Why we picked Boston as location for Wild Bill

by Wild Bill writers Jim Keeble & Dudi Appleton

There are a different types of writing partnerships – some take a character or a scene each and send to the other, but we like to actually write in the same room, together. It’s line by line, word by word and sometimes comma by comma.

It seems pretty weird to other people but we know each other well. We met on the first day of college and were friends before we started a working partnership which continues to this day. We had a shared passion for film and music back then and we weren’t always able to find the things we wanted to see and hear. So it seemed logical to make them ourselves.

The original idea for Wild Bill came from David Griffiths, who read a piece in the LA Times about David Cameron posing the concept that British police chiefs could come from English- speaking countries outside of the UK. He was trying to pave the way for the NYPD’s Bill Bratton to come and take over the Metropolitan Police. That never happened, but the one thing it did lead to was Wild Bill.

The series is about an improbably handsome and successful American cop who comes to run a police force in Boston, Lincolnshire. He’s running away from something but we don’t know what, and bringing with him his young teenage daughter. He finds himself in the last place he wanted to be and yet maybe this is actually the place he needs to be – and that needs him.

Rob Lowe was already set to play Bill Hixon, so we weren’t just imagining an American cop in the UK, we were imagining Rob Lowe as a cop in the UK and that affected much of our thinking about the show. Particularly about where we should set it. We thought about one of the big, metropolitan areas of the country such as Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham, but soon started questioning how different that really was from an American metropolitan area.

We liked the absurdity of putting Rob Lowe in Lincolnshire, and what that would bring out in him and what he would bring out in the place. In Manchester or Liverpool, he’d still be able to get the coffee he drinks, the sushi he eats and the exercise classes he could find in any major city in the States, so it needed to be somewhere removed. So the show becomes less about an American coming to England and more about a metropolitan guy going to a place where he can’t get what he wants, can’t live the life he’s used to – a place that will push all his buttons.

In this respect, we wrote it from our own points of view. We live in and around London and that metropolitan life is pretty familiar. So going to Boston, Lincolnshire was about as foreign for us as it is for Bill Hixon. It’s very easy to see people in more rural areas as the ones who can’t be removed from their environment, but actually, we’re the ones challenged by it when we’re there. It challenged us and in turn, we wanted to challenge Bill – to put him in a place that he doesn’t understand and that has no interest in understanding him.

Get the season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

Boston was in the news a lot when we were developing the show. It was frequently cited as the Brexit capital of Britain, with the highest Leave vote in the country and also in a recent year had the highest level of homicidal crime. Boston is a beautiful town with an amazing cathedral built around a grand market square. It also provided many of America’s founding fathers. It has been through some hard times of late and yet it retains a really strong and particular character all its own. It also very much has its own rules, and that opened the door to certain types of stories.

The Lincolnshire landscape also provided fascination. There’s nowhere else quite like it in the country, and it seemed the closest thing we have in the UK to a mid-west American landscape, with vast fields, endless skies and those single tracks with a remote farmhouse at the end of them. At night, distant lights across vast fens take on a life all their own. It felt to us like a place that hadn’t been seen on British screens.

Bill Hixon is this metropolitan guy who is sent to this rural area that is entirely different from what he wanted and is used to. But his deep, dark secret is that – like many of us – he ran away from a place like this. So what is it like to have to go back? He’s worked so hard to develop this sophisticated persona and now he’s being sent to a place very much like the one he wanted to escape. So the joke continually comes back to kick him in the ass (or as his boss Keith would have it: “Arse Bill, with an ‘r’. If you’re going to stay here, learn the bloody language.”)

Here in the Lincolnshire Flatlands, Bill Hixon is forced to confront the messiness of humanity that he fled when he left for the big city.

Though Bill is a Chief Constable who shouldn’t really be investigating cases, each episode forces him to emotionally engage with stories beyond his buttoned-up persona. It’s conceived as a procedural crime show and we worked hard to create the twistiest and turniest of plots, but it’s mainly concerned with Bill’s emotional journey via the characters that he encounters. For a guy who likes to hide his emotional side behind a bank of screens, figures and data, the cases and characters Bill meets continually push him way beyond comfort. And that’s without dealing with his teenage daughter.

