibly entirely accurate in his assessment of Victorian (and perhaps even contemporary) international affairs and world relations. For example, let’s look at the following excerpts of dialogue you wrote for Faulkner:

“Gordon* was slain by the incompetence of Gladstone and his horde of cowering acolytes. And I have little clemency for men behind desks in high places with low honour.”
“My wars were against enemies of the Empire, not the poor and desperate of its capital… What I know is good men who served our Queen with their all now languish as reward at Her Majesty’s Pleasure… They returned to a homeland which offered neither gratitude nor succour. The best of us made hungry and penniless, will react, in extremis, with extremity.”
* NOTE: Charles George Gordon (1833-85). British general and colonial administrator. In 1873 the khedive of Egypt commissioned him to establish control over the Sudan and fight the slave trade. He was appointed governor of the Sudan in 1877… Gordon returned to the Sudan in 1884 to evacuate Egyptian troops from Khartoum, which was besieged by the Mahdi, the Sudanese rebel leader. In January 1885, Khartoum was overrun, and Gordon was killed just days before a relief column arrived. The popular Gordon’s death horrified Britain and helped bring down the government of Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809-1898).

You must have been aware that audiences might interpret Faulkner’s dialogue as a conscious condemnation of recent global events and perhaps most especially Tony Blair’s wars such as the air strikes in Iraq (98), sending British soldiers to Kosovo (99), Sierra Leone (00), overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan (01) and the invasion of Iraq and subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein (03). Were these issues something that you particularly wanted to address and if so, are you of the opinion that all these wars were unjustified?

Toby: The parallels with contemporary conflicts were not particularly deliberate but certain things remain depressingly constant through all wars, like the branding through a stick of rock – particularly those born of imperialist folly, whether or not that imperialism is explicit or cloaked as something else. As for whether the wars you cite specifically were justified: that’s something I have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to discuss. What I will say is that I certainly don’t believe they can all be clustered together to discuss as one, since they were each wars with very different goals and motivations. I will however freely count myself among the million who marched against waging the Iraq invasion and were roundly ignored by the government.

Damian: Faulkner is anti-monarchy, anti-government and most certainly anti war. It could be argued that these are popular sentiments today – perhaps most especially among the left/liberal of the political spectrum. To what extent might Faulkner’s views reflect your own personal political ideology?

Toby: I’m certainly anti-war. Is anyone pro-war, except for arms companies and despotic lunatics? Beyond that, I respectfully decline to answer. My personal views as a writer are not important: I write partly to explore ideas, and I let characters do the talking for me. One should never confuse what a character believes with what the writer believes. However: it doesn’t take a great detective to notice running through my episodes a strain of rage and contempt directed at those who would abuse power and exploit or bully the vulnerable; and that sense of anger is certainly not something from which I would seek to distance myself.

Damian: I now want to turn our attention to Captain Homer Jackson. He’s a loveable rogue, a man who truly enjoys his many assorted vices and also something of a wiseass. You provide him with some of the best lines in the series and I was wondering if you had a special affinity with the character because from where I’m standing, you and Jackson seem like two fellas with plenty in common?

Toby: There’s probably quite a lot of common ground between Jackson and me, though I’m not sure that’s something to be enormously proud of. Put it this way: his voice – that world-weariness, that anger and disappointment at the world and his place in it… It’s not a great stretch for me to write in that voice.

Damian: There’s a great deal of comedy to be had from Jackson, especially in the two episodes you wrote for the first series. For example, suffering from yet another one of his hangovers and talking to Reid and Drake over the slab in the Leman Street laboratory where there is a severed horse’s head staring up at them, Jackson explains his late arrival to work by revealing he has a headache! Also, as Drake tries to interfere with unwanted advice, Jackson quips “Perhaps you’d care to take the reins”. However, two of Jackson’s best lines in this episode must surely be “Her sweet little mouth could suck a melon through a rye stalk” and “there’s no shame in supping a buttered bun, huh?”. You seem to relish good dialogue, does comedy come easy to you as a writer and are these amusing turns of phrase something you pick up in your social circles – perhaps your homies – please tell me you have a posse?

