25 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Soap Series: Interview with ‘Red Rock’ Executive Producer Gareth Phillips
01 Sep 2015 : Seán Brosnan
‘Red Rock’ returns to TV3 on September 2nd
This summer IFTN is taking a closer look behind the scenes of Ireland’s soaps – continuing our series we talk to ‘Red Rock’ Executive Producer Gareth Phillips – with ‘Red Rock’ returning to TV3 on Wednesday, September 2nd.

With a huge body of work in the UK including dramas such as ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Hollyoaks’ and ‘Cold Blood’, Phillips came to Ireland initially to work on ‘Fair City’ as a consultant. Then ‘Red Rock’ came knocking.

Taking over as Executive Producer on Ireland’s newest soap earlier this year, we talk to Phillips about his work on the TV3 drama.

IFTN: A €7m investment into something fresh and new is obviously exciting but also extremely risky – you never know with audiences - what drew you to ‘Red Rock’?

Gareth Phillips: ‘The idea of being part of something so ambitious and brand new really appealed to me. It was simply too good an opportunity to turn down, especially when I saw the team I would have around me.’

And you took over as Executive Producer from Series Creator Peter McKenna earlier in the year – how was the handover handled? Was there many meetings, discussions, fights before you took the reins?

‘I worked very closely with Peter right from the word go. We always shared the same vision of what the show is. Peter left around March and I have been running the show since then. What we have been doing is building on those incredible and strong foundations that Peter put in place and allowing the show to really evolve and take off now. We are really just at the start of achieving the full potential of the show. There is so much more to come.’

‘Red Rock’ was noted for bringing in a lot of strong writers and directors in the first season – people like Lisa Mulcahy and Rob and Ronan Burke who are well-known in the industry for their work in feature films and TV series – how do you keep these guys around for another year or land people of the same calibre to keep the show’s quality up?

‘We have been so fortunate to have been able to work with incredible talent so far – guys like Lisa and Rob and Ronan Burke as you mentioned. But I think what they love is the creative satisfaction that they get from working on ‘Red Rock’. We didn’t want the show to look like a typical soap opera. Soaps are typically shot in a multi-camera studio and are over-lit and that all looks a bit dated and cheap these days when put up to typical drama standards. The great challenge of ‘Red Rock’ was that we wanted it to look like a big-budget 9 o clock drama but made on a soap budget. And that required an enormous amount of effort from all our cast and crew. It’s not easy but I think that is how we attract top talent like Lisa, Rob and Ronan and why we will continue to attract talent of that standard. The end product hopefully speaks for itself. We are raising the bar of what a serial drama can achieve and I think we will continue to do that for a long time to come.’

When coming to ‘Red Rock’ from ‘Fair City’ – did you run things based on what you had learned and seen at ‘Fair City’ or did you want ‘Red Rock’ to be a completely different animal?

‘You always bring the experience of wherever you have worked before to a new show. You never stop learning and I am lucky to have had such a varied and diverse career. What excited me about ‘Red Rock’ was that it gave me the opportunity to push my own creative boundaries. It allowed me to use all the experience I have in serial drama and soap but I also got to bring the experience on the drama’s I have got to work on too – dramas such as ‘Cold Blood’ which was a psychological police thriller. So, I got to combine those two to create something new and unique. Of course, you always bring everything you have learned before but ‘Red Rock’ was very much about creating something new and exciting rather than imitating anything that has gone before.’

When we were talking to ‘Fair City’ Executive Producer Brigie de Courcy and ‘Fair City’ Series Consultant Sam Atwell who, like yourself, have extensive experience working in other countries – they spoke of the freedom they felt in Ireland for being able to hit some hard-hitting storylines that they would not get to tell pre-watershed in other countries. Do you agree?

‘I can’t say I find that to be the case. I think good stories at heart are universal. You will always find the local angle and of course you want a show that absolutely reflects the voices and the souls of a particular country. Ultimately though, I think good story-telling unites people – it’s all about empathy and shouldn’t be exclusive to one particular country. In saying that, I think it’s important that Ireland has a voice and I think ‘Red Rock’ offers a contemporary reflection of Irish life.’

Did you find any pressure taking over as Executive Producer – you have to have your fingers in a lot of pies with 130 people under you on ‘Red Rock’

‘It is a huge honour to be Executive Producer on a show like this – a show that has proved itself to be ground-breaking. It’s great that I can use all the experience I have to help continue that in order to help grow the show and build it towards the future. I think it has a very bright future which is great for Ireland.’

So what can we expect from the new season of ‘Red Rock’ then?

‘We are really building on the foundations that have been put in place earlier in the year. It’s important to remember that a lot of episodes going on the screen were actually shot some time ago – I think all our episodes up to Christmas and New Year have been shot. What I think is right at the heart of ‘Red Rock’ will be seen again in the new season – that you never know what is going to happen and we are not afraid to take very big risks. We want the audience to feel like the show is a thrill ride. The show is a police procedural drama at heart after all so we want it so that the audience can never predict what is going to happen next.’

‘Red Rock’ returns to TV3 on Wednesday, September 2nd.

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