Sunday, October 3rd will see new drama series, ‘Love-Hate’, launch on RTÉ One. The 4 x 1hour series stars Robert Sheehan (Misfits), Aidan Gillen (The Wire), Ruth Negga (Breakfast on Pluto) and Ruth Bradley (Stardust) and explores Dublin’s modern gangland community. IFTN spoke with ‘Love/Hate’ screenwriter, Stuart Carolan (Little White Lie, Raw) to discuss the very personal inspiration behind the project, the cast members involved and his alternative approach to researching Dublin’s gangland members.
‘Love/Hate’ is directed by David Caffrey (Divorcing Jack, Raw) and shot for seven weeks in October and November of last year around Dublin. The series starts with a catastrophic event which ignites the tensions in a small-time drug gang, family, friends and community who must live with the consequences.
The drama series is an RTÉ funded Octagon Films production, produced by Simon Massey, Suzanne McAuley (A Shine of Rainbows) and James Flynn (P.S. I Love You). The recently deceased Donal Gilligan (The Boys of St Columb's, Dead Bodies) was director of photography for the project.
‘Love/Hate’ writer Stuart Carolan explains to us how the idea for the drama series came about: “Like many people who read the reports in the newspaper, I'd long been fascinated by gangland,” he explains. “But more specifically my mother worked as a nurse in the A&E department of St. James Hospital in Blanchardstown Hospital. She often dealt with the young men from gangs who came in having been shot. She found it distressing and a terrible waste of young lives. She told me one story of a young lad who came in one winter's night, a joyrider. He'd been brought in by the guards and because he was too young to be arrested, they took one of his fancy new runners off him. After he was patched up my mother watched him leave on his own. No one came to pick him up and he walked out into darkness with only the one runner on him and it was snowing so there was frost on the ground. This image was where it began as well as many other things.”
Stuart’s approach to actually writing ‘Love/Hate’ was not one typical of a screenwriter: “In terms of exploring the hinterland of gangland, their families and friends it began when, out of curiosity, I looked up the Facebook and Bebo RIP pages of dead gangland members. Despite what they had done or how they had died, their families were like anybody else’s. So I wanted to try and capture some of that. And then I did my research and I researched it like a journalist. I talked to countless people. But I also wanted to capture something of modern life, shopping centers, gyms, creches, being constantly on the move and on the phone. And it was crucial not to be sentimental.”
Stuart had worked with director David Caffrey previously with ‘Raw’ and this partnership led directly to the pair working together again on ‘Love/Hate’. “We got on very well and decided to try and work together,” the writer tells us. “We're on the same wavelength on a lot of things, so working together was very hand in glove. He's full of energy and ideas, and we had a lot fun hanging out and chewing the fat. For me this was the key, working with someone who I liked who was full of positive energy. Also I looked at all the great television series and one of the reasons they work is when a writer works closely with a director.”
When asked if he had any reservations as to portraying this very grim side of Dublin, Stuart explains that he sees it as simply telling a story like any other. “I wanted to tell a story,” he says. “There are many stories within the four episodes but the two over-arching ones are stories of revenge and love. The key thing was to be true to the story I wanted to tell. Terence Winter talks about advice given to him by David Chase – he says that a writer’s first duty is to tell a story, tell it well, and keep your audience. Chase also talked about his learning experience on ‘The Rockford Files’ - getting in ABC storylines before seven minutes and the ad break. I was acutely conscious of writing in this way.
”I didn't in any way want to glamorise crime but I don't want to tell some kind of trite morality tale - crime doesn't pay etc. Audiences aren't stupid. They can handle paradoxes and inconsistencies. Inevitably though, you do run the danger of making it look glamorous. I accept that. But look at is this way - Ray Liotta looks nothing like the real Henry Hill and Henry Hill's own story is more seedy, degenerate and sad than the one portrayed in ‘Goodfellas’. But ‘Goodfellas’ is one of the best movies ever made and does it in some way glamorise crime? Yes it does. A big influence though was Italian film ‘Gomorrah’ - in terms of making you feel queasy about the violence and see the utter futility of the wasted lives.
”We wanted to show the pointlessness of murder, the raw grief of relatives, the stupidity of it, and the horror. There's one particular murder scene that was crucial to making an audience feel repulsed by this way of life. As William Munny says in Unforgiven, 'It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man, you take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.”
Stuart is quick to voice his happiness at the cast members that were chosen for the series. “I think the cast is unbelievable!” He says passionately. “And we were very lucky with dates etc. Without a strong cast a show is nothing, it falls apart. It was cast a month before shooting so it was great to do all my re-writes with the actors in mind. I think Maureen Hughes did an amazing job getting them all and making it happen. To start off with a blank sheet of paper and end up seeing Aidan Gillen, Robert Sheehan, Ruth Negga, Ruth Bradley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Brian Gleeson, Laurence Kinlan, Aoibhinn McGinnity, Killian Scott & Peter Campion on screen is a nice feeling.”
What a writer sees as he creates his story and what audiences end up seeing are often two very different things, but Stuart has seen the project develop into something he is very pleased with. “The finished product is beyond what I had expected it to be,” he tells us. “Sometimes on a project all the pieces seem to come together and it seemed to happen on this. Jane Gogan and David Crean in RTÉ were hugely supportive. And Suzanne McCauley, Simon Massey and James Flynn really pushed the boat out. At an early stage they looked at the script and said, budget wise, we needed to halve the locations and halve the number of actors - I think it was originally something like over a hundred locations and seventy speaking parts. However they have this amazing team that have been with them on ‘Raw’ and with everybody pulling together, I don't know how they managed it but they did, and we ended up not cutting any locations or characters, which made all the difference.”
Donal Gilligan worked on the project before suddenly passing away this month, something which was keenly felt by Stuart who has nothing but praise for the cinematographer: “This really felt like being part of a collective,” Stuart explains. “Everybody; locations, design, costumes etc. worked above and beyond the call of duty. And that's how we ended up with something we're all hugely proud of. Donal Gilligan was at the centre of this team and that's the reason is looks so great - it's as simple as that. He did a magnificent job.”
‘Love/Hate’s production design is by Stephen Daly (Breakfast on Pluto) and costumes are by Aisling Wallace Byrne. Editing took place at Windmill Lane with Dermot Diskin (Kings, Boy Eats Girl) in the edit suite. Production Depot supplied camera facilities and Teach Solais supplied lighting for the series.
‘Love/Hate’ will broadcast weekly from Sunday, October 3rd at 9.30pm on RTÉ1.