Toby: One of the most enjoyable parts of writing Ripper Street for me is that the dialogue is antiquated but just on the cusp of modernity. So there are times you can go into this kind of arcane underworld demotic, and times you can launch into the sort of baroque oratory that, say, Faulkner is prone to. It’s very seldom as baroque as, say, Deadwood (nor as profane, sadly) – but I rejoice whenever there arises a chance to go to town. Clive James has an expression about turning a phrase till it catches the light… I always loved that idea. And as a screenwriter it’s the one time your actual language reaches the audience. So maybe it’s an ego thing. But whether it’s Shakespeare or Mamet or Chayefsky or the Coens, I’m certainly appreciative of finely wrought dialogue.

As for comedy. First, nothing comes easy to me as a writer. Nothing. I once heard someone say “I don’t enjoy writing, but I do enjoy having written” – which more or less nails it. But comedy was what first got me into writing way back when I was a teenager – my first attempts were sketches for school assemblies and so forth – and it remains something I’m drawn to. I like the humour of David Lynch or the Coens, or Charlie Kaufman or Larry David. Or in terms of current stand-ups Louis CK, Stewart Lee, Doug Stanhope. Jet black humour. Laughter in the dark.

And of course I have a posse. I have four people round the keyboard typing up my dictation to your questions while I lounge in a smoking jacket taking my afternoon pipe.

Damian: As anyone who follows you on twitter (username: @finkowska) will know, you frequently display a rather provocative and almost misanthropic side to your personality. However, I have always found you to be exceptionally courteous and helpful. Your scripts feature hard-talking roguish characters who also happen to possess a heart of gold – who is the real Toby Finlay?

Toby: There’s a letter from Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope where he famously says “I hate and detest that animal called Man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth” [It’s Sept 29, 1725]. That pretty much sums it up. I’m a depressive, in large part because most things people do to each other and to the world are shitty. But there are, here and there, chinks of light. Maybe.

As for Twitter… I don’t take it very seriously, and I certainly don’t tweet as a representative of the show in any way. Mostly I use it as a conduit for overbrimming vitriol if I’m drunk or else to see how many of my dozen or so followers I can shock into unfollowing me as crude and idle morning sport.

Damian: To conclude our thoughtful and academic study of Ripper Street, it has to be said that there are some rather serious hotties on the show: MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna and Gillian Saker to name but three. If you had to pick just one, who would you spend your last few shillings “entertaining” for the evening?

Toby: Such a question could be asked only by someone who has never known the particular distemper which erupts like a solar flare from an actress spurned. But this is easy because I’d take all three. To Vegas. And you’d never hear from any of us again.

Damian: Without wishing to make a rumpus, a man has got to be vocal in his pleasures so I’d just like to say it’s been a great privilege to have had the honour of this interrogation and I very much look forward to strapping you to a chair and sweating it out under the lights again very soon. Thank you Toby.

Toby: Till then. Come get your cream, Peaches.



MAR 29 – 09:00PM – BBC AMERICA

MAR 30 – 12:45AM – BBC AMERICA

Exclusive interview with Gillian Saker previewing tonight’s RIPPER STREET




MAR 30 – 12:45AM – BBC AMERICA

Exclusive interview by Damian Michael Barcroft

“It would be a stronger world, a stronger loving world, to die in.”
– John Cale, Sanities
“One’s past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.”
– Oscar Wilde
“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”
– Kermit the Frog
I’m sitting in the bar of the Benny Vandergast Memorial Theatre enjoying drinks with Gillian Saker. I’d originally wanted an interview with that chick from The X – Files but I pretend like I’m thrilled to see her anyway and just hope she doesn’t notice my “The Truth Is Out There” pin badge on my lapel. I make a mental note to sack my PA first thing in the morning and trust that she, and indeed her three fatherless children, will have a suitably Dickensian Christmas.
I’m tempted to try and impress Miss Saker with some further quotes that display my wealth of cultural knowledge and literary insight but I just subtly mention that my past is a mist. Nothing – not even a sympathetic smile. Instead, Gillian’s attention seems to be elsewhere and she appears more interested in the bearded skinny dude who is lurking in the distance. He’s wearing a fedora and has the general look of one of those pimps you see in a bad seventies movie that get beat up in the opening scene by Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson. I give him the evil eye and he just stares back – if cunning references to Pinter won’t impress Gillian Saker, I really need to up my game – these questions better be good. No pressure…

Damian: You were spotted by an agent for a part in the first series of Ripper Street while you were performing as Portia in a college production of The Merchant of Venice and here we are today, discussing tonight’s episode which also features themes of racial intolerance and anti-semitism. I was wondering what was your take on Shakespeare’s play, a racist comedy or a comedy about racism?

