Mark Layton talks to Elwen Rowlands, co-founder and CEO of Cardiff-based Little Door Productions, about the return of BBC thriller The Pact as an anthology series and what Wales has to offer as a filming destination
BBC thriller The Pact is back for a second season – but not quite as you remember it.
While show creator Pete McTighe and Cardiff-based Little Door Productions are back behind the scenes, the UK series has brought in a new cast of characters for a new story, while retaining familiar thematic elements and small-town Welsh setting.
Switching to an anthology format was “a very big decision to make” reveals Little Door co-founder and CEO Elwen Rowlands.
“We went back and forth a lot for very obvious reasons,” she tells TBI. “Even before we started filming the first season, we were already starting to talk about the second, because the BBC were keen to develop. Pete said he knew the story he wanted to tell – about a pact within a family rather than a group of friends.”
Rowlands reveals that it was always McTighe’s intention to create an anthology series if The Pact was renewed, but that it was hard letting go of the characters and events from season one.
“Then, of course, you start seeing the rushes and you fall in love with those characters [from season one] and you think ‘oh my God what we doing, this is insane’ and so we wavered a little bit, but Pete always felt that he had written the most important part of those characters’ story, and as much as we love them, the right thing to do was to leave them be.”
The first season followed the aftermath of a terrible mistake that resulted in the death of a young brewery owner and the four co-workers who forged a fragile pact of silence about what had happened.
This new run, which launched on BBC One and BBC iPlayer yesterday, follows social worker Christine and her family, whose loyalties are tested when they’re confronted by a stranger who claims to be a long-lost relative.
The second season of The Pact is a co-commission between BBC Drama and BBC Wales, while Lionsgate has also returned as co-producer and global distributor for the show.
Despite the new story, the show will once again follow “ordinary people in an extraordinary situation” and continue themes such as “our relationship with truth and how it shapes us and the things we do as a consequence,” says Rowlands.
“We also explore the theme of identity this time around, and again there’s a death at some point and it’s about a pact – so lots of the DNA of series one. But I think this time we went for a more gothic feel, and I would say that the storytelling is little bit more heightened and possibly a little bit darker.”
Rakie Ayola, who had a supporting role in season one, returns to play new character Christine and now also serves as executive producer on the series.
“Rakie is a really extraordinary actor and she’s a really surprising actor, you’re never quite sure what she’s going to give in any particular moment,” says Rowlands, who reveals that Ayola played a key role in casting her on-screen family.
“She was very keen to try to find Welsh biracial kids to be her children and we were very lucky in finding Mali [Ann Rees] and Lloyd [Everitt] and Aaron [Anthony]. It was exciting to piece together that family.”
The Pact is just one of the latest scripted dramas to emerge from Wales’s booming production industry, with other BBC dramas, including Doctor Who, having filmed in the country.
Wales offers “an incredible range of different locations,” for anyone looking to produce there, says Rowlands. “It’s a relatively small country so everything is close. We’re based in Cardiff, which is the capital city but within 30 minutes you’ve got the coastline – some of which is showcased in The Pact season two – and 45 minutes north you’ve got the Brecon Beacons, which is mountains.
“And you’ve got incredible crew,” adds Rowlands. “The industry has been booming here for a number of years – I came back to Wales to work on the first series of Doctor Who in 2005 with Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter and what that series started is incredible.
“The number of hours of drama that we’ve produced from that point onwards – and the crew that have come through. It’s a fabulous shooting location visually and because of the wealth of experience that you have here as well.”