Union Road creator, Graham Eveleigh, reveals all about the latest holiday special.
Now Easter isn’t that special is it?
Union Road has the seasons covered – from Christmas to New Year to Valentine’s. But Easter, I think, is different. It has less of a clear identity on film and TV – it is more a general springtime celebration than anything inseparably associated with colour schemes and ideas. Easter is simply not as big a deal. And that makes an Easter special harder to make. Which is precisely why we had to make one!
What screams Easter to me is that idea of rebirth, of new life, and that is something that this special Union Road places centre-stage. There’s Lola’s (Maddie Soper) grappling with her pregnancy, on top of her recent diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. Whilst researching the facts I found out that there was an increased chance of a child having the condition if a close relative has it, but it is not strictly hereditary. That poses a really interesting dilemma for the character, which this special explores. Should she risk it? Would it be such a terrible thing if her child had the same condition? Lola has a tough decision to make…
Union Road is the story of a whole community, with pub landlady Jenny (Hannah Cummings) at the heart of it, and stories like that really lendthemselves to these big, broad-scope specials. Whereas the Christmas special saw the street pull in different directions, here they come together for a jolly old romp along the moors, an Easter Egg hunt, which soon sours. So it was also the perfect time to bring into question Jenny’s role in that community. Is she the moral guardian, or does shehave faults of her own? Funnily enough, the actress Hannah said to me one studio day that Easter is her favourite holiday and she loves egg hunts. So the season does have one advocate!
In many ways the symbol of new life and innocenceon Union Road is our resident child, Billy Stone, played expertly by Gabby Freeman.So expertly I bet you didn’t even know he was played by a twenty year old woman! I’ll let you into a secret – Billy was going to be a nothing role. I didn’t think we would find anybody convincing enough to play an eight year old boy and he was really just there because Mary needed a child, because he fleshed out the cast. And then Gabby walked in, and she was glorious! Properly and utterly convincing, sparky and vulnerable, and witty and ignorant. And in that second Billy’s big storyline was born. For that reason I was determined to put him front and centre of a big episode. And that’s what Easter is.
But, as has beenrevealed over the last few episodes, Billy’s story is dark stuff. After months of Mary being secretive and overprotective, it was revealed that she was once accused of abusing her son. And it turned out it wasn’t her, it was his father: pillar of the community teacher, lovely friendly Stuart Merivale. Stuart is now back on the scene and the abuse is continuing, and what makes it worse is Billy has no idea what is happening and even, that what happens to him is wrong.
Union Road, I am proud to say, doesn’t shy away from controversy – even on holidays. (Remember when I had brother and sister kiss on Christmas Day? And then remember how they dealt with the fallout on Valentine’s Day? Actually, it seems like it’s not a holiday UNLESS there’s controversy!) But this is serious and we didn’t enter into this story lightly. It was absolutely the story we had to tell, for Mary, Thomas and Billy. It was also difficult to tell at 5.45pm on studio radio – but that’s precisely why
we had to! There’s no shying away from the hard questions on Union Road. At no point did we glorify – or even explicitly showcase – the actions that occurred in that house of Hell. And it is all resolved with serious consequences – just you tune in to hear them! This Easter, Mary and Thomas are planning to run with Billy away from Stuart whilst he’s distracted up on those moors. Will it go to plan? Will Stuart be stopped? It’s a nail-biting climax.
Specials like this are great platforms to build everyone’s stories to huge crescendos, all of those brilliant characters on that street.And all this with the fresh backdrop of Dartmoor, which has been beautifully evoked by our esteemed editor, Nikki Ellis. I love any chance to get out of the confines of the street, and now felt like the perfect time to venture further geographically than we have ventured before. (All achieved whilst we were sat in Devonshire House… but ssh! Shut your eyes and believe we’re there!)
You know what? Maybe I take it back. Maybe Easter is pretty special after all.
Union Road’s Easter special is available to stream from Mixcloud on Good Friday (18th April) at 5.45pm, and it will be repeated Xpression FM in Term 3. Also on www.mixcloud.com/UnionRoadOfficial are all previous episodes for you to catch up with, and head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages for more information! Happy Easter!
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