Russell T Davies explains why he won’t return to write A Very English Scandal sequel

The writer said writing the follow-up to the BBC anthology series would be like "getting lightning to strike twice"

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After a critically-acclaimed first series, writer Russell T Davies has said he has no plans to pen more episodes of A Very English Scandal.

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Although it was recently revealed by RadioTimes.com that the BBC1 drama would be turned into an anthology series akin to American Crime Story, Davies told us that returning would be like “getting lightning to strike twice”.

“No, I think I had a scandal that was tailor-made for me there,” Davies said at the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival when asked if he’d write again for the show.

Referring to his 2018 series – which centred on Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe (played by Hugh Grant) and his desperate attempts to cover up an affair with Ben Whishaw’s Norman Josiffe (better known in the media as Norman Scott) – Davies added:

“I always wanted to tell the story of Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott. And I loved writing every single second of it. But it would be like getting lightning to strike twice if I did it [again]. Good luck to [the new team] – how many scandals have there been in our society? A million! But, for me, [the Jeremy Thorpe scandal] was the one.”

While Davies’ series was anchored in the 1970s, the second series of the show will jump back to examine the 1963 sex scandal involving Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll. While divorcing her husband Ian Campbell, it emerged Margaret had been involved in several extramarital affairs, allegedly with a number of figures holding positions of power.

As executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins previously told RadioTimes.com, “The Duchess of Argyll was the first woman to be publicly slut-shamed.

“We’re going to focus on the very public divorce from her second husband. He went through her private desk and found a list of all the men she’d slept with, as well as three polaroid photos of her wearing only her pearls and giving a blow job to a man whose head was out of the picture.

“At the time, the news was in all the papers – people thought that it could have been a member of the royal family or the government or a Hollywood actor. No one still knows who it was.”

The cast nor writer have yet been unveiled for the series, but Treadwell-Collins revealed it would be penned by a woman (“for a feminist scandal, I need a female writer”). RadioTimes.com understands that Sarah Phelps (Ordeal by Innocence, Witness for the Prosecution) is being lined up to adapt the story.

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal
Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Davies also told RadioTimes.com that he had no plans to develop a new episode of his cult hit Queer as Folk. “I don’t think the demand is that great, to be honest,” he said.

“It’s quite a niche show from the past. I’d love to, but I can’t quite think of a satisfactory time when a whole series could be brought back in its own right.”

However, Davies added there’s a chance, however small, that the show could return for a small special. “Maybe there’s a charity-themed something to be done one day perhaps, but there’s nothing planned.”

However, there is a new Davies series hitting screens soon: Years and Years. Following one family – the Lyons from Manchester – the series will present a version of the near future where the uncertain society of today becomes ever-more dangerous.

“The world has got madder over the past few years,” Davies explained. “I thought of this series before the 2008 recession, before Trump, before Brexit. I sat back as the world got madder and madder and truly the night of Trump’s election, I emailed the head of drama at the BBC saying if Trump gets in I was going to write it now!”

“I was the only person celebrating Trump’s victory because I got a commission!” he added, with a laugh.

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Years and Years is set to air on BBC1 in spring 2019