Waterloo Road returns on Thursday but this series it’s all change. The end of series seven saw the entire school relocate to Scotland. Unlikely? Yes but not out of character for Waterloo Road. In this interview actor Alec Newman discusses the challenges of moving the show to Scotland and what fans of the series can expect in series 8.
Career-aside, headteacher Michael’s been away from Scotland for a long time and his return home will see him face ghosts from his past. Michael has a really strong vision for his new school but, unfortunately, it seems to be at odds with what investor Lorraine Donegan (Daniela Denby-Ashe) wants from Waterloo Road and then there’s a difficult relationship with headteacher of rival local school, Gerard Findlay (Alex Norton), to deal with.
New school, new start… what challenges await Michael this term?
Michael is returning to Scotland and the area that he grew up in. He’s kept his tensions about this buried but will face his past and family issues that remain unresolved and locked away.
It’s a journey into Michael as a man and reveals much about what makes him who he is today. But it’s a painful journey on a personal level.
And, professionally, tensions will rise as Michael battles Lorraine on how the school should be run in its infancy.
What is Michael’s vision for his new school?
Michael’s vision for the new Waterloo Road is as a forward thinking modern comprehensive. As ever his priority is that the school is non-exclusive – no one pays fees (that’s what Lorraine is for otherwise he wouldn’t tolerate her!) and any child can be enrolled.
This is Michael’s ever present ethos on education. Any child, no matter the ability or background, has potential that should be harnessed and encouraged.
How does he get on with school investor Lorraine?
here is tension with Lorraine over budgets and adjusting to new roles. Michael is forced to bite his tongue constantly as she tries to muscle in on control of running the school. But with Lorraine’s money keeping the school open, he must make compromises.
What’s the situation with rival local school, Havelock High?
Havelock High are the local school in existence when Waterloo Road arrives. Their Head, Gerard Findlay, is up in arms as many of his students leave to join the new, shiny Waterloo Road! Little does Michael know that Findlay carries some secrets from Michael’s past and isn’t afraid to use them to try and jeopardise the new venture.
What was it like for you returning ‘home’ to Scotland?
For me working in Scotland has been a welcome move. I really feel at home as my family are all from Glasgow – I was born here and am a proud Scot myself. I can feel like I live here while we film instead of wanting to return home to London all the time!
Anyway there is someone special in Glasgow to spend my time off the set with now, so London can wait until we have finished filming. I might yet end up living in Scotland half the time. Who knows?!
What did you make of your new school and your new headmasters office?
The new school was impressive from my first walk around it. The office set is of course my favourite. For me it’s the show piece of the set. It feels very cool and slick – Michael takes pride in his appearance and his interior decoration obviously. It’s a business-like, modern room that suggests power but humility too. And it’s much bigger than the Rochdale office so they can fit more crew into the room – everyone is happy!
Were your school days the best days of your life?
My school days were great but any adult who says they were the best has had a bad run of luck, surely?! I dont know – being a child was magical but being a teenager in a comprehensive with all those hormones? Forget it.
Any memorable moments from filming?
Jumping into a freezing loch from a speed boat was my favourite moment of filming so far. They used my dive instead of the stunt double. Proud! It was fun to get involved in a little bit of action when we spend so much time on set sat down in a chair.
Viewers should watch episode four just to see the look on my face when I come up from the dive! FREEZING.
I think we’ve taken the already successful formula of a show people love and expanded it. It’s the same show with some surprises, and whilst we never forget where we came from, it’s the fact that we’re in Scotland that makes me so excited and proud of this one.
Waterloo Road begins Thursday 23rd August on BBC1