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Exclusive: 'Waterloo Road' producer Cameron Roach shares new series gossip

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Waterloo Road's executive producer Cameron Roach

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)

Waterloo Road launches a new era next week as the popular BBC One drama returns with its first episodes filmed and set in Scotland.

The show's eighth series kicks off as the brand new Waterloo Road opens its doors for the first day of term, with teachers and students alike excited about the fresh start.

Digital Spy recently had an exclusive chat with Waterloo Road's executive producer Cameron Roach to hear his take on the programme's relaunch and the storylines ahead in the coming weeks.

Following the move to Scotland, how well has Waterloo Road settled into its new home? Has it worked out as well as you'd hoped?
"If I'm honest with you, it's actually worked out better than we'd hoped. It was slightly nerve-wracking when we first discussed and planned the move, but I think that after seven series of a show, you do need a shot of adrenaline of some sort. So the move has given us an opportunity to really look at the show and how we tell stories. We've looked at what works and what the audience really enjoys, and then tried to capitalise on that.

"What we've noticed is that we've actually taken the show back to its core values, with really great stories of the week and very well-drawn, strong characters. It was also exciting that all of the core cast came to Scotland with us, so we didn't have to start from scratch. That gave us a huge confidence that we could take the bull by its horns and just go for it."

Are you confident that fans will accept the change and stay loyal to the show?
"Yes, because I think what the fans will notice is that it's literally business as usual from episode one. We purposely chose a school that architecturally mirrors the school in Rochdale, so when you're watching the show, there's a similar atmosphere in terms of the building and the corridors. As well as that, the kids are in the same uniforms and there's lots of familiar faces.

"We've also got better views now! In Rochdale, we were next to a motorway, but here we're on the mouth of the Clyde looking across the hills, which is the most stunning scenery. That gives us a brilliant backdrop, so in a way it's Waterloo Road with a better view!

"As the show re-launches itself in Scotland, I also think it's a great time for viewers who maybe haven't watched for a while to join us again, or even for people to start watching when they haven't particularly paid much attention to the show in the past. It's a very good point for new fans to come on board."

Waterloo Road series eight cast shot

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)



Will the show explore how the characters themselves cope with such a big change in their lives?
"Yes - some of them struggle with the move, and that obviously gives us story potential, while others find a new lease of life. You'll also see that some characters have the same strains and problems hitting them in the new environment. Janeece, for example, has always struggled with childcare and we'll see that become a big issue for her in upcoming episodes. She's always over-relied on Chalky, so that creates a real tension between those two."

Waterloo Road is known for tackling big, gritty storylines. Will that remain the case in the new series?
"Of course. What I would say - and what we're very proud of - is that there's no story that we can't tell on Waterloo Road. Whether it's domestic violence, alcoholism, self-harm or attempted suicide, these are massive issues which we do tackle and take very seriously.

"I think these issues speak to everyone, whether it's schoolkids or adults. It's important to remember that we're in the 8pm slot and we appeal to everyone, whether you're 16 or you're 60."

The previous series ended on a big cliffhanger with the lorry accident. Will that have much of an aftermath in the new series?
"Yes, it was a big cliffhanger and I think it's been revealed on various spoilers online that there has been a death. We pay due diligence to that death in the new series - it does have an impact on our staff and pupils. I don't want to give too much away, but in those early episodes, it does create quite heightened emotions within the storytelling."

Will there be many references to the Rochdale days in the new series?
"There certainly will be. Also, not only in the upcoming series airing this autumn, but in the series next spring and next summer, there will be familiar faces from Rochdale who make their way to Greenock. We hope that will really reward those fans who have watched over the eight series."

Waterloo Road series eight cast shot

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)



Michael Byrne remains Waterloo Road's headmaster in the new series. What's ahead for him in terms of storylines?
"In this series, Michael is basically returning to his home. He's going back to the place where he was brought up, and the ghosts of his past do catch up with him in a very significant way!

"I don't want to give away too much, but it's what you'd expect from anyone who's turned their back on home for a number of reasons and then has to confront those ghosts. It becomes quite emotional for him."

Michael is also at war with a rival headmaster, isn't he?
"He is - there are problems with Gerard Findlay, who is the headmaster of another local school called Havelock High. I think the two men represent two different types of headteacher. Michael is very much a super-head in the new mould, while Gerard has been in the post for a number of years and is on the cusp of retirement, so he's a little bit more set in his ways!

"To Gerard, Waterloo Road represents a massive threat to his own school. As he feels so threatened, he does challenge Michael on that."

Is it true that Gerard knows things about Michael's past?
"He does! He knows about Michael's past and his youth - things that Michael might have kept from the people who he's now working with…"

Laurie Brett as Christine Mulgrew in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)

Chelsee Healey as Janeece Bryant in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)



Former EastEnders star Laurie Brett has joined the show as Christine Mulgrew, a new teacher with an alcohol problem. Will this be a long-running story for the new series?
"Absolutely. When we deal with serious issues on the show, we deal with them long-term, because that is the reality of the situation. The alcohol problem is a demon that Christine battles with, although she thinks she has it under control.

