Sean O'Connor (producer)

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Sean O'Connor (born 11 February 1968, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England) is a British producer, writer and director working in theatre, film, television and radio.[1] He was the editor of the long-running BBC radio drama, The Archers from 2013-16.[2] He replaced Dominic Treadwell-Collins as the executive producer of EastEnders in June 2016.[1][2] It was revealed in June 2017 that O'Connor had left EastEnders to focus on his career in feature films.

Early life and education[edit]

O'Connor grew up in Birkenhead, where he attended a grammar school, St Anselm's, run by the Christian Brothers.[3] He later earned a degree in English from University College London.[3] Following his graduation, O'Connor successfully applied for a place on ITV's Regional Theatre Young Directors’ Scheme.[4]

Film[edit]

O'Connor produced the feature film version of Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea directed by Terence Davies and starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale.[5]

The film is based on Rattigan's 1952 play which had previously been filmed in 1955, starring Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More. Produced by Camberwell Productions and Fly Films, The Deep Blue Sea was released in the UK in 2011, the centenary of Rattigan's birth. O'Connor introduces the playtext of The Deep Blue Sea published by Nick Hern Books with notes by Dan Rebellato.

Television and radio[edit]

In the late 1990s, O'Connor worked as Producer of the long-running radio drama The Archers, storylining and directing the programme.[6] He re-introduced several popular characters including Kenton Archer, Adam Travers-Macy and Lillian Bellamy, as well as introducing Fallon Rogers, Ed Grundy and Emma Carter.[citation needed] Subsequently, he was appointed as Series Producer of Hollyoaks (C4).[citation needed]

In 2005, O'Connor was appointed producer of the Channel 5 soap opera Family Affairs. He planned to revamp the show but was told that the show would be axed. He appointed Dominic Treadwell-Collins, his future predecessor in EastEnders as story producer and reintroduced characters Eileen Callan (Rosie Rowell) and Melanie Costello (Rebecca Hunter).[citation needed]

O'Connor also produced the third series of Footballers' Wives for Shed Productions as well as the re-booted version of Minder starring Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel for TalkbackThames.[7] On 5 August 2013, it was announced that O'Connor had been appointed editor of The Archers.[8] Of his return to the show, O'Connor commented "I'm delighted to be returning to Ambridge to work with the team in Birmingham. I'm honoured to take the reins of our national epic drama and to build on the extraordinary achievements of Vanessa Whitburn who dedicated much of her career to this unique cultural institution."[8]

EastEnders[edit]

In 2001, O'Connor was appointed as Series Story Producer at the BBC soap, EastEnders[9] story-lining the award-winning Kat and Zoe Slater story, the domestic violence story featuring Little Mo, and Dot Cotton's marriage to Jim Branning. He left the show in 2005.[7] He went on to both produce and direct the show.

On 18 February 2016, it was announced that O'Connor would return to EastEnders after 11 years and take over from Dominic Treadwell-Collins as Executive Producer.[10] On his return he commented "I'm thrilled to be back in Walford and particularly delighted to work once more with many dear friends and colleagues both backstage and on screen. I loved my time working at EastEnders previously; there's nothing quite as challenging nor as rewarding."[1]

Following this, he announced he would be stepping down from The Archers, saying "At the same time, it is a real wrench for me to leave Ambridge. The Archers is an extraordinary programme – a jewel at the heart of the BBC and in the hearts of the British public. Working on it, with the extraordinary cast, writers and production team in Birmingham has been an absolute privilege. The Archers has been a part of my life for much of my life - and though I’ll be away from Borsetshire, I'll continue to listen to the villagers of Ambridge, who feel to me – as they do for millions of listeners - like family."[11]

O'Connor's first episode as Executive Producer aired on 11 July 2016.[12] Although O'Connor's first credited episode aired in July, his own creative work was not seen onscreen until late September.[13] O'Connor axed several characters from the show including Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack),[14] Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons),[15] Pam Coker (Lin Blakley), Les Coker (Roger Sloman),[16] Claudette Hubbard (Ellen Thomas),[17] Kyle Slater (Riley Carter Millington),[18] Babe Smith (Annette Badland),[19] Lee Carter (Danny-Boy Hatchard) [20] and Sylvie Carter (Linda Marlowe). O'Connor has also reintroduced several characters including Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott), Colin Russell (Michael Cashman), Tiffany Butcher (Maisie Smith), Morgan Butcher (Devon Higgs), Danny Mitchell (Liam Bergin), Charlie Cotton (Declan Bennett), Pam Coker (Lin Blakley), Oscar Branning (Charlee Hall) and Lisa Fowler (Lucy Benjamin) for guest stints while the characters of Derek Harkinson (Ian Lavender), Glenda Mitchell (Glynis Barber), Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell), Robbie Jackson (Dean Gaffney), Yolande Trueman (Angela Wynter) and James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde) returned permanently. He also recast the character of Michelle Fowler, now played by Jenna Russell as original actress Susan Tully, declined to return. O'Connor also oversaw the return of Max Branning, following actor Jake Wood's sabbatical.[21][22]

