In the Britbox series There She Goes, David Tennant and Jessica Hynes play parents to a nine-year-old daughter with a learning disability. Based on the family life of the show’s co-writer and creator Shaun Pye, he wanted to make sure that the story was not told through rose-tinted glasses. From the authentic representation of the daughter Rosie (Miley Locke) to the struggle and joy in raising a family, Pye wanted to give a truthful portrayal of his experiences. He was joined on the TCA stage Saturday morning by producer Clelia Mountford, BBC Comedy Commissioner Shane Allen as well as Tennant via satellite to talk about the journey in making the dramedy based on Pye’s life.
Pye said, “what I set to do was two-fold.” He didn’t want to “sugarcoat the strain” that having a child with a disability puts on a family. At the same time, he said he wanted to show how “wonderful life” is with his daughter, saying that his real-life daughter Jo means everything to him. He has had many people with children with disabilities come up to him and praise his depiction of such a story. “It’s not in my nature to be warm and fuzzy,” he adds. He said he wanted to be truthful and that “sometimes sucks”.
However, there is the conversation of proper representation in TV and film. This has been applied to many marginalized communities including those with disabilities. In the show, Locke, who doesn’t have a learning disability, plays Rose and Mountford explains the casting process of the character.
“We auditioned girls with learning disabilities and those without,” said Mountford. After consulting with the BBC, child psychologists and child services, it was decided that the schedule would be too demanding for a child with a disability. Locke landed the role and went to great lengths for proper representation of the character based on Pye’s daughter, Jo.
In addition to attending workshops, Mountford and Pye said that Locke formed a “lovely relationship” with Jo in order to give an authentic portrayal of the character. Mountford said that Locke is “fresh and natural” and “absolutely amazing” in the role.
Pye remembers that he let his wife Sarah read the first draft of the script in which the father is the primary caregiver and the “hero” when it came to raising Rose. He laughed and said that she immediately told him, “You are not f*cking making this show” because it is clear that the mother is the central caregiver. At the same time, it focuses on the father’s shortcomings. It is then when his wife came on board as a co-writer. “She is obviously the hero,” said Pye.
In a time when authentic representation is front and center, There She Goes has received a good reception. Allen said before they even screened it for media, they had an advance screening for charity groups and different organizations. “It was the most emotional catharsis [for them],” he said. “It was a positive, brilliant reaction.”
There She Goes is a dramedy that centers on Rosie (Locke), a severely learning disabled nine-year-old girl. Each episode shines a light on day-to-day life with Rosie and the unique experiences that arise for her family including her dad Simon (Tennant), mom Emily (Hynes) and brother (Edan Hayhurst). A second timeline set in 2006 shows the effect of having a severely disabled child had on the family unit, how it threatened to disintegrate but ultimately brought them even closer. All stories and characters are drawn from the real-life experience of writer Pye, whose daughter was born in 2006 with an extremely rare and to date undiagnosed chromosomal disorder. It is set to premiere on Britbox April 2019.