SPOTLIGHT: Ruth Kenley-Letts, Head of Drama at Bronte Film and TV
Strike, Bronte Film and TV’s screen adaptation of Robert Galbraith’s gritty detective novels, has been gripping audiences across the country, bringing in over seven million viewers per episode. The five-part series has been hailed as a both vintage and modern, highly watchable and brilliantly cast (Express), with the Telegraph commenting that ‘televisions next great detective has arrived’. We caught up with executive producer Ruth Kenley-Letts ahead of this weekend’s finale in order to find out more.
As a producer, what attributes are you looking when reading a novel in order to visualise its screen potential?
In order to really visualise the screen adaptation potential of a novel, the thing that I look for most is a brilliant story that grabs me and holds me until the very end. I love books with strong, engaging characters and a unique way of telling a story that feels fresh. The Robert Galbraith series is one that combines great plots with exciting, original characters like Robin and Strike and it is such a pleasure to be in their company.
What is the most exciting/enjoyable point for you personally when working on a new production?
I feel most excited at the point where we are putting the key creative team together. In the case of adapting the Robert Galbraith series, the first step was to find the right scriptwriter to bring the books from page to screen. Once the writer is on board and a script has been produced you need to look for the director, and so on and so forth. Each new person who joins the team brings with them exciting ideas which gather a momentum and energy that is thrilling to be a part of. You find yourself on a rollercoaster that just keeps on gaining speed. Even on a bad day there is no possibility of getting off the ride and you have to stay on it until it halts: broadcast day.
When developing and producing the Robert Galbraith novels for the screen, what were the core elements of the books/feel of the books that you wanted to get across to a TV audience?
The beating heart across all three novels is the developing relationship between Strike and Robin, as well as the exploration of each of their backstories as we get to know the characters throughout the series. In the books, we are often inside of a character’s head learning details about them and seeing what they are thinking in the present as well as what they have experienced in the past. The challenge for the production team was to bring as much of this to the screen as possible and to make sure we could love Strike and Robin as much as we do in the books. I very much hope that we have succeeded in that.
What qualities of the characters of Strike and Robin did you think it was most important for the actors to bring to the screen?
For Strike we needed an actor who was able to play a complex, multi-layered character without coming across as moody or dark. Strike is someone who doesn’t carry his difficult past on his shoulders. He has a wry sense of humour and is both pragmatic and empathetic. He is rigorous in his work ethic, probably something he learnt from the army. He is a very self-contained and independent character. At the same time, he is also incredibly decent and kind. Tom Burke is perfect in bringing all of these elements of the multi-faceted Strike to the screen.
Robin is a very loveable, straightforward, down to earth, intelligent and loyal young woman with a traumatic past that she is determined to never allow herself to be defined by. She is engaged to her teenage sweetheart Matthew, a man who has different aspirations to her and, as time goes on, it becomes more evident that this once important relationship has run its course. We needed an actress who could embody all of these qualities and I believe that we landed on our feet when we cast Holliday Grainger.
When scouting out locations for filming, what were you looking for in order to put across your vision for the feel and setting of the series?
We wanted it to feel contemporary and to really capture the feel and spirit of London. London is such a diverse and exciting city and so we really felt that it was important to get this across on the screen, particularly as London almost feels like a character in its own right in the books. We didn’t just want to shoot the touristy side of London – the novels take you to a rich and diverse city and beyond, and so we made sure to Reflect these locations in our adaptation as well as adding in new ones where appropriate.