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Moving On, 'Drowning not Waving'

"John Mulligan is an enigma." [1]

Richard Armitage as John Mulligan in Moving OnRichard Armitage plays John Mulligan in ‘Drowning not Waving’, one of a series of five new dramas called Moving On, shown on BBC One in May 2009.

The series of five 45 minute dramas was commissioned by the BBC for its Daytime schedule, and were shown each day over the course of one week.  Each drama stands alone, but they all concern characters moving on in their lives. They deal with contemporary issues that range from the property slump to transvestism.

Richard appeared in the third of the dramas, written by Sarah Deane.  Ellie (Christine Tremarco, formerly seen in Waterloo Rd and Clocking Off) is in debt and needs to sell her house to avoid bankruptcy.  But in the middle of a property slump, her chances of finding a buyer are slim.

Then a friend from her past turns up – John Mulligan (Richard Armitage), formerly a boy from a sink estate with little hope of amounting to anything, but now a successful property developer.  They once had a youthful love affair, and there is a possibility that it might be rekindled. He offers Ellie a way out of her problems, suggesting that he buy her house and let her rent it back.

It seems like the perfect solution, but is John entirely what he seems?  Ellie eventually finds herself having to make a difficult moral decision. Writer Sarah Deane said that she wanted the audience to question their own moral certainties. "Even though it’s a recession not all of us are feeling the pinch and most of us go about saying 'that’s black and that’s white' and laugh at the ridiculous stories on Jeremy Kyle and say, ‘I would never do that’. But until you’re in a desperate situation yourself, you don’t know how you would react." [2]

Richard Armitage described John as “brilliant, effortless and confident”, but also “an enigma”.  He was attracted to the project by the quality of Sarah Deane’s writing.  "It felt real, colloquial, domestic yet dangerous as it tumbled towards its climax. It wasn't overly dramatic in its events -  the clash of the characters is where the drama was located. I found that challenging and new.” [1]

Moving On was executive-produced by the award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street) and is intended to be a showcase for new writers and directors, many of whom are new to TV.  It has attracted an impressive cast that includes not only Richard Armitage, but also Sheila Hancock, Dervla Kirwan, Ian Hart, Lesley Sharp and Richard’s co-star from Robin Hood, Joanne Froggatt.

It was far more ambitious than the standard fare in BBC One’s daytime scheduling, and has been made possible partly by the loss of Australian soap opera Neighbours to Channel 5 in 2008, which freed up money for projects such as this. Producer Colin McKeown, who in 1982 helped launch the Channel 4 soap Brookside, said "I think Moving On is one of the best daytime series there's ever been. I'm as excited about this as a showcase for new writing talent as I was about Brookside."  [3]

He and Jimmy McGovern selected the writers and their stories, and then McGovern worked with them to produce the final shooting scripts. McKeown said of the process of using new writers and directors, "That sounds risky, but we didn't think so. There aren't many opportunities to let people cut their teeth in this business - the way to do it is to harness these first-time writers and directors to an experienced team." [3]

When the project was announced in July 2008, Jimmy McGovern said, "Our aim is to produce riveting drama to an extremely high standard. Part of the attraction is that we'll be making the programmes in Liverpool, our home town, a city full of talent."  [4]

'Drowning not Waving' was filmed in Liverpool in late 2008.



LA Productions (production company for Moving On)


[1] BBC press pack for Moving On, 15th April 2009
[2] Interview with Sarah Deane, Liverpool Echo, 6th May 2009
[3] Radio Times, 21st-27th March 2009
[4] BBC press release, 4th July 2008


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