We both felt that we had a sense of Rob Lowe from his previous work, and that’s what the audience will bring to it too. This meant that we weren’t just playing with the actor, but also our perspective of the actor. Luckily Rob has a great comedic sense as well as being able to let the veil drop when you least expect it, letting you glimpse behind a polished exterior. We needed something that was going to puncture the polished, perfect shell of the Hollywood actor and Lincolnshire provided that.

What we didn’t want it to be is all about how different Americans and Brits are because that’d get tired pretty quick. What is funnier to us is the idea of a guy and a place that both use humour to get through the day. Neither Bill nor Boston suffer fools gladly.

All of these stories are somewhat heightened, which lends itself to a particular sense of humour and way of looking at things. Mainly at the absurdity of our disconnected modern lives. Our villains aren’t master crooks, they’re mainly ordinary people who have ended up doing something extraordinary – or extraordinarily stupid – as a result of their circumstances. We never set out to be particularly procedural or consciously comic, we set out to throw Bill against life and life against Bill and see how they deal with one another.

Wild Bill is a bit different. We don’t feel we’ve seen anything similar in the approach to crime and character. It’s lyrical, funny and thrilling. It has a lot of ingredients. It’s also cinematic, which was another good reason to set it in Lincolnshire. Everything is widescreen there. The show has a lot of different elements, and we’re hoping that all of that works together to provide something fresh and new.

It also has some very universal themes. We are very divided as societies both here and in the US, and this show seeks not only to demonstrate that divide but also bring the two sides together. It’s not always harmonious, but it does stir the pot. And if that isn’t a Lincolnshire saying, it really ought to be.

Get the season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

 

Episode Two

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Photo: ITV/Multi Story Media/Anonymous Content/42

Bill tries to reboot his authority by getting his team to focus on the difficult unsolved crimes, including that of the ‘Boston Bandit’ who was responsible for a series of post office robberies and a murder. However, Bill’s team are more interested in a mysterious amnesiac who has shot to local fame for playing the piano in the station.

Bill’s soon reaping the plaudits when he succeeds in linking the stranger to the notorious cold case, only to realise the truth is more complicated than it first appears.

Meanwhile, Bill’s professional relationship with Mary gets personal, Oleg pressures Muriel into betraying Bill, and Kelsey succeeds in getting Bill to finally engage with his dead wife’s memory.

MUSIC IN EPISODE TWO

Run On – Blues Saraceno

Rebel Rouser – Duane Eddy

Turkish March – Mozart

Episode One

High-flying US police chief Bill Hixon arrives in Boston, Lincolnshire with his teenage daughter Kelsey in tow hoping for a fresh start after a painful recent past.

He is confident that his hands-off, numbers-driven approach can both cut the crime-rate and the budget at the same time.

However, aware that he has been recruited to slash jobs, he isn’t welcomed by his new team. His Deputy, Lydia Price, makes no secret of her disdain for him and frustration at being over-looked for the job, whilst PC Sean Cobley wastes no time in pulling Bill over for speeding on his push-bike and local journalist Lisa Cranston grills him on his approach. The only member of the team ready to embrace the new techniques that Bill brings to the force is bright and eager DC Muriel Yeardsley.

When a decapitated head turns up in a fridge – the coldest of cold cases – Bill starts to wonder what he’s got himself into. The victim is revealed to be Mel, a young woman who disappeared ten years earlier. Breaking the news to her heartbroken mother, Angie, it isn’t long before Bill is dragged away from his desk and into the case.