"In many ways, that's just a surface issue - what's more problematic is her dysfunctional relationship with her son Connor. Connor is one of our new lead kids, and their relationship is very central to the new series."

Chelsee Healey, who plays Janeece, bows out from the show in series eight. Was it a blow to lose such a well-known cast member?
"Well, one of the strengths of Waterloo Road is that it doesn't ever rely solely on one member of the ensemble cast. We have characters who the audience fall in love with and they remain with us for a number of series, but people do come and go. That's just like any school across the nation, so we're staying true to school life.

"We are sorry to see Chelsee go, but we do have an ensemble cast of 24 and so within that mix, it doesn't leave a significant hole."

Will there be a fitting exit for Janeece?
"Indeed - it's a very emotional storyline and one that Chelsee really enjoyed playing. It will maximise and make the most of the very unlikely friendship and love story between Chalky and Janeece. It should be one for the fans to watch out for!"

What's ahead for Chalky as a character in his own right?
"We've always known that Chalky is a bit of a loner, so he does miss having Janeece around when she leaves. However, in episode nine, we see the arrival of a young kid who's played by Tommy Lawrence Knight from The Sarah Jane Adventures.

"Tommy's character Kevin is a bit of a maths geek, and Chalky recognises a younger version of himself in Kevin. As that dynamic develops, you'll see that Chalky has a new friendship in the show."

Naveed Choudhry as Tariq Siddiqui in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)

Philip Martin Brown and Melanie Hill as Grantly Budgen and Maggie Croft in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)



Spoilers have revealed that Tariq has lost the use of his legs following the accident. Will that story be explored for quite a while in the new episodes?
"Yes, that plays right across the series. Obviously he's gone through a significant accident with repercussions, which you find out more about in the first episode. The story is about how he can deal with what he now has to face on a daily basis. That will be tackled right across the series."

What's ahead for Grantly in the new series?
"Grantly has his challenges, because he and Maggie now run a schoolhouse which is attached to our main school, housing the kids who have moved from Rochdale to Greenock. For Grantly, I think living in a house full of teenagers is his worst nightmare, so we'll see all of the joys and repercussions which come from that!"

Would you give Grantly and Maggie an on-screen wedding?
"We may well do that!"

Tom Clarkson and his son Josh are also still in the show. Will they have much screen time in the new run?
"Yes - with both Tom and Grantly, they've been in the show from the start and we know the fans absolutely love them. I think Tom is always the voice of reason for Michael. If Michael and Lorraine have their moments, Tom is the one who is level-headed.

"The story that we tell across these next ten episodes is Tom having to let Josh fly the nest, which is hard for any single parent. That's another quite emotional story for us to tell."

Lorraine sounds like she'll be a force to be reckoned with in the new series…
"She will be. She comes to the school as and when she can depending on her business commitments, but for Michael he has to justify all of his decisions to her. Lorraine is not someone who's shy in coming forward, so that does create a lot of tensions and mayhem around the school! Lorraine should be a joy to watch."

Where will Sian be heading this series?
"For Sian, the move to Scotland is a great opportunity to leave the past behind her. She's viewing this as a fresh start and a way to really establish her role as part of the new senior management team, as the deputy head of this new school. Things are thrown into disarray, though, when her stepdaughter Madi lands on the doorstep. So her life isn't all plain sailing with Madi on her hands."

Kirstie Steele as Imogen Stewart in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR) / Toby Merritt

Kirstie Steele as Imogen Stewart

Shane O'Meara as Connor Mulgrew in Waterloo Road

© BBC / Shed Productions (WR)



We've heard that one of the new pupils, Imogen, has a significant story this series…
"You'll see a lot of Imogen with Christine's son Connor. Imogen and Connor (pictured above) just have an absolute attraction to each other. Connor is very intrigued by Imogen and can't quite understand her, because she keeps herself at a distance early on in the series.

"But ultimately we understand the reasons for that, and it's a massive secret that Imogen has kept from everyone around her. I'd say those two will have the love story of this series!"

Is it true that Scout has some more tough times ahead when she becomes the victim of bullying?
"Yes - Scout is one of the characters living in the boarding house with Maggie and Grantly, and what we're doing there is just showing the strains of students who not only have to spend their whole school days with each other, but have to live with each other as well. So the bullying story will be a big one for Scout in the coming weeks."

New characters Jade and Drew sound like they have a big role to play in episode one. Do both stay in the show?
"Without spoiling too much, one of them stays with us and the other one doesn't because of what happens in that first episode. But the one that stays does become a significant character longer-term for us."

Which of the new characters should viewers really be watching out for?
"Imogen and Connor is going to be a very exciting storyline. The stories for already-established students are also going to be really compelling.

"I think the other new students worth looking out for are Rhiannon, who has come from Rochdale but we haven't seen her before, and a character called Lula who has a significant story in episode two. Lula is like nothing that we've seen before in Waterloo Road!"

How do you sum up the series in general? Is there an overall story arc?
"This series this autumn is very much about the new start, landing in a new place and the rivalry with the local school Havelock. That's going to be the backdrop and a great way to establish ourselves in Greenock!"

> Read the latest 'Waterloo Road' spoilers and news

Waterloo Road launches its new series on Thursday, August 23 at 8pm on BBC One. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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