Gillian: Ah, racism… that hilarious ol’ Shakespearean topic. I absolutely love doing Shakespeare (as far as writers go, I think it’s fair to say he’s alright at that playwriting thing). Unfortunately, it is hard to make anti-semitism funny for a modern audience, which is the problem for any director trying to tackle the play nowadays. That said, we had great fun doing it! I think tonight’s episode is pretty far from comedy, I must say. That Toby Finlay writer fellow is a pretty twisted guy.

Damian: Describe the scene for me, you were studying at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and an agent approaches you – what happened next?

Gillian: I was approached because this new television show called Ripper Street was looking for a 19 year old girl with red curly hair and a London accent! It was all rather lucky, really. I was initially in line to play a different part but then producers changed their minds about what they were looking for, and another actress got the gig. I had forgotten all about it, and was continuing with drama school when I got a call out of the blue telling me that I was offered a different part -Bella. I was overjoyed!

Damian: You’ve had an amazing journey since you graduated in 2012. Tell me what was going on inside your head as you left college and almost immediately got on a plane to Dublin and stepped onto the set of Ripper Street?

Gillian: It was pretty ruddy cool. I graduated early to shoot the first series. It was quite a shock going on set for the first day because it was my first professional job ever, but Jerome was very sweet and supportive. And Stephen Smallwood (our lovely, lovely producer) came in to my trailer to calm me down before shooting. The cast and crew gave me a cheer after I shot my first scene – I couldn’t have asked for a nicer welcome to the industry.

Damian: At what point did you realise that you were going to be in series two – it must have been an enormously pleasant surprise?

Gillian: Lordy, it was an enormous surprise! I had just finished a play (The River at the Royal Court), and was thinking ‘Oh man, what am I going to do now?’ when I got a call from my agent saying that I was being written into the second series. I had no idea what I was actually doing in the show until a couple of weeks before filming – I was half expecting to be murdered horrifically in the first scene or such like (it is Ripper Street afterall). I feel very fortunate to have been asked back.

Damian: Before we discuss tonight’s episode, I just want to talk about some of your other work. Is it true that Andrew Lloyd Webber was your rehearsal pianist?

Gillian: Sounds rather grand when you put it like that! I was working on his newest musical (Stephen Ward) and he played the piano in our rehearsals. You know Lloyd Webber – needs the money. It was a surreal experience; I had never done a musical before and there I was singing Lloyd Webber for Lloyd Webber. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family of musicians, but I’d only ever really done soul and jazz, so it was a really enlightening experience. I played Mandy Rice Davies in the Sydmonton Festival production of the show. Sydmonton is a festival in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s [ridiculously amazing] house where he showcases his new work to a glittering crowd of his friends, family and industry people, and we presented the first performances of the show. It was an honour to be a part of it.

Damian: You actually met Mandy Rice Davies – what was she like?

Gillian: I’ve never played a real person before, let alone had them in the audience. Its a lot of pressure. But she was graceful and generous and sweet. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to watch a musical about your sex life… I shudder at the thought…

Damian: Tell us about your part in The River by Jez Butterworth?

Gillian: It was interesting! Consider this your spolier alert if you plan on reading/seeing The River anytime soon. I was a secret character – the audience isn’t made aware in the cast list/ in any reviews and such because my character provides a big twist towards the end of the play. The Royal Court is a dream place to work. Working on new writing is great because you’re in there with the playwright and it can be a really collaborative process. Jez is very open to suggestions, and the director Ian Rickson and the other three actors taught me an awful lot. I’ve been very lucky in my career thus far to consistently work people that are a lot more experienced than me and are at the top of their game – being dropped in at the deep end suits me, I think.

Damian: Jez worked with Harold Pinter on the film Mojo – did he have any stories to tell about the great man?

Gillian: Oh, you’d have to buy me a fair few drinks before I could possibly divulge.

Damian: Apart from Ripper Street, you are perhaps best known for your part in the fourth series of Misfits – do you get much trouble from the geeks recognising you in public?