Music in Episode One

Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum

Courage – Villagers

The original soundtrack running through the series is scored by Harry Escott and is available HERE

Episode Six

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In the final episode of the series, Bill goes on the hunt for nail-gun killer Frank McGill.
But having been put into witness protection years earlier after turning in other members of the Maguire gang which he worked for, Frank is now off-grid. Bill sets his sights on tracking him down.
Meanwhile, DS Blair is released on bail after information is leaked regarding the unlawful obtaining of key DNA.
Commissioner Metcalfe discusses the financial benefits of selling off a disused training facility and the pressure mounts for Bill to resign.
Music in episode six

Order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

INTERVIEW: Divian Ladwa as PC Drakes

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What sort of copper is PC Drakes? The first time we meet him he’s taking the mickey out of Bill by wearing a Stetson.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much sums up what Drakes is like. PC Drakes is quite funny and a bit cheeky. You’ve got all these amazing characters. There’s Sean Cobley who is this grumpy, seen-it-all veteran police officer who has been on the beat a long time, young detective Muriel Yeardsley and PC Drakes who is the class clown.”

Did you all bond in the police station?

“Definitely. Myself, Anthony and Bronwyn were pretty much always together. We were a nice little core group having a lot of fun on set. Anthony told me that as an actor once you put a police officer’s uniform on that’s it, you’ll play a police officer for the rest of your career. I thought that sounded ridiculous but the very next job I got after this was another police officer so he might be onto something there.”

Did you ever discover PC Drakes’ first name?

“There was a name for him but I don’t know if it made the final edit. In one take PC Drakes says his first name is Troy. Wild Bill is like, ‘Troy?!’ In another take Bill calls him Elvis. And then there was an ad lib where Rob Lowe called me Troy Elvis Drakes.”

Do you have any friends or family who are in the force?

“I went to school with a girl who ended up in a long time relationship with a police officer. After they got married he used to tell me stuff about the job. I lost touch with them but I got lots of information. He actually stopped me once. I didn’t recognise him. I thought I was being stopped and searched when he pulled me over but then it turned out to be him, which was quite funny. I’ve worked with police officers as well. As an actor I’ve also helped out with police interrogations, which was fun.”

What do you think makes Wild Bill unique as a British police drama?

“There’s a lot of really good detective shows out there which often follow a similar mood and tone. Wild Bill feels different in the respect that the main character is an outsider moving to an area that in real life voted for Brexit. The show incorporates different avenues of real life and lots of different characters. You don’t meet anyone like PC Drakes or PC Sean Cobley in other detective shows.”

Boston has been billed as ‘the home of Brexit.’ How was that reflected in what you saw and how you were received whilst you were filming there?

“Everyone I met was really nice. The funny thing was that every time I spoke to someone who I thought was local they turned out to be from Manchester. I was always trying to hear someone with the local dialect though.”

Bill Hixon talks at length about 21st Century policing all being done by numbers. Did you research any stats yourself ?

“There are some interesting stats. Apparently Lincolnshire has the highest murder rate in England. I’d heard it mentioned on Question Time before, but that’s a bit of a crazy one. You don’t usually hear of the spotlight being shone on other areas like this.”

What does Wild Bill show us about modern policing in Britain?

“I think it highlights the struggle with cuts. You still need the officers to do the work. A computer will never arrest a man.”

Had you met Rob Lowe before when you both appeared in You, Me and the Apocalypse in 2015?

“No, I never met him on that job. I was involved in the set-up for one of the other characters whilst Rob’s scenes as Father Jude were with the Vatican.”

What’s he like to work with?

“He’s pretty cool. He’d come in and do his thing and have a laugh with us.”

Do you enjoy working with Hollywood stars like Rob and Nicole Kidman in Lion?

“Yeah, it can be quite nerve-wracking sometimes. Nicole Kidman has been a big deal for me ever since I first wanted to be an actor as a kid. I remember being really young and watching the mini-series Bangkok Hilton. She’s a phenomenal actress so it was incredible to work with her on the film Lion.”

Was Wild Bill not the most glamorous of shoots?

“It depends which characters you’re looking at. I do not look glamorous myself in the police uniform, especially when they made me wear a bobble hat. There are some beautiful locations and houses but you also end up in this horrible police station with its old fashioned furniture and all these characters in this cramped space.”

Is there a scene that you think best reflects the look and feel of the show?

“I think the scene where Bill is chucking cabbages in the middle of a field. That was my first scene on the entire job and the first thing I noticed was how stunning it looked on the monitor. You have the silhouette of Bill and his car and these beautiful flatlands with crops in the background.”

How would you describe the humour of Wild Bill?

