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Sherwood creator responds to criticism from real-life victim’s family

James Graham spoke to RadioTimes.com about comments made last week by Anne MacPherson.

Sherwood Excl
Published: Monday, 20th June 2022 at 4:34 pm
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James Graham has responded to criticism from a family member of one of the real-life victims whose case inspired his drama Sherwood.

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Last week, Anne MacPherson, whose daughter Chanel was killed by her abusive father in 2004, told The Mirror she "wanted nothing to do with" the series and said it was "ripping my family apart all over again".

Now, in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, Graham said that although he understood MacPherson's reservations, it was important to note that the drama was only inspired by the real events, rather than depicting what happened outright.

“Like anyone would, I felt incredibly sad and sorry for [MacPherson] that those memories were being brought up again," he explained. "We approached her to see if she wanted to be involved in the way that the first family had, and there’s absolutely no judgement from my point of view that they didn't want to do that. I've got no idea what my own response would be if that had happened to me.

"I suppose I feel the only frustration I have is with some of the reporters and the attention that's come towards the real-life people because it actually implies that the drama is closer to real-life events than it is. And so some of the language that was used in the questions put to the family of the second victim, I just sort of disagree [with how the questions were phrased] because it's implied that those people are on screen, and they're not on screen.

"And we did that for the sole purpose of avoiding them having to live this again and having to have those conversations with the media," he continued. "But again, you balance everything up and I understand their point of view.

"And to everyone else, including the police and other community leaders who did want the story to be told, I hope we found a way to do that in a way that is cathartic for them and also for the viewing public, that it speaks to a more universal, general theme around political divisiveness and toxicity in this difficult political moment we're living through at the moment."

He added that telling the story sensibly was pretty much all he thought about in the early days of scripting the drama and that he was "probably more anxious about this story than any other I've ever written".

"There's a different level of nervousness you have if you're doing a drama about Dominic Cummings say or if you're doing a drama about Rupert Murdoch," he explained.

Lesley Manville in Sherwood rushing out of her house with a shocked expression on her face

"I’m obviously painfully aware that it still feels very raw a lot of this stuff for people, and it's their experience, not mine, it’s their pain and not mine. And you just have to take a balanced view. We had a lot of conversations locally, and a lot of people in the community were thinking that it was about time to start looking at these difficult things.

"Others were more nervous but were happy to tentatively step into those conversations and be involved. And then we have to be really honest that some people were really worried about it and didn't want to be involved because for them it wasn't the right time. And again, that's why I still think it's the right choice happens to not represent anyone real on-screen but to try and capture the essence of the story instead.”

Additional reporting by Abby Robinson.

Sherwood airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub for the latest news.

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