Interview With Eileen Gallagher

on

Exactly a decade after

the U.K. series Bad Girls was conceived, the prison drama is

coming to America. HBO is adapting the show for U.S. television and is placing

some of its biggest talent behind the effort. Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet

Under
) is the supervising writer, and Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl, Six

Feet Under
) and Raelle Tucker (Supernatural) are the lead writers. The three will

executive produce along with series’ co-creator Eileen Gallagher.

As CEO of Shed

Productions, Gallagher is one of the most powerful and successful lesbians in

entertainment. Together with Maureen Chadwick, Brian Park and Ann McManus, her

partner of 24 years, Gallagher formed Shed in 1998. Seven years later — and

based in part on the enormous popularity of Bad

Girls,
their first production — the U.K.-based company went public and was

valued at more than $85 million.

Gallagher spoke with

AfterEllen.com about HBO’s early plans for the show’s development and about the

challenges of bringing a British drama — and a lesbian romance — to American

television.

Eileen Gallagher

AfterEllen.com: I want to jump in and ask what AfterEllen readers most

want to know, which is whether the characters of Nikki and Helen are going to

be part of the American version of Bad

Girls.

Eileen Gallagher:
Oh, certainly. Yes, I mean the great thing about

Nancy and Raelle, the writers on this, is the reason they want to do Bad Girls is they’re big fans of the

show. I think they found the show on a local channel and they’ve been watching

it. They want to keep true to the heart of the show and true to the characters

and stories.

Clearly there’ll be some

changes in terms of the prisons, just to be true to the American system, but

they’re absolutely committed to reproducing the show in a way that reflects

what they enjoyed about the original. It will be very recognizable but with a

lovely HBO gloss, and I’m sure they’ll add great things to the stories and characters.

AE: With HBO, I assume there’s no hesitation to create a central

lesbian story line.

EG:
Well, I haven’t been in the HBO meetings so I can’t talk first-hand,

but I have spoken to Nancy and Raelle, and they like the series as it is, and I

can’t believe for a minute that HBO would buy the series and give it to this

team and then shy away from a lesbian love story. And I don’t think it’s in

HBO’s history or DNA that they shy away from anything.

It’s just terrific,

because if I could choose a home for Bad

Girls
, the top of the list would be HBO. It’s a fantastic place for it

because HBO — they’re a trailblazer, high quality, and not afraid to have

controversy.

AE: Do you know how closely they plan to stick to the original

characters and story lines?

EG:
Yes, very close. That’s what they said to us. They love the characters

and the stories and the tone of the show, and they want to stick with it.

That’s one of the reasons we’re so pleased. We had tried it previously with

another writer at FX, and we didn’t want to go ahead with it because we just

felt the characters and the tone was wrong. We want to protect what we think is

special about the show, and so do the writers that will be doing it for HBO, so

it feels like a very good relationship.

AE: You sold the rights initially to the FX network, but they came back

with a script that I think you said was “too gritty.” Can you talk

about what they missed that you’re hoping HBO gets?

EG:
I think it’s really important that the female characters, the prisoners,

are well-rounded, that you like them despite the fact they’re in prison, that

you see the good in them. Also, there’s camaraderie and humor in women’s

prisons that I think we got over, which is important. I think, quite frankly,

the writer was directing it more toward a kind of Oz feel, because he probably thought that’s what FX wanted, and

that’s just not the show. Our show is not Oz.

We like audiences to laugh and cry in the same episode if possible, and that’s

just not what we saw there.

We’ve waited patiently,

and it’s more important to us to get it right than just to get it done. We feel

that with Nancy and Raelle and Alan Ball, and with HBO — it’s a fantastic

combination of talent — and also they’ve made it very clear that they really

want input from the Shed creators in the U.K. They want to be able to

collaborate with us, and we want to be as helpful as we can.

And, you know, there are

some episodes and some stories and things that we felt worked better than

others, and we can give them our opinion of what we’d have done the second time

around. The great advantage of being able to do it a second time is you can

make it even better, really, because there are some things we’d change. But

certainly one thing that will not change is the love story between Nikki and

Helen, which of course defined the first three series. And I’m sure, with Nancy

and Raelle, that’s one of the major elements they like about it.

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