“Some of PC Drakes scenes are leaning towards comedy but

then there’s drama as well. There’s the British banter of the core group but it’s not slapstick. It’s more naturalistic. Then you’ll have a moment where a head turns up in someone’s fridge. I remember reading that in the script and thinking, woah, this is dark. But that’s another way in which it feels different to your usual police show.”

PC Drakes doesn’t get to use a gun but he does have a handy ladder from LIDL. Is that typical of the tone of the show?

“It sums up the tone of PC Drakes. Sean Cobley gets a gun and I get handcuffs and a collapsible ladder from LIDL. There are quite a few quirky moments like that. A police officer walking around with a ladder. I’ve never seen that before.”

Do you have a favourite line in the series?

“There’s a quite a lot of funny lines for PC Drakes. It’s hard to pick a favourite. I was laughing throughout the whole shoot. It was either me or Bronwyn who wasn’t able to keep a straight face. Some of the directors on the show allowed you to put stuff in. I found out some local Lincolnshire slang. A Morgan Rattler is someone in the world of boxing who is very good with both his left hand and his right hand. So I chucked that into a scene with Bronwyn when Muriel is looking at photos of the Boston Bandit.”

Pre-order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

INTERVIEW: Tony Pitts as Commissioner Keith Metcalfe

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Pre-order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

Is Crime Commissioner Metcalfe a man who enjoys the easy life? Riding around in his Bentley, dining at the Rotary club, shaking hands with royalty at the local agricultural show…

“Keith’s constantly positioning himself to make sure he’s on the right side of the argument. He’s a politician. People don’t understand that a crime commissioner is really a quasi- political role rather than a policing role. He’s the spin doctor at the middle of every story. There is literally nowhere else for Keith to go in the world that he inhabits. He’s at the top of his particularly greasy pole and he’s going to make sure he doesn’t slide back down to the bottom.”

Is he good at his job?

“There’s a Carry On film, Carry On Cleo, where Kenneth Connor gets mistaken for a great fighter. That’s Keith and DCC Lydia Price’s working relationship. Any decent policing work, good decisions, vision or leadership comes from her but Keith takes the credit. He says at one point: ‘I don’t like women in power. That’s not official policy. That’s just how I feel.’ He is unapologetically stupid. There’s no learning with him. I think Keith’s emotional development stopped when he was about 14.”

 

Have you met many Keiths?

“I had somebody very clearly in mind for Keith. I was in Surrey recently with my son looking at cars and the guy we bought the car from had this sign: ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ If ever there was anybody who had more missed the point of life, I’ve yet to meet them. But that’s Keith.”

It’s Metcalfe who brings Bill Hixon over from the States. What does he make of Wild Bill?

“Keith likes to think of Bill as this pawn that he’s manipulating but it soon becomes apparent that he can’t. I don’t think Keith’s particularly bright – certainly not as bright as he thinks he is. He’s used to being a big fish in a small pond. He’s the heir to his dad’s £85 million company, EasyWrap, so for Keith the job of crime commissioner is about ego and a little bit of power of his own. He’s not even got that status of being a self-made man because his dad did it all.”

Which were your favourite scenes to get your teeth into with Rob Lowe?

My favourite scene was the two of us using the toilet which I don’t think has made the final cut. That was my first day on set and Rob and my’s first day together. The unspoken comedy of the two of us standing next to each other in the toilet was not lost on either of us. It wasn’t till the following day that we could laugh at the exaggerated motions we were both making at the urinal. In the end though it’s whatever serves the story best that makes it on screen.

“I also enjoyed the scene of us game shooting at Hatfield House. We saw plenty of pheasants. Rob and I both shoot. I used to live in the Pennine hills. As to which of us was the better shot, I don’t know because we were pretending but I’d have to back myself, wouldn’t I?”

Do you and Rob have similar or very different approaches to acting?

“It was interesting. We spoke about it because we’re both of an age. He was brought up in LA, I was brought up in Sheffield, so when there are similarities it’s quite striking. I think we both have been around the block. I’ve been doing it for about 38 years, and Rob at a slightly elevated level is about the same. We both like people to do their job. You know when to work and when to play, and it’s all about the work. We like to inject a bit of pace into things.”

