Alec Newman: ‘There’s a real element of risk!’

Alec Newman reveals why Waterloo Road (BBC1, Thursday), newly relocated to Scotland, is a risky business for headmaster Michael Byrne…

Are you enjoying working in Scotland?

“It’s great, especially for me because I’ve got family up here. I was born in Glasgow, so it feels like this is home when I’m here. The fact that we’re in Scotland is, I think, really powerful for the show. That’s not to say all of a sudden everybody is going to be Scottish – that would be ridiculous! But I hope that Waterloo Road is here for many years to come and becomes a fixture in the Scottish cultural landscape.”

When we last saw Waterloo Road there had been a cliff-hanger crash; where do we pick up in the new series?

“There’s been a terrible tragedy and Denzil Kelly is dead, so there’s a real sense of sadness on the first day of term. We find Michael and Lorraine Donnegan reflective, but also supercharged. They know there’s a lot riding on the new school and that it has to work.”

Is there also a sense of expectation?

“Yes. Michael is full of ideas, full of drive and full of energy. You’re under no illusion – this is still Waterloo Road. It’s got the same name, the same ethos and some of the same players, all thanks to Lorraine’s financial involvement.”

How does Michael perceive the new Waterloo?

“Michael feels the new Waterloo is a really exciting educational development – but he knows there’s a real element of risk because Lorraine’s ploughing her own money into it, so it has to work – there’s no taxpayer back up. I really hope viewers embrace the new school; it will feel very similar to the old one, but it’s brighter and has much more energy.”

The storyline received some criticism. Would the new Waterloo Road actually be possible in reality?

“It’s all possible and perfectly feasible! I’d even say it’s more possible than other things that have happened in the show over the years. It’s one of those truth is stranger than fiction things I think.”

How so?

“As part of my research I visited an independent school, which has a boarding element to it, and basically it’s very similar to the new Waterloo Road, except it is fee-paying and our school is financed by Lorraine. In real life you need someone who is a multi-millionaire in our case we’ve businesswoman, Lorraine, played by Daniela Denby-Ash!”

There’s some wonderful young talent in Waterloo Road, does this make the job more interesting for you?

“Definitely, I’m very proud of the youth-orientated angle of the show. The writers write very well for the younger cast and characters, and they’ve found more amazing talent this year.”

Now Michael’s returned to his hometown of Greenock, can we expect to learn more about the headmaster’s troubled past?

“We’ll discover many more personal aspects to Michael including the back-story concerning his father – played by Ron Donachie (Game of Thrones), who is just terrific.”

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