Interview With Eileen Gallagher

Exactly a decade after
the U.K. series Bad Girls was conceived, the prison drama is
coming to America. HBO is adapting the show for U.S. television and is placing
some of its biggest talent behind the effort. Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet
) is the supervising writer, and Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl, Six
Feet Under
) and Raelle Tucker (Supernatural) are the lead writers. The three will
executive produce along with series’ co-creator Eileen Gallagher.

As CEO of Shed
Productions, Gallagher is one of the most powerful and successful lesbians in
entertainment. Together with Maureen Chadwick, Brian Park and Ann McManus, her
partner of 24 years, Gallagher formed Shed in 1998. Seven years later — and
based in part on the enormous popularity of Bad
their first production — the U.K.-based company went public and was
valued at more than $85 million.

Gallagher spoke with about HBO’s early plans for the show’s development and about the
challenges of bringing a British drama — and a lesbian romance — to American

Eileen Gallagher I want to jump in and ask what AfterEllen readers most
want to know, which is whether the characters of Nikki and Helen are going to
be part of the American version of Bad
Eileen Gallagher:
Oh, certainly. Yes, I mean the great thing about
Nancy and Raelle, the writers on this, is the reason they want to do Bad Girls is they’re big fans of the
show. I think they found the show on a local channel and they’ve been watching
it. They want to keep true to the heart of the show and true to the characters
and stories.

Clearly there’ll be some
changes in terms of the prisons, just to be true to the American system, but
they’re absolutely committed to reproducing the show in a way that reflects
what they enjoyed about the original. It will be very recognizable but with a
lovely HBO gloss, and I’m sure they’ll add great things to the stories and characters.

AE: With HBO, I assume there’s no hesitation to create a central
lesbian story line.
Well, I haven’t been in the HBO meetings so I can’t talk first-hand,
but I have spoken to Nancy and Raelle, and they like the series as it is, and I
can’t believe for a minute that HBO would buy the series and give it to this
team and then shy away from a lesbian love story. And I don’t think it’s in
HBO’s history or DNA that they shy away from anything.

It’s just terrific,
because if I could choose a home for Bad
, the top of the list would be HBO. It’s a fantastic place for it
because HBO — they’re a trailblazer, high quality, and not afraid to have

AE: Do you know how closely they plan to stick to the original
characters and story lines?
Yes, very close. That’s what they said to us. They love the characters
and the stories and the tone of the show, and they want to stick with it.
That’s one of the reasons we’re so pleased. We had tried it previously with
another writer at FX, and we didn’t want to go ahead with it because we just
felt the characters and the tone was wrong. We want to protect what we think is
special about the show, and so do the writers that will be doing it for HBO, so
it feels like a very good relationship.

AE: You sold the rights initially to the FX network, but they came back
with a script that I think you said was “too gritty.” Can you talk
about what they missed that you’re hoping HBO gets?
I think it’s really important that the female characters, the prisoners,
are well-rounded, that you like them despite the fact they’re in prison, that
you see the good in them. Also, there’s camaraderie and humor in women’s
prisons that I think we got over, which is important. I think, quite frankly,
the writer was directing it more toward a kind of Oz feel, because he probably thought that’s what FX wanted, and
that’s just not the show. Our show is not Oz.
We like audiences to laugh and cry in the same episode if possible, and that’s
just not what we saw there.

We’ve waited patiently,
and it’s more important to us to get it right than just to get it done. We feel
that with Nancy and Raelle and Alan Ball, and with HBO — it’s a fantastic
combination of talent — and also they’ve made it very clear that they really
want input from the Shed creators in the U.K. They want to be able to
collaborate with us, and we want to be as helpful as we can.

And, you know, there are
some episodes and some stories and things that we felt worked better than
others, and we can give them our opinion of what we’d have done the second time
around. The great advantage of being able to do it a second time is you can
make it even better, really, because there are some things we’d change. But
certainly one thing that will not change is the love story between Nikki and
Helen, which of course defined the first three series. And I’m sure, with Nancy
and Raelle, that’s one of the major elements they like about it.