O'Connor cast actress Doña Croll as Denise and Kim's mother, Emerald Fox, Zack Morris as Keegan Baker, a friend of Shakil Kazemi (Shaheen Jafargholi), Seraphina Beh and Sydney Craven as Madison Drake and Alexandra D'Costa who would bully Bex Fowler (Jasmine Armfield) in a high-profile storyline and Lee Ryan as Harry "Woody" Woodward, the show's new bad boy.[23] Lisa Faulkner was also cast as businesswoman, Fi Browning, in March.[24] In April, Christopher Timothy and Maggie Steed were cast as Ted Murray and Joyce Murray respectively.[25] In May, it was announced that O'Connor would be introducing a new family consisting of Karen Taylor, Keanu Taylor, Bernadette Taylor, Riley Taylor and Chatham Taylor, played by Lorraine Stanley, Danny Walters, Clair Norris, Tom Jacobs and Alfie Jacobs respectively.[26]

On 23 June 2017, it was announced that O'Connor would be leaving EastEnders after just a year in the role of executive producer. He was temporarily replaced by former executive producer John Yorke. O'Connor said: "I've had an amazing time at EastEnders. Working with the editorial staff, cast and crew at Elstree has been an absolute privilege. They are the kindest, most loyal and hard-working team in the business. But my heart lies in feature films and I'm hugely excited as my film projects are now reaching production. When the BBC asked me to take over at EastEnders, my plan was to stay until the end of 2017 but with production starting on these films sooner than anticipated, I must – with a heavy heart – bid farewell to Albert Square. I'll enjoy watching EastEnders go from strength to strength but will miss everybody enormously. Elstree really is a place where you make friends for life."[27] O'Connor's final episode as Executive Producer aired on 24 November 2017.[28]

Danny-Boy Hatchard, who played Lee Carter, criticised O'Connor's handling of his exit storyline. Hatchard said: "[O'Connor] could have left a little more attention to detail. I feel it got a little brushed off. It was Sean's decision and I had to respect that. But if I had written it, I'd have written it differently."[29]

When O'Connor's departure from EastEnders was announced, The Sun alleged that he had been fired as a result of bullying cast members. On 4 August 2017, the newspaper admitted this was untrue and issued a statement saying: "We wrongly suggested that Mr O'Connor had been sacked as a result of bullying the cast of the show, and to such an extent that the actors had complained to the BBC. We now accept that this was wrong. Mr O'Connor had not been accused of bullying anyone, none of the cast complained to the BBC about him bullying them, and his decision to leave the BBC had nothing to do with any claims of bullying. We apologise to Mr O'Connor for the distress caused, and have agreed to pay him substantial damages and legal costs.[30]

Directing[edit]

As a graduate of the Regional Theatre Young Directors' Scheme,[31] O'Connor has worked all over the UK as a theatre director. His work has featured at Liverpool Everyman, Hornchurch, Salisbury Playhouse, Chester Gateway, Windsor, Guilford, Bath, Richmond, Chichester, Cardiff and Edinburgh. In 1995, O'Connor directed the UK premiere of Dorothy Parker's drama, The Ladies of the Corridor (1953) at the Finborough Theatre and the first London revival of Christa Winsloe's Children in Uniform (1931) (Madchen in Uniform) at Battersea Arts Centre.[32] He is also a graduate of the BBC Drama Directors' Course.[citation needed]

Writing[edit]

Handsome Brute[33] a study of the murders of Neville Heath in the 1940s was published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster.[citation needed]

O'Connor has made a study of 20th Century drama, particularly neglected or forgotten works. In 1997, he published Straight Acting; Popular Gay Drama from Wilde to Rattigan,[34] examining the work of British gay playwrights who dominated the West End in the 20th Century. Dartmouth's Professor of Gender Studies, Michael Bronski, praised the book, claiming that it "almost single-handedly reinvents what we think of as the history of modern gay theater".[34]

The same year, he adapted and directed the play Vertigo based on the novel D'Entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, which was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's film of 1958. This, the first stage adaptation of the story, retained the original French wartime setting of the novel. The play first appeared at Chester Gateway Theatre featuring Marcus D'Amico, but was subsequently produced by Bill Kenwright at the Theatre Royal Windsor starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove. A revival at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford starred Anthony Andrews in the central role, replacing Martin Shaw.[citation needed]

In 2001, O'Connor adapted Winston Graham's 1960 novel Marnie for the stage which played at Chester Gateway Theatre and The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke.[35] The adaptation returned the story to Graham's original post-war British setting and preserved Graham's bleak ending.[36]

