A Lack Of Trust?
BBC thriller drama Trust Me started last week and here’s its writer and executive producer Dan Sefton talking about it…
Tell us about this new series – what is it about?
It’s a completely new story but it’s another tense psychological thriller set in a medical world. Jamie McCain is a soldier who suffers a spinal injury. He returns to the UK for rehab, but soon starts to believe someone in the hospital is killing patients. Is he right, or does his mental breakdown mean he’s imagining things?
Did you follow the successful formula of the first series or make it completely different?
Yes and no. The idea of merging a tense thriller story with a more emotional sub plot is still there. However we were keen to explore a completely different type of hospital. Also, we knew this series would be self-contained, which helped hugely with building towards an exciting climax.
Tell us about Jamie and why you chose to tell the story from his point of view
Jamie is angry and damaged psychologically. We soon realise he has a secret – something happened when he was leading his troops and he’s struggling to deal with it. He’s also having to face life with a disability, and initially he almost wishes he hadn’t survived. I wanted to show Jamie fighting to recover from both the mental and physical scars while also trying to prove that he isn’t imagining things: people really are dying and he needs to stop it. Plus he falls in love. It’s a busy week.
Is there a danger of the pace becoming slightly pedestrian with the lead character immobile for most of the series?
For me, there’s so much tension and dramatic irony in a super fit and physically able soldier being suddenly made weak and vulnerable. So his battle is to get from one side of a room to another – but for a man in Jamie’s position that’s like climbing a mountain. We see a lot of characters leaping tall buildings in a single bound! In this series we focus right in and show a different type of physical struggle.
Was this story inspired by real-life events/your own experiences?
A long time ago I worked in a Neurological Unit where rehab was taking place. I knew it was a different kind of medicine, a much more multidisciplinary approach where nurses and therapists play a huge role. I wanted to show that. It’s not often seen on TV.
Are any of the characters based on anyone you know or have worked with?
John Hannah’s character is certainly based on a few older doctors I have known. Hopefully he will remind viewers of some of their own ‘horrible bosses’. Those kind of interactions are pretty similar in any workplace. But is he a murderer? You’ll have to wait and see. I don’t think I’ve worked with any murderous doctors, but never say never.
How realistic is this story?
For that last year or so when I was writing this, I collected news stories of health care professionals who harmed patients. Sadly there are numerous examples in this country and all over the world. One inspiration was a case where a nurse was wrongly accused of being a killer and arrested. We’ve tried to draw on real-life accounts and motivations in coming up with the plot, although it’s obviously a fiction. But the idea of health workers deliberately harming patients is very real, and of course terrifying when you are in such a vulnerable position.
Both the director John Alexander and I visited a spinal injury unit before the scripts were written, and listened to the stories of the patient who have suffered these kinds of injuries. As far as possible we tried to reflect the reality of treatment and rehab in a specialist unit.
Is enough being done to ensure the mental wellbeing of veterans after they return from war?
I don’t think enough is done to ensure the wellbeing of all people who have to deal with repeated exposure to violent and traumatic events. I would add in paramedics, firefighters and police officers. These are very hard jobs and they take their toll on the people who do them.
What challenges did you come across whilst writing this series?
The relative immobility of the main character meant we had to be creative in keeping the action going. However it’s still exciting!
You’ve mentioned this series is Hitchcockian in style, can you elaborate?
Well, there’s an obvious nod to Rear Window in the set up, and I initially pitched it to the BBC as ‘Rear Window in a spinal unit’. But what I love about the best Hitchcock films is the tension, the idea of an ‘everyman’ main character and the slightly edgy, uncomfortable tone he always maintained – there’s a real darkness at the heart of the stories and characters. We’ve tried to use that as inspiration without it becoming homage.
It’s another great cast for this series, how did the casting process come about?
We had a great casting team. Around Alfred we have a brilliant ensemble including three fantastic Scottish actors in John Hannah, Ashley Jensen and Richard Rankin. Add to that Katie, a lead actress whose Scottish accent is so brilliant.
Also there should be a special mention for Elliot who plays fellow patient and wheelchair user Danny. He’s absolutely perfect for the role and I hope he goes on to act in other productions.
You’re creating and writing a number of successful television series now, are you still moonlighting as a doctor?
No I’ve retired for now. Not enough hours in the day, unfortunately.