As both an actor and screenwriter what did you find engaging about Wild Bill’s scripts?

“There were lots of good aspects. Places like Boston and Grantham never get featured on screen, in much the same way that I’m sure people living there feel like they’ve been forgotten in the wider spectrum of life. I remember doing a

Play for Today in 1981 with Charles Dance called Rainy Day Women in Lincolnshire and that’s the only time I’ve shot there in nearly 40 years. That whole part of the country is not represented. There are stories wherever there are people.”

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Ever fancied writing a police procedural yourself?

“No, it’s not where my interest lies as a writer. I’m not being disparaging about them. They are hugely popular. People love them but I think they are ever more difficult to write. I think the discipline of writing those shows is admirable. TV is better now though than it has ever been. This year I’ve worked with Rob Lowe and Richard Gere. It’s the quality of the writing across the board now with television. And everything looks beautiful.”

Is Wild Bill as much a snapshot of modern Britain as it is about catching criminals?

“Yeah I would say that’s very much what the show’s about. That’s it’s unique selling point. It’s a Californian eye looking at Brexit Britain. It’s nuanced as well. I don’t actually see Wild Bill as a police procedural. I see it more as a slice of life drama. Every cop show has essentially been done so it’s nice when it spreads out from that a little.”

Which locations for you best sum up the show?

“I spent most of my time in the police station in Bill’s office. Whenever I was there I made sure Keith put his feet up on the table. There’s a beautiful country house in the first episode which belongs to Mary Harborough (Rachael Stirling). History and architecture are my things so I was boring the arse off Rob for most of that day’s filming. My place in the show is really to top and tail the episodes. At the start of the episode I tell Bill what’s going on, then tell him he’s a big idiot at the end.”

Do you have a favourite line in the series?

“There is one line of Keith’s that director Charles Martin liked so much he’s got it recorded on his phone. It’s me saying: ‘I look like a dick – again.’ The writers give Keith a little bit of gold every now and then. Some of the lines may be a little bit too clever for Keith but I don’t mind that. Charles Martin was also full of ideas for what this story was about. His enthusiasm really rubbed off on me.”

What does the future hold for Crime Commissioner Metcalfe if he makes it to the end of the series?

“Oh, Keith will survive Bill alright. In the future he’d hope to be off abroad with a Thai bride sitting in a bar about four stone overweight. Grim.”

Pre-order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

Episode Five

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In the penultimate episode of the series, suspicion falls on members of the migrant workforce after a suitcase containing the body of farm owner, Darren Bailey is pulled from the river.
Bill discovers that the farm had been used to launder criminal proceeds through the clever accounting of the victim’s much younger Slovenian girlfriend, Lubica. It emerges she has been made sole owner of the farm’s assets which makes her a key suspect.
When it’s revealed that her and Darren had an argument on the night he went missing, the case against her appears to be conclusive.
But with many of Darren’s employees seeming happy at the news of his demise and stories coming to light about how he has squeezed them at every opportunity, it isn’t an open and shut case.
Music in episode five

GET THE FULL HARRY ESCOTT WILD BILL SOUNDTRACK SCORE HERE

Order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

 

Episode Four

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Episode four centres on two feuding farming families in the Boston area.
It follows the body of young local man Will Mowbray being found between two rival farms.
The two families – the Merricks and the Gilchrists – having been enemies for over 30 years and it falls for Bill and the team to deduce which of them is responsible.
Bill and Muriel find themselves on opposite sides and both are determined to prove themselves correct. Muriel believes that Ray Gilchirst is the culprit, whilst Bill is convinced that Audrey Merrick is to blame.
Away from the investigation Bill’s personal life causes issues and he wrestles with introducing Mary to Kelsey.
Kelsey also makes a new friend at the local comprehensive.
Back at the station Lydia resents doing Bill’s dirty work as the redundancies commence.
Music used in episode four

Order season one Wild Bill DVD HERE

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GET THE FULL HARRY ESCOTT WILD BILL SOUNDTRACK SCORE HERE

 

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