In 2010, O'Connor adapted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as Juliet and Her Romeo[37] which played at Bristol Old Vic, directed by Tom Morris and starring Siân Phillips, Michael Byrne and Dudley Sutton.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Dominic Treadwell-Collins steps down as executive producer of EastEnders and Sean O'Connor confirmed in the role". BBC. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Jackson, Jasper (18 February 2016). "EastEnders: Archers editor to take over as Dominic Treadwell-Collins quits". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Stanford, Peter (20 October 2014). "Sean O'Connor: The man who 'sexed up' the Archers". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Staff. "RTYDS Directors: Past RTYDS Directors and their placement theatre, 1960 until present: 1990-1999". Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  5. ^ "Terence Davies Enters The Deep Blue Sea". Empireonline.com. 5 December 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "EastEnders producer Sean O'Connor takes over The Archers". BBC. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Kilkelly, Daniel (18 February 2016). "All change at EastEnders: 7 things you need to know about the show's new boss Sean O'Connor". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Davies, Keri (5 August 2013). "New Archers editor announced". BBC. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Dominic Treadwell-Collins set to depart as Executive Producer". 18 February 2016. 
  10. ^ Harp, Justin (18 February 2016). "EastEnders shocker! Dominic Treadwell-Collins is leaving as showrunner". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  11. ^ "Editor Sean O'Connor To Leave The Archers". BBC. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  12. ^ "11/07/2016, EastEnders - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  13. ^ "EastEnders date revealed for new boss's first episode". Digital Spy. 30 June 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  14. ^ "EastEnders star Samantha Womack quits the Square after ten years in dramatic exit plot". The Sun. 13 August 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  15. ^ "Rita Simons to leave EastEnders in epic storyline". EastEnders News & Spoilers. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  16. ^ "Pam and Les Coker to exit EastEnders later this year". What' s on TV. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  17. ^ Walker, Danny (13 September 2016). "Another EastEnders star has QUIT Walford for the bright lights of the stage". mirror. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  18. ^ "Kyle Slater is the latest character to set to leave Albert Square after EastEnders axe". The Sun. 15 September 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  19. ^ "Aunt Babe is the latest character to leave EastEnders". Digital Spy. 18 September 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  20. ^ "Nooooo! Lee Carter is ALSO leaving EastEnders". Digital Spy. 21 August 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  21. ^ "Jake Wood to take a year break from EastEnders". EastEnders News & Spoilers. 28 May 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  22. ^ Minelle, Bethany. "Eastenders' Max Branning to make a surprise return this Christmas". mirror. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  23. ^ "All Rise - Lee Ryan joins the cast of EastEnders to play Albert Square's latest bad lad". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  24. ^ "Lisa Faulkner to join EastEnders". EastEnders News & Spoilers. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  25. ^ Metro.co.uk, Duncan Lindsay for (2 April 2017). "EastEnders casts a new couple carrying secrets from the past". Metro. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  26. ^ "EastEnders shake-up sees FIVE new characters arrive". Digital Spy. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2018-01-27. 
  27. ^ "EastEnders confirms producer is leaving immediately". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 November 2017. 
  28. ^ "27/11/2017, EastEnders - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 2017-11-27. 
  29. ^ "Ex-'EastEnders' Star Danny-Boy Hatchard Admits Disappointment Over His Soap Exit". HuffPost UK. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2017. 
  30. ^ "The Sun to pay 'substantial damages' to ex EastEnders boss". BBC News. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2017. 
  31. ^ http://www.itvtheatredirectorscheme.org/pasttraineeslist.php
  32. ^ "Review of Schoolgirls in Uniform". Cix.co.uk. 1 May 1997. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  33. ^ O'Connor, Sean (14 February 2013). "Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller". Simon and Schuster – via Amazon. 
  34. ^ a b Straight-Acting: Popular Gay Dramatists from Wilde to Rattigan (Lesbian & gay studies): Sean O'Connor: 9780304328642: Amazon.com: Books
  35. ^ Lyn Gardner (24 January 2001). "Theatre review: Marnie". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  36. ^ Moral, Tony Lee (29 July 2013). "Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie". Scarecrow Press – via Google Books. 
  37. ^ Spencer, Charles (17 March 2010). "Juliet and her Romeo at the Bristol Old Vic, review". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 
  38. ^ Shakespeare, William; O'Connor, Sean; Morris, Tom (16 April 2010). "Juliet and her Romeo". Oberon Books – via Amazon. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Vanessa Whitburn
Editor of The Archers
2013–2016
Succeeded by
Huw Kennair-Jones
Preceded by
Dominic Treadwell-Collins
Executive Producer of EastEnders
2016–2017
Succeeded by
John Yorke
as Executive Consultant of EastEnders