‘There’s no better mentor than Jed Mercurio’: Trigger Point writer Daniel Brierley discusses new ITV thriller

Trigger Point has already been widely heralded as ITV’s answer to Line of Duty. Writer Daniel Brierley introduces the show in an exclusive interview with Alex Moreland

Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester in Trigger Point, and Trigger Point writer Daniel Brierley (ITV/Daniel Brierley)

Trigger Point, a high-octane thriller about a group of bomb disposal experts, is set to be ITV’s answer to Line of Duty.

Produced by Jed Mercurio and starring Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester, the six-part drama tells the story of a campaign of terror in London that threatens to push the “expos” beyond their limits.

Register to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The newsletter mute the noise

Writer Daniel Brierley presents the show here, exclusively for National World – he explains his initial inspiration, why he wrote the character of Lana Washington specifically for Vicky McClure, how his comedy background helped him write the perfect thriller, and more.

So what was your starting point in terms of Trigger Point?

I had the initial idea of ​​watching an old YouTube documentary about deminers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. It was fantastic, I just stumbled across it in the middle of the night – it was about these three former 321 EODs returning to Northern Ireland, reliving the events of 30 years earlier.

It seemed like an interesting starting point for the drama, especially considering the psychology of the people who do this work. You and me – well, I don’t know about you, but definitely, if I saw a dangerous thing, I would run, but these guys were conditioned to walk towards it. So it was an interesting starting point, [wondering] what kind of person can do this job.

You said you wrote Lana Washington specifically for Vicky McClure – could you tell us a bit more about that, and the rest of the cast more generally?

I always thought Vicky was one of the best actresses in the country, period. I think if you look at her career from This is England through to Line of Duty, she manages to have that down-to-earth sensibility coupled with that kind of ferocity and vulnerability, which I think was perfect for Lana .

I wrote the whole series with Vicki in mind as Lana: in the early drafts of the series, the character was called Vicky because I wanted to have it clear in my head who she was. I was thrilled to have Vicky – obviously I knew working with Jed there was a good chance we could at least have a script in front of her.

Adrian is also a really fantastic actor, I think he has a kind of joviality, an ability that really nails the character of Joel, and I knew he would work well with Vicki. It’s a fantastic cast on every level. I think Nabil [Elouahabi, who plays Hassan Rahim] is really fantastic, just like Manjinder [Virk, who plays DI Samira Desai]. I think Eric Shango, who plays Danny, will also be a real star.

There’s a lot of pretty technical stuff going on here – I’m guessing there’s a lot of research involved? How is that factored into your process – do you work on dramatic and character arcs first, then tweak the technical details, or is it all a step-by-step process?

Once I had the initial idea, I knew I needed to hang out with the experts. I had the chance to spend time with the Met team and really gained insight into the technical elements of the job. I would have the structure of the episode and then once I hammered out the beats of it I would spend time with the expos and work out what could actually happen until we could make it as authentic as possible.

They were fantastic, Joel and Andy G, they were on top from the start. For me, spending time with them [helped] to really understand who they are and how they do the job – these guys, the pressures of shift work, working in London when they lived hundreds of miles away. There’s an old couch at the base of the Met, which I think everyone on this team slept on. It’s an interesting world they live in, basically.

You have a strong background in comedy, as a writer – I was wondering how that influenced your approach to it? You could say that a comedy and a thriller are both about suspense in some way – is the way you might build a drop the same as the way you’ll build a twist?

It’s very similar, in terms of technical details in the writing. I think in comedy you set something up and then you give the reveal. In theatre, it’s a very similar sensibility, in terms of taking the audience’s preconceptions and twisting them in your head.

That’s what I love about writing comedy and what I love about writing thrillers. It’s very clear what you have to do in comedy, you have to make people laugh, and in thrillers, you want people to be on the edge of their seat. If you can put those basic building blocks together, it’s just a matter of being able to tweak the ending. So yeah, I think it helps to have a background in comedy.

You worked quite closely with Jed Mercurio on Trigger Point. Could you tell us a bit more?

When you work with Jed Mercurio, you know you have to be on your A-game. He is not someone who willingly suffers fools. So that was an extra push for me to make sure I was doing as good a job as possible. I remember working on a first draft of the first episode with him, and his note was something like “don’t hold anything back.” It’s like in football terms, there’s a phrase ‘don’t leave anything on the pitch’ – it’s kind of like that in the script, you want to make sure all the drama is there.

What Jed has is a wonderful sensibility, I think he just gets story structure. For me, working with him was very nice to have this feeling, not just from Jed but from the other executives, that for every draft that I wrote, we would be able to nail him in really good shape. And I think if you’re a thriller writer, you couldn’t really find a better mentor than Jed.

Jed Mercurio has often directed episodes of Line of Duty – would you ever be interested in directing something?

To be honest with you, directing seems like too much work for me. I love showing up on set for a few hours or a few days during this shoot, and just going there and having a coffee and chatting with people. Directors work so hard; Gilles [Bannier] and jenny [Darnell], our two directors, you know, they really gave it their all every day.

For me, right now, I feel like writing is the best of both worlds: you can come up with ideas, dream things up, and imagine things, and then obviously the hard work of writing it – but when it’s done, you can take a step back and just let others take a stand on a project. May be [I’ll direct] one day, but right now I think writing is the dream job.

There’s this idea running through the first two episodes I saw about right-wing politicians and Islamophobia – I was wondering if you could tell us a bit more about that and his role in Trigger Point?

It was important for me to show not only the immediacy of an attack like this, but also the consequences. I’ve lived in London for 25 years, and I remember the aftermath of 7/7, Parsons Green, and the recent incident on London Bridge: I think what you discover so quickly in these things is how these events are used for political purposes. ends, to sow division and to sow anger, etc.

I had the idea that these attacks were taking place in the context of this political situation, this highly contested by-election with a far-right candidate in the running. This is an important part of the thematic questions [across Trigger Point].

What are your main creative influences?

I love Hollywood’s golden era – the 70s movies, Coppola and Scorsese. I read these manuals for fun, it’s a wonderful thing to do.

I think actually the television that we’re creating, in this country right now, is dramatic inspiration. Not just Jed but also, you know, Sarah Phelps, Tony Grisoni, Danny Brocklehurst, Jimmy McGovern, lots of fantastic writers. We have an amazing array of extraordinary writers in this country. And with any luck, people who are just forging their way in now will be able to benefit as much as possible.

Finally, what is the most important thing you would like someone to take away from Trigger Point?

I want them to enjoy it, to take this trip with us and get the most out of it. I think after spending so much time with the experts, what I would like is for people to really understand the sacrifices they make to do the job they do: not just in terms of physical danger , but also something that we address in the script a lot, just what they need to do the job they do.

Trigger Point airs on ITV at 9pm on Sunday January 23, and will continue weekly thereafter. We will publish a second interview with Daniel Brierley immediately after the first episode airs, where he will give a detailed explanation of the explosive suspense of this episode.

A message from the editor:

Thanks for the reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Learn more about who is who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to create a community among our readers, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and instagram, and continue the conversation. You can also subscribe to our email newsletters and get a selection of our best reads delivered to your inbox every day.