The Pact | Interview with Pete McTighe (Writer & Executive Producer)

The first series of The Pact was a great success. What particularly pleased you about the audience’s response to it?

I think what the audience seemed to really love about it was the characters. It doesn’t matter how good the twists and turns are in a story if you don’t care about the people involved. We had such a brilliant cast in series one who inhabited those roles so beautifully. I think that the audience really responded to them and took them into their hearts.

It was a big deal to think about a second series that wouldn’t involve those characters. The natural instinct is to bring everyone back and keep that story going, but I felt like that would be doing those characters a huge disservice, because the story that I wanted to tell about those people had been told. Weirdly they feel like real people to me, and I felt like I wanted to leave them alone to get on with their lives in peace. I think they deserved it after all the hell they had been through.

What were the seeds for the story for series two?

The idea for this series was actually based in part on my own family history and part of my partner’s family history. It blended together in this alternate universe where I am basically Connor, where I could have walked into a family’s life and said, “Hello, I’m your brother”. But I never did. I didn’t want to drop that bombshell on someone. I’ve always thought about what that moment would be and what it would look like and how it would feel, I’ve put myself in Connor’s shoes. So that was really from where the idea sprang.

There is social commentary in both series of The Pact. Are both stories born from disadvantaged people in desperate situations?

When I came up with the idea, I spoke to quite a few real-world social workers to get a handle on how it is for them at the moment. They all told me how challenging it is for them, particularly now in the wake of the pandemic; they feel understaffed, underpaid, undervalued and yet they are absolutely vital.

That really came through to me. It’s not because of the workers that the system is stretched to breaking point. Obviously, they are doing everything they possibly can and more. It’s clear to me that the system is definitely broken. There are cracks and people do fall through those cracks, especially historically before there were computerised systems in place to track people, which is something we take advantage of story-wise. This is the story of one of those people. Hopefully it will help fuel the conversation. I think that social workers who are out on the frontline need more support than they are getting right now.

What does Rakie bring to the part and to the series as a collaborator and executive producer?

What Rakie brings to the role is the unpredictability and attention that Christine inherently has. Rakie is quite astonishing to watch. She is constantly full of surprises, you are never quite sure what you are going to get from a scene – that’s a really exciting thing to see. There is one key moment in episode six where she physically made me jump out of my skin when I was watching the rushes. She does something unscripted that is so shocking and visceral and so right for that moment. Moments like that are why I love her. And then as a person and as a collaborator she is incredibly respectful of the script and of me, as I am of her, so we have a really solid working relationship, which is great. I really love working with her. She’s fantastic.

How did Rakie help once the casting decision was made?

Rakie is such a brilliant actress so when we were casting for the new family, who were going to be mainly up-and-coming new talent, it made sense for someone of Rakie’s standing in the acting community to be the matriarch of that group in real life as well as in the show. Rakie is Welsh, and she was able to bring the authenticity to the story that we needed. She was able to pull the rest of the cast together around her really. Whereas series one was very much an ensemble piece and series two is to an extent, but it does also revolve a lot more around one central character. Rakie had a really big responsibility to that character and to the show and she really stepped up and delivered.

The Rees family home casts a long shadow over everything. What do you love about the house in Llantwit Major?

On the page and in my head it was this isolated house on the coast, which sounds easy to write and easy to find, but of course it turned out not to be. Our locations people did an incredible job tracking that down. That house is like a private refuge, this atmospheric, mysterious, slightly claustrophobic sanctuary. It’s almost like something from a ghost story, which is appropriate because the family is kind of haunted in a way by what has happened to one of their own. They pulled a rabbit out of the hat when they found that house. It’s exactly what was in my head.

How would you say the tone is different for series two?

Right from the outset I wanted a slightly darker, more Gothic and intense tone to this series. The subject matter is quite heightened although it is told in quite a grounded way, so I wanted the visuals to support that. Our production designer Keith Dunne, the two directors, Nicole Volavka and Christiana Ebohon-Green and director of photography Sergio Delgado worked really hard to achieve that. Both directors really went above and beyond to elevate the show in really difficult circumstances. They did a beautiful job, as has everyone, in particular production designer Keith Dunne.

Is there an extra emotional clout that comes from writing about a family pact rather than a work or friendship one?

I don’t think so. The women in series one were a family, just a different kind of one. Series two is about examining different families and unpicking them and figuring out what makes them tick. What glues them together? What drives them apart? I think as a piece both series one and two are about the nature of family and the nature of truth.

There’s that speech from Nancy (Julie Hesmondhalgh) in series one where she says, “It’s the absence of truth that keeps us together”. I think that is true of series two as well. Series two is also particularly about identity, the search for and forging of identity and needing to understand who we really are. That’s the starting point for the character of Connor. That’s what he’s craving when he comes into the show.

What are the other key locations for you in this series?

For me it was the overall coastal setting that was important, mainly as a contrast to series one. The environment for me is always a character. It’s really important on the page that there’s that sense of place, and the Welsh coastline really gave us that. There’s something beautiful but also wistful and almost tragic about the Welsh coast. There is this mysticism and peace to it but then it also has this intense power and danger. That’s a really great combination. There are lots of scenes that are shot on the beach and along the cliffs. We really took advantage of that as much as we could and because we were so lucky with the weather it looks fantastic.

Who has written the score this series?

I’m thrilled to say that it’s Mac Quayle again who works on a lot of Ryan Murphy shows in the US. I was knocked for six when he said yes to series one. We reached out to him because he is one of my favourite composers of all time. I thought, ‘No way is he going to want to do this little show in Wales,’ but he really loved the scripts and had a really good time doing it. So thankfully he was really happy to come back and do series two. I was listening to his soundtrack for series one while I was writing series two. So, it was meant to be.

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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.