Spooks: Jane Featherstone

Jane Featherstone on BBC1 Breakfast today

“IT does go out with a fantastic bang. Ruth and Harry’s conclusion is sensational and there are some surprises for the loyal fans.”

“I just don’t want it to get tired and old.”

“We kill off our characters all the time in their prime. The show’s got to be killed off in its prime as well.”

Three quotes from Jane Featherstone live on the BBC1 Breakfast sofa around 8:40am today.

Jane is chief executive of production company Kudos, which created and makes Spooks, as well as being an executive producer on the series.

You can read the background to the decision to end the show here – Spooks: Goodbye Harry.

And this is my verbatim transcript of what Jane said this morning.

Including the truth about the decision to kill off Lisa Faulkner’s character Helen Flynn in the second episode of series one in 2002.

You can also listen to the interview below (BBC Copyright).

The hosts asking the questions are Susanna Reid and Charlie Stayt:

Q: There’s a real sense of shock, actually, that this is all coming to an end. People love, really love Spooks?

“Well I’m glad they love the show. Shock and sadness for me, actually, I have to say as well and it was a very, very difficult decision. But for lots of reasons we thought it was the right thing to do.”

Q: Who’s the first one who says…you’ve got a creative meeting going on and someone, somewhere, goes, ‘Do you know what? Maybe it’s over?’ How does that come about? Someone says it first? What happens?

“Do you know what happens, every year the series goes out we’re already incredibly surprised and delighted by the response to it. The fans seem to love it and every year we think, ‘Oh, they like it still, we’ll do another series.’ And each time I think it’s just got to be as good as the last. We have to make sure we end it on a high. And, honestly, for five or six years I’ve been thinking – because I’ve been there right from the beginning – it’s got to be brilliant. And every year we want it to be the best it can be.

“And this year, I thought – it’s a great series, we bring Harry and Ruth’s relationship to a head. And for the fans out there, they’ll know their relationship is central to the show now. And that comes to a conclusion. So it just felt like now is the right time to do it. I just don’t want it to get tired and old. You want it to go out with (interrupted by presenter)…happy…”

Note from Ian Wylie: Make your own mind up, of course. But I don’t think we should draw conclusions either way about Jane’s use of the word “happy”. She was interrupted when making a comment and then said “happy” without being given the chance to continue what she was saying at this point. IE She might have been trying to say something like “happy” that we had finished the series on a high before it got stale / “happy” that we had done it justice etc, rather than, necessarily, a happy ending for Harry and Ruth.

Q: So you’ve made the decision?

“It’s my fault, I’m sorry, yeah.”

Q: Is there a discussion about it..?

“So many discussions, honestly. And it’s a team decision ultimately. I have probably final responsibility for the show, so ultimately it’s my decision. But the BBC are our partners in it, so we did it in conjunction with them. And the wonderful writers on the show and the cast. And we all just felt, you know it’s 10 years, that’s a long time to stay at that level. It’s 10 years since 9/11. The world’s changed a little bit. It’s still very relevant but I would always it want it to be…in fact the response this time has been, ‘Oh, no, don’t lose it.’ That’s exactly the right response. We kill off our characters all the time in their prime. The show’s got to be killed off in its prime as well, is my theory. I hope it’s the right one.”

Q: Tell us about that very first episode. There can’t have been many people sitting on their sofas watching this nice new drama about spies and detectives and all the rest of it, and then suddenly, probably the most familiar female face in it has her…well, I don’t think I can say at this time in the morning, but she dies terribly. And it was such a shock. It was one of those defining moments in television, actually, wasn’t it? You actually had the confidence to kill off somebody very popular, very appealing, who seemed to be a central part of the action?

“It was almost an accident. And I probably shouldn’t say that. But it was the second episode, actually, of the first series. It happened because…”

Q: Oh, was it? So we’d already grown to love her in the first…

“We’d already grown to love her. But the interesting thing was, she was cast as a guest character in episode two. And when we cast Lisa Faulkner, who played the role…she was so good in the audition and we thought, ‘Actually, we could make her seem as if she’s a regular.’ So we wrote her back into episode one. So it hadn’t been planned that way from the beginning. So it was through the casting of Lisa that we had the idea to do that. And suddenly it turned into this moment. And often, things like that happen. It was sort of an accident.”

Q: And it involved a deep fat fryer and some horrific ways of getting people to admit who they were. What was the response and were you surprised by it?

“A phenomenal response. Well the show was made by a very small company at the time. Nobody was expecting much from it, I don’t think. The BBC put a huge marketing campaign behind it and suddenly it took off. And the response was phenomenal. I think also what it did for the rest of the nine years was give us permission to keep the audience on the edge of their seats the whole time. They never knew whether we were going to kill off their favourite characters. And we did.”

Q: Have you met real life people involved in espionage who have congratulated you or waved a finger at you, saying, ‘You got that completely wrong, that’s not how it’s done.’ Or any of that stuff?

“We have. We did a lot of research. Ultimately it’s an entertainment show and I think there have been many rumblings over the years that we haven’t done it quite as they would do it. I’m sure life in MI5 is very interesting but I suspect we make it a little bit more dangerous and exciting.”

Q: And does it go out with a bang?

“It does go out with a fantastic bang. Ruth and Harry’s conclusion is sensational and there are some surprises for the loyal fans.”

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