Interview with Old Newburian & TV Scriptwriter Jack Thorne

Jack Thorne

Television and screen writer Jack Thorne was born in Bristol in 1978, and moved to Newbury when he was nine years old. He enjoyed his years at St Nicholas Primary School and St Barts, acted with New Era Players and in his spare time set the local political scene alight. In 2005 Jack got his first break at the Bush Theatre and went on to write the iconic TV series Skins, This is England, Cast-Offs and The Fades (for which he won a BAFTA Award in 2012).

Jack’s latest series, Glue is inspired by his childhood memories of Berkshire and was  filmed in the Lambourn/ Hungerford/Newbury area earlier this summer. It starts airing on E4 on Monday 15 September at 10pm.

Penny Post: When you were at St Barts did you ever think you’d become an award-winning writer? If not, what did you think you might end up doing professionally?

Jack Thorne: I loved being at St Barts. At the time I was there – partially inspired by the great Mr Sharpe – though not swayed by his Lib Dem loyalties – I wanted to be a politician. I even stood in a mock ’97 general election for the Labour party. Labour swept to power, I lost.

PP: Did anyone in particular inspire and encourage you? Teachers who recognised your talent?

JT: Mr Sharpe was great, as was Mr Norris. They both taught me history, which I loved. I’d say those two more than any others. I do actually know their forenames – but it still feels right to refer to them by their surnames!

PP: What were your next steps after leaving St Barts?

JT: I went to university, which I didn’t particularly enjoy, and then lived with my brother whilst trying to write.

PP: What was your first piece of published writing?

JT: A played called When You Cure Me – which was put on at the Bush Theatre, a great theatre in West London.

PP: What advice do you have for young people today who want to write or work in television?

JT: Television is at the moment a really exciting place to be. Britain seems to be producing some great voices – watch everything, if you can watch it twice, and try and work out how they did it.

PP: What was your luckiest break?

JT: I’ve had lots of lucky breaks and I feel like I’ve been ridiculously fortunate really. The three luckiest: Jamie Brittain came and saw When You Cure Me when it was read and then when it was put on he told his Dad to go – his Dad was Bryan Elsley who was then assembling a writing team for Skins and wanted me to be part of it. Shane Meadows deciding he wanted to work in TV and asking C4 who they’d consider a good partner for him – and them suggesting me. And John Tiffany – who was the first person I ever had a meeting with in film or theatre – deciding I was the right person to adapt Let The Right One In for stage. All three led to such exciting times.

PP: Do you get dialogue ideas from eavesdropping strangers’ conversations?

JT: I don’t really. I know some writers do, but I just prefer to make stuff up.

PP: How do you feel about having to re-write scenes / collaborate with a director?

JT: It’s exciting and tortuous! The first episode of Glue was probably rewritten over 40 times. And those are quite distinct drafts with lots of change in between. Television is brutal on scripts.

PP: Whose praise means the most to you?

JT: My wife will tell me whether something I’ve written is good or not – though I asked her the other day what she thought the best thing I’ve done was – and she said I’m not sure you’ve written the best thing yet. She likes to keep me on my toes.

PP: I grew up in East Garston and I suppose I had quite a sheltered village childhood. What stories or experiences of village life inspired the Glue storyline?

JT: Couldn’t possibly say! All I will say is – I wasn’t half so fun as the characters in these scripts.

PP: Did you come back to recce this area before you started writing the script?

JT: A lot. I came down with the writing team a number of times to stay down here and then managed to convince my wife to have a few weekend ‘breaks’ down here – which were less holidays, more extended recces (location searches) and research trips.

PP: How do you think the townie crew coped with working in the sticks?

JT: The crew loved their time in the country. I think it might inspire some of them to move out of London permanently.

PP: We’ve heard rumours that there maybe a second series of Glue. When will that decision be made?

JT: Watch this space…

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale