On Tuesday brand new medical drama Frankie starts on BBC One. The series centres around the work and home life of District Nurse Frankie as she struggles to balance looking after her patients at work whilst maintaining a good relationship with boyfriend Ian. I spoke to writer Lucy Gannon about the inspirations for the series and the reason for the inclusion of Radio 2’s Ken Bruce.
How did the idea of the series come about?
The BBC asked me to come up with a series set in an urban environment. I knew I wanted to do a workplace drama because I am always intrigued by the enclosed world of professionals – the friendships, the shared jargon, the team work, the social life of a small group of workers. I didn’t want to ‘do’ the law or the police and I felt that hospital life was adequately served already by drama. It occurred to me that community nurses are always present, whether you live in the city or the country, but that their work goes largely unnoticed. A shame, because it’s these nurses who keep the elderly and the frail safe and well at home, keeping them away from hospital wherever possible.
How much research did you do make sure the nursing side of the series was accurate And what are the challenges of writing a medical drama like this?
The research was easy – we have a terrific expert on the team of course, but in addition we went out into the community, we spoke with other professionals who work alongside community nurses and of course we searched the net. Community nurses are everywhere so we gleaned a lot from anecdotes, from chatting to friends and family. The challenges for a medical drama are exactly what they are for any other drama – believabilty, accuracy, dilemma, character development, conflict…. just the same, whether it’s horror, police procedural, or romance.
Who is Frankie?
She’s a good humoured lively woman, approaching her 36th birthday. She has an active social life, a long term partner, and a great career. She’s had the usual ups and downs in her life, a few broken romances, but she makes friendships easily and keeps them. She’s an honest woman, who maybe expects too much of both her colleagues and her romantic partners – her standards are high and she isn’t going to lower them for anyone, which can make her a bit tricky to live with.
The characters are really warm and likeable in this series. Is it easier or harder to write normal and nice characters as opposed to nasty ones?
All characters are fun to write, honestly. If they’re not rewarding in the writing, then you ain’t writing them right!
Can you explain the inclusion of Ken Bruce and how Frankie’s little chats with him came about?
I’m part of the radio generation and I think that anyone, of any age, who spends a lot of time in the car tends to be a radio listener. It seemed to me that Frankie is too lively, too mentally nimble, to ‘turn off’ when she gets in the car, or when she’s alone at home, and I wanted to give her a bantering relationship with a sort of secret friend. I listen to radio 4, radio 2, Radio 1 and Radio 6, as well as -occasionally – commercial radio (but the ads drive me mad) so I had a lot to choose from. I really like Bob Harris, Sara Cox and, if I’m pulling an all-nighter, Alex Lester. But Ken is the main man, and he was a very important voice in my life when my husband died. George was a Scot with an irreverent sense of humour and tuning into the Ken Bruce show every day brought that humour, that Scottishness, and a male presence into what was suddenly an all female household. And I like Ken’s show because he has a real depth of musical knowledge, plus some great live performances. And, of course, he isn’t po faced and worthy, unlike some other DJ’s. So, it had to be KB.
What can you tell us about Frankie’s relationship with Boyfriend Ian?
Frankie and Ian are two kids when they’re together. They are both in serious jobs with quite a lot of regulation tying them down in work hours, beaurocracy making sure that they’re ‘grown ups’ at work. When they get together they let their hair down and enjoy life and each other. But while Frankie is able to act like a kid, in her heart she’s serious and committed. Ian is less mature and this is, eventually, a problem.
What do you think of the current standard of British drama?
I think we’re in a great surge of good drama – some really good stuff. I’m not keen on the nostalgic stuff, but that’s just personal taste. I think that we are – at last – beginning to learn some lessons from good American drama. Now we just have to persuade the broadcasters to commission longer runs of series so that we can develop characters and concepts as fully and as beautifully as the Americans do.
There is a nice balance of humour with the drama. Is humour important in a piece like this?
I think that humour is important in any drama. It’s important in life.
Was Eve Myles always someone you had in mind to play the character?
Do you think there’s scope for more series?
About ten more series would do nicely.
Do you think Frankie will appeal to a male audience too?
You know, I really have no idea. I hope so. But I don’t even know if it will appeal to a female audience yet.
Frankie Starts Tuesday 14th May at 9.00pm on BBC1