Gillian: I’m from the area where Misfits is filmed. I think I’m one of their first proper locals. Some reactions have been pretty funny; I was coming home from the gym the other day and some kids started throwing things at me, taking the mickey out of me because I ‘look like the girl from Misfits’. Oh, little did they know! Misfits has such an enormous cult following – I had no idea until the show aired – and it was lovely to be part of something that my friends were all fans of.

Damian: So, Ripper Street: A Stronger Loving World – this is your big episode isn’t it?

Gillian: Yes indeedy. I absolutely loved making it. The director of episodes 5 and 6 Kieron Hawkes is a wonderful director – everyone loved coming to work every day; he has such a positive and enthusiastic energy. And the brilliant Mister Toby Finlay wrote me many a great thing to say. I hope everyone enjoys watching it as much as we did making it. The whole process was a joy.

Damian: The story also features spiritualism and the occult which became increasingly attractive to people during the late Victorian period including celebrities of the day such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Sigmund Freud and W.B. Yeats. Do you think this was due to the advances in scientific understanding such as Darwinism and the decline in traditional religions?

Gillian: Yes, I read some amazing stuff recently about Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini’s friendship; they had an enormous falling out over Conan Doyle’s belief that one could talk to the dead and the whole spiritualism thing, no? Very interesting! I suppose any ‘answer’ can be appealing, especially when your situation is dire. And if you’ve watched Ripper Street, you can probably guess that for some folks the situation was pretty darn dire.

Damian: I’m from a strict Catholic background (no, I’m fine now Gillian thanks – really!) and forbidden to dabble in such things but have you ever had a play with the old ouija board?

Gillian: Dark magic? Me? No thanks, Barcroft. I’ll leave that to Snape.

Damian: Bella’s past catches up with her in tonight’s episode. We obviously can’t discuss the details without giving away major plot spoilers so I thought we might talk about its writer instead… Look sorry Gillian, I’m not being funny but I don’t feel like I’ve got your full attention. I’d appreciate it if you could at least pretend to be interested and stop looking at the strange bloke in the corner! As I was saying, the writer, Toby Finlay – I bet he’s got a few skeletons in the closet?

Gillian: Oh, gosh, so sorry…. I just- Nevermind. Finlay? Skeletons? Jeepers, are you kidding?! Watch this episode. The man’s a terror, and everything that happens is his fault.

Damian: I’m wondering if Toby’s reckless lifestyle and outrageous taste in clothes is just a desperate cry for help – can’t you find him a nice Jewish girl to settle down with?

Gillian: I think there are some very dark things hiding under that fedora of his. And not just his luscious mane. I’ve got plenty of lovely Jewish friends in my mother’s native New York. Most of them are over 85 though… if that’s his thing…?

Damian: Anyway, Bella, Sergeant Drake is almost old enough to be her granddad, what’s it like kissing a man in his fifties – I bet his whiskers tickle a little?

Gillian: I can’t believe you’ve asked me this! Its more beard than whiskers, actually. All of the ladies that my mum knows from the supermarket are dead jealous. The man’s quite the heart throb, don’t you know?

Damian: Do you like an older man? (BTW, I’m thirty-eight)

Gillian: Oh darling, the older the better. 38 is way too young – come back to me when you’ve matured. Think Carl Fredricksen from Up – that’s the dream.

Damian: Why is Dennis Pennis in the show and why does he look like Rasputin? – maybe he is Rasputin – that would be awesome!

Gillian: Why doesn’t EVERYONE look like Rasputin, frankly? If looking like Rasputin makes you as wonderful as Paul Kaye is, then everyone should start working on their beard. I LOVED working with Paul. He is so generous, and it’s a pleasure to have met him. A very inspiring man.

Damian: I believe you’re rather partial to the muppets – why?

Gillian: It is indeed true, I’m a big fan. My grandpa on my mother’s side worked as a publicist for Jim Henson, so I was raised on the stuff. But all family bias aside, have you watched Sesame Street? Its the best children’s television out there. It is so considered and creative and all-inclusive… Jim Henson’s work was and continues to be a gift to children all over the world. And adults too!

Damian: Yeah, you know sometimes muppets can express a wider range of emotions than some human actors I’ve seen on television recently. Does Damien Molony feature in tonight’s episode?

