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Bryan Kirkwood (Producer, 'Hollyoaks Later')

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Bryan Kirkwood (Producer, 'Hollyoaks Later')
Having called time on his three-year Hollyoaks producership last October, Bryan Kirkwood vacated his office at Lime Pictures in December to make way for his successor - his then-deputy producer Lucy Allan. Three months later, Bryan returned to the Liverpool-based production house to head up the new run of Hollyoaks Later. We recently caught up with Bryan to chat about what we can expect from this year's late-night run, filming for the parachute stunt and Bonnie Tyler's cameo.

How's the filming gone for this year's Later and what can we expect?
"It's gone brilliantly. It's been really exciting and there was a great energy during the filming and production – everyone's given it their all. The stories are really strong, too – there's a variety of romance, adventure, danger, comedy… and a breathtaking stunt. I'm extremely happy with the material."

How different has Later been for you compared to the main show?
"It's a totally difference experience for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's a beginning, middle and an end to it. It's very strange for me to start something and even stranger to see it end as I've only ever worked on continuing soap serials! It's oddly sad that something you've invested so much in has to come to a close. Also, for me as a producer, it's given me a lot more opportunity to get involved with the crews and filming, rather than being a remote producer on the top floor. It's been really satisfying to be able to get my hands dirty - that's something you don't have the time to do when you're in endless, back-to-back meetings on a five-nightly soap."

Creatively, what differences are there in an hour-long Later compared with a half-hour main show episode?
"It's a different format, so you have to tell stories differently. We really tried to move away from the old slightly salacious Late Night Hollyoaks idea because they didn't have a good reputation at the end. Lucy Allan did a great job last year in reinventing the format. You can tell stories at a slower pace and get more involved in what's going on in characters' heads, while also being a little more adult about it. At the same time, we obviously try to avoid the 'cheap' aspect that maybe the show used to put across."

Did you know you'd be doing Later when you quit the main show?
"I knew there was a possibility that I'd be coming back for this. At the end of last year, I weighed up a few options and what I really needed to do was something at a completely different pace to a five-night-a-week show. This has just been the best thing possible for me. I stared at a blank piece of paper and it's quite a slow process getting something off the ground, but it was necessary for me to get my energy and ideas back after three pretty relentless years on the main show."

Did you have story ideas at the time?
"It was way too early at that point. When I came back, I worked closely with Lucy again to figure out what stories would be playing in the 6.30pm show at the time of the Later transmission. You can't rob the main show of all the characters, but I had very firm ideas about who I wanted to use in Later - character-wise and actor-wise."

How does your vision of Later compare to Lucy's last year?
"I don't think there's an enormous change in format from last year's. It's five, strong hour-long episodes filled with drama and comedy. Last year's was great, so I just hope I can equal that success."

What stories can we look forward to this year?
"There are four main strands and sub-strands within them. Each story's been well told in that you think you know it's going in a certain direction and it suddenly gets a bit darker. Each story has its peak in a different episode, too. Hopefully everyone's tastes will be satisfied as the stories play out."

The Festival
"The first episode kicks off and concentrates on the Ashworth kids as they go to a music festival. There's a lot of variety in their story. There's romance for Rhys and Hannah and a really quite realistic and edgy angle as they unwittingly befriend a gang of local drug dealers. Even though Rhys thinks he's a rock star in the making, he realises across the week that he's a little more suburban then he thought. Hannah falls hook, line and sinker for a new bloke called Jamie and she's keen to grow up and set new boundaries for herself after being deserted by Justin. Emma Rigby is always great when she's emoting, so we'll see Hannah in the middle of a dangerous and messy situation."

Outward Bound
"We also have the boot camp story which sees Sarah, Lydia, Zoe, Fernando, Gilly and Steph all go away to an outdoor retreat place for an adventure holiday and parachute jump. We play a bit of a lighter strand with Steph, Fernando and Gilly, which keys into the main 6.30pm show, as Gilly struggles with his unrequited love for Steph. Then, bubbling under that is Lydia's jealousy over Sarah and Zoe, which leads the shocking stunt - the parachute death. Lydia tampers with someone's parachute and either Zoe or Sarah meet a grisly end. It looks amazing on screen. I can't wait for everyone to see it."

The McQueens
"We also have the McQueens going mad in London, which is fantastic stuff. Theresa gets a modelling job in the City and wants to kill two birds with one stone and visit her mum Kathleen in prison while she's there. Jacqui and Carmel think that Theresa and Michaela have been kidnapped by an international pedophile ring and rush down there to rescue them. It's really, really funny. There are a few surprises along the way, too. Jorgie Porter's really blossomed over the last year and turns out some emotional stuff when she meets her screen mum. Also Jacqui - who's always been one of my favourite characters - we really see the vulnerability under the harsh exterior. She's always self-sabotaging and we see more of that in London. Carmel's best when she's playing comedy, too."

Gold Digger
"And the final strand is one which brings to a head a story that's been bubbling under in the 6.30pm show - as Darren and Cindy's plan to fleece Tony comes to a head at Cindy and Tony's wedding. It's a really satisfying story because we see Cindy on an emotional journey. She's returned from Spain a hard-faced bitch who's fixated by money. The hour episodes allow us to really get under Cindy's skin and see that there is a heart. There are some twists and turns along the way, too - in Darren's attempts to sabotage the wedding and the arrival of Cindy's old partner in crime Savannah Madeiros who wants a stake in Tony's money, too. It's a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. There are three weddings along the week, but I'm not going to tell you which one goes ahead…"

Where did the parachute death idea come from?
"It's always difficult to come up with something that you haven't see before. There's also a risk attached that you're going too far but it's fun to come up with new ideas. It's a real challenge for the production side of it all as we attempt to make new ideas look convincing on screen. That's what I think Lime Pictures is brilliant at - there's such a talent base here, behind the camera and in post-production, which we can do things that other soaps don't ever quite manage. We're not talking stunt men in wigs being thrown off cliffs - our actors get involved and throw themselves out of planes!"

Where on earth did the Bonnie Tyler idea come from?
"Another thing Hollyoaks does well is mix really compelling drama with ludicrous, surreal fun. You can only get away with that on this show. I love being able to cram all of it in and give the audience a real sense of not knowing what's going to happen next."

Where do you go from here?
"I wouldn't like to say at this stage. All I know is that I've had the best time making Later, it's been so satisfying. Who knows what's next…"

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