FILMING for major BBC school drama Waterloo Road begins at its new Greenock base on Monday, with TV bosses hoping they will be in the town for years to come.
The former Greenock Academy has become the show’s school and also the programme’s production base. The cast arrived at the site on Wednesday for their first look and for a read through of the script in the assembly hall.
Executive producer Cameron Roach said: “We have a unique geographical position. In Rochdale we were in the middle of an estate. Here there will be a real sense of geography. We will be making use of that. Twenty per cent of every episode is shot on location. We will be making use of locations in and around the area. We will be saying it is Greenock on screen.”
He added: “It’s a very popular network show. It has a massive audience – five million -- and this is about taking it to the next level. We are embracing Scotland and Greenock. We have had the most extraordinary welcome from the local community. There is a buzz in the air. We are using local firms – hotels, restaurants, and so on.
“The cast are very excited about it. They have been in the same old school in Rochdale for a number of years. It’s a great opportunity to reboot. We are going for a bright vibrant look. We hope we can establish Waterloo Road as a long-running show in Scotland. We hope this is the model for the future. We are in this for the long term.”
The plot for the new series involves the school relocating to Scotland and being funded by a millionaire. Initially 50 episodes are being made at Greenock over the next two years. The new series will be shown from September. Filming will take place 39 weeks a year at Greenock with production work all year round.
Facilities created at the site include four edit suites, production offices, make-up room and a canteen in the basement. Up to 200 extras will be used for some scenes. At times there will be 400 people on site. One floor of the building is not in use and could be turned into studio space for other programmes.
Waterloo Road is made by Shed Productions. Chief executive Eileen Gallagher said: “This is a gamechanger for the TV industry in Scotland. We are employing people all year round so it will create a critical mass of talent. I am thrilled. It’s great that it is somewhere like Greenock which has had its hard times. This is a bit of excitement.”
Alec Newman, who plays headmaster Michael Byrne, said: “There are very strong opening episodes. I feel like it’s getting back to its roots. Some of the issues are almost spookily topical.”
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Waterloo Road Facts
-- Started filming in Rochdale in 2005, first broadcast on 9 March 2006
-- Accolades include: ‘Most Popular Drama’ at the 2011 National Television Awards (NTAs) ending Doctor Who’s five-year consecutive run on the prize
-- Philip Martin Brown (Grantly Bugden) and Jason Done (Tom Clarkson) are the only original cast members
-- Famous Waterloo Road alumnis include Denise Welch, Robson Green, Debra Stephenson, Neil Morrissey, Jill Halfpenny, Jason Merrells, Angela Griffin, Tina O’Brien, Roxanne Pallett, Wil Johnson, Tom Chambers, Tim Healey, Christine Tremarco, John Thomson…amongst others.
-- Current cast making the move to Scotland include: Alec Newman (headmaster Michael Byrne), Philip Martin-Brown (Grantly Budgen), Jaye Jacobs (Sian Diamond), Melanie Hill (Maggie Croft), Jason Done (Tom Chambers), Chelsee Healey (Janeece Bryant), Mark Benton (Daniel Chalk), Naveed Choudhry (Tariq Siddiqui), Georgia Henshaw (Madi Diamond), Kaya Moore (Phoenix Taylor), Kane Tomlinson-Weaver (Harley Taylor), Katie McGlynn (Jodie ‘Scout’ Allen), William Rush (Josh Stevenson)