We never said, “Let’s make something that’s really, really the right wing.” But the right wing responded very vociferously. What I say is: If it’s touched a raw nerve, then that nerve is there to be touched.
There’s lots of things I worked on. In the book, for a start, Barry dies in the first couple of pages. By page two, Barry is gone. But I wanted to keep Barry around longer because I wanted to, in the TV adaptation, really see what Barry meant to everybody, whether they loved him or they loated him, so we could see what his absence really means. The book is called ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ and that can mean an empty seat on a parish council and all about local politics or, perhaps, actually what Barry’s death does is send shock waves of sudden death through the village. And what it actually becomes about is the casual vacancy as a grave.
Also I changed what they are arguing about. In the book, the parish council are debating a boundary line, but a boundary line is fine in a book, but in a TV adaptation, it means you are pointing at a map. In terms of the change, I asked myself: What if a person, a long time ago, had donated a house to the people who worked in their field? And what if 150 years later, when property is through the roof and that village is now reliant on tourism, what is that house is still for the people of the field, but now the fields is a really rundown estate? And now they've got all these rundown people walking through their village and ruining their property prices. What if we do it like that?
What did you think of the reaction to the airing in the U.K.?
That was really interesting. Some people really hated it. “How dare you show us this on our Sunday night!” And the weird thing was that when [director] Jonny [Campbell] and I discussed it, we never said, “You know what? Let’s make a really left-wing thing.” We talked about films with timeless stories that are sunk down into the landscape. We talked about the 19th century novels and the great industrial novels. We never said, “Let’s make something that’s really, really the right wing.” But the right wing responded very vociferously. What I say is: If it’s touched a raw nerve, then that nerve is there to be touched.
What was really kind of interesting was that, despite the fact that we got some flack from people, we also got people responding in a really positive way, from sometimes really surprising quarters. Like, letters from people who said, “This is how our parish council behaves.” We heard about really dirty tricks in local politics. One woman I ran into reacted so strongly, telling me with tears in her eyes, “But there are so many Krystals. So many Krystals. There are just too many Krystals.”
How do you feel about how the miniseries turned out?
I’m extremely proud of it. I’m incredibly proud of the way that Jonny created that absolutely seamless world, and I’m so proud of the cast as well. Abigail Lawrie who plays Krystal is absolutely unbelievable. That’s her first job acting. We all sat there and said to each other, “How are we going to find someone to play the Krystal role?” There was Abigail Lawrie, and she suddenly looked up and, before she even opened her mouth, I knew she was Krystal.