Gillian: Yes, Damien does feature! He gave me the giggles when we were in scenes together. And yes I agree, Damien is very very good and all, but he’s got nothing on Kermit. Who does?

Damian: I give up! Just go and talk to the freak in the corner, you’ve obviously been staring at each other all night. It’s fine, I’ve got enough stuff for my article…

Gillian: What are you on about? YOU are the one he’s been staring at. I was going to ask… You do you know who that is, right?

Damian: Don’t look, he’s walking over here…

Toby: You. David Barloft.

Damian: It’s Dam-

Toby: Who cares. Put down my actress. I’m drunk and bored and ready for my close-up.

Damian: Yeah, but to be honest mate, the readers are only interested in interviews with the stars of the show – no one really cares about hearing from the writers…

Toby: Plot twist – I scripted every single answer they’ve given you.

Damian: I’m really sorry about this Gillian, do you mind? Thanks so much for the interview it is very much appreciated indeed.

Gillian: Er… Toby…? Master…? I need some help… What do I say now?

I looked at the bloodstained clock and it was almost midnight. I’d already missed the Pale Horse concert and just wanted to go home and yet I felt bad for the guy. So needy and desperate to talk about himself and his “art”…

My exclusive interview with Toby Finlay will be posted later this evening!

My sincere thanks to Gillian Saker and Toby Finlay

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Toby Finlay – “the better craftsman…”

Toby Finlay

Toby Finlay

~ By Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Given the amount of writing and interviews I do about film and television, folks are often surprised to learn that I don’t actually watch that much of it anymore. The reason for this is as simple as it is short – most of it is crap. However, for me at least, there have been two particular TV series that have stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the pig swill masquerading as entertainment over the past few months and Toby Finlay has written for both of these – Peaky Blinders and of course, Ripper Street.

Fans of Ripper Street will know that Toby wrote the episodes The Weight of One Man’s Heart and Tournament of Shadows for the first series and he returns again tonight with the first of his two episodes for the second run, Threads of Silk and Gold.

Above and featured image from tonight's episode, 'Threads of Silk and Gold'

Above and featured image from tonight’s episode, ‘Threads of Silk and Gold’

Ripper Street is blessed with many gifts: the stunning ensemble cast, visionary directors, unparalleled production values and some of the best writing on television. Toby is just one of these writers but his contribution to the series is prodigious, having created some of its most memorable moments: Drake’s heartbreak after Rose rejects his romantic overture and the agonising standoff between Drake and his brother in arms – not to mention some truly glorious dialogue, “Her sweet little mouth could suck a melon through a rye stalk” and “there’s no shame in supping a buttered bun, huh?”.

A scene from one of my very favourite episodes, Toby's 'The Weight of One Man's Heart'

A scene from one of my very favourite episodes, Toby’s ‘The Weight of One Man’s Heart’

After watching Toby’s penultimate episode for the equally epic Peaky Blinders, another one of his intense plays on pieces of British history combined with themes from the old West – for this particular episode think High Noon only set in Birmingham, and another radiant example of his mastery over the art of screenwriting, I felt compelled to message him immediately after broadcast. I quoted T. S. Eliot in referring to Toby as “the better craftsman” and I still stand by this assertion. Indeed, Toby is a stylish writer of impeccable taste – it is just a shame that I cannot say the same about his rather appalling dress sense.

The epic 'Peaky Blinders'

The epic ‘Peaky Blinders’

I didn’t start these Ripper Street interviews and articles that I’ve written over the past year to make friends but I have indeed made many and I am proud to count Toby as one of them. I asked him to say just a few words about tonight’s show exclusively for this site…

“Episodes 5 and 6 are both stories that drive like a corkscrew to the cores of our main characters, because those are the only kinds of story that interest me; and by the time we move into the last episodes, it’s unlikely that Reid, Drake or Jackson will ever be quite the same again.” – Toby Finlay

“Ripper Street: Threads of Silk and Gold” is tonight at 9 on BBC1

I had the pleasure of conducting a very long and detailed interview with Toby which will be posted here in full this time next week. Our interview is witty, insightful and informative – Toby’s answers are OK too.

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

The thrilling shootout towards the climax of ‘The Weight of One Man’s Heart’