The Pact | Interview with Elwen Rowlands (Executive Producer)

Series one of The Pact was such a great success. What do you think it was that viewers really responded to?

I think it was a combination of relatable characters in an extraordinary situation, the amazing cast, and the twists and turns in Pete McTighe’s scripts. It was fantastic to watch the response. The viewing figures were fantastic, particularly when you consider that episode one went out on the day that pubs reopened after lockdown.

We thought no one would be at home! We consolidated to eight million viewers and were in the Top 10 shows of the year on BBC iPlayer, which really was beyond what we had expected for our first production.

What were the initial discussions you had with writer Pete McTighe about a second series?

We always intended to take the format of The Pact and create a new series with new stories and new characters. When the time came to make that decision, it was a tough one. The audience responded so well to the characters in series one and we did have a moment where we wondered if we should be continuing their story. But Pete felt strongly – and he was absolutely right – the most interesting part of those characters’ stories had been told in series one. The right thing to do was to move on.

What themes are being explored this time round?

There was a line from Nancy [Julie Hesmondhalgh’s character in series one] about how the absence of truth binds us together, that really struck a chord with us. It definitely influenced the second series. Our story again explores the nature of truth and the complex circumstances that lead people to withhold it.

Christine Rees is such a powerful, complex central character. What does Rakie Ayola bring to this drama as an actor, and collaboratively as an executive producer?

It’s been a pleasure working with Rakie, on both fronts. She’s such a commanding presence onscreen. We’ve always described the character of Christine as a lioness looking after her cubs. Rakie absolutely delivers on that. She has real strength and emotionally she brings something raw and brilliant. As an actor she continually surprises you with her choices.

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It felt essential to bring Rakie on board as an executive producer to steer and guide us, as the scripts hadn’t originally been written for a black family. She had an eye on everything from the script to the production design to making sure it felt real for her on screen family. She also spent a lot of time talking to our trainees on set and answering their questions.

What were you looking for in casting the three surviving siblings Will, Jamie and Megan? What do Lloyd Everitt, Aaron Anthony and Mali Ann Rees bring to the roles?

We and Rakie were keen to find Cardiff-based biracial actors for the family. We didn’t know who was out there, who was available, but we found Lloyd and Mali, who are absolutely fantastic in their roles. Aaron (who isn’t Welsh) nailed a brilliant Welsh accent. When you’re casting, you’re always looking for the best actors who feel authentic in the role, but here we also had to ensure that the actors were credible as a family unit. I definitely think we achieved that.

What crucial differences does it make to a production working with local talent both behind and in front of the camera?

Local knowledge is so important to get the best out of the locations you’re filming it. In front of the camera local talent brings authenticity, something audiences always respond positively to. As a Welsh company it’s important for us to support local talent as much as possible.

The Rees family home casts a long shadow over its inhabitants in this drama. Was it easy to find the right location?

It was the trickiest location to find. We wanted it to have a gothic feel and it needed scale. It needed to be big enough for a film crew to work in and yet feel authentic as a family home. Story-wise it’s a house the family has inherited from the paternal grandparents and there’s a sense that the home hasn’t changed much over the decades adding to the gothic feel. The house we found was perfect – it even had some exposed plaster and peeling wallpaper which our production designer Keith embraced. You can see the chipped paint on the front door making the house feel real and lived in.

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Which other locations were exciting finds?

We have so many breathtaking locations! That’s the beauty of filming in Wales. We’re using Penarth pier and the café on the pier, which gives you a stunning vista out to sea. We have quite a few cliffs and beaches. We’re using a beach at Llantwit Major and a bit of Southern Down and Rest Bay in Porthcawl. We’ve also used the Marine Parade in Barry. That’s for Will’s house, which is a very modern house contrasting beautifully with the gothic family home. During the script development stage of series two we made a decision to go coastal to give a different feel from series one, with its lake and pine woods.

What do you hope viewers take from The Pact series two?

The complex nature of family – how it binds us and defines us.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.