Doctor Foster creator Mike Bartlett’s new series Press had to be rewritten for being too accurate
The six-part series, which kicks off on BBC One later this week, explores the lives of journalists at two rival papers – left-leaning broadsheet The Herald and tabloid The Post.
Charlotte Riley leads the cast as the Herald’s Deputy News Editor Holly Evans, with Ben Chaplin plays the Post’s charmingly amoral Editor Duncan Allen, and Priyanga Burford as the Herald’s Editor Amina Chaudury.
However, ahead of the launch, Charlotte Riley revealed that parts of the show had to be rewritten for being too close to reality when Bartlett’s script predicted a bomb on a Tube train at Parson’s Green.
"We ended up cutting it out because it had literally just happened when we got to filming it,” Riley said. “We couldn’t use it because it was too close to reality, but it was just because you’re a witch of some kind….” she told the writer.
The idea for the show came years ago, Bartlett said. However, following 2012’s Leveson inquiry, he said, “suddenly it became clear that the public was interested in where their news comes from.”
The timing was perfect for the series as the industry reassesses its responsibilities post-Leveson, and as online journalism and social media become growing threats to print.
"It's an industry that has been the same for a long time and now cannot be the same, that has to change. That's going to have bad consequences, and it's going to have really good consequences… We need facts more than ever."
However, as with all of Bartlett’s dramas, it is the personal stories that are the focus of the show.
The show is “about real people who are conflicted and difficult and interesting and complicated,” said Priyanga Burford, who plays Herald Editor Amina Chaudury.
Preparation for the show saw the writer, director and actors visit newsrooms at the Guardian and the Mirror to get a sense of a journalists working day – although they insist that the newsrooms in Press are not copied for any one paper, but an “amalgam” of a number of papers.
“I was quite shocked at how tough the job is,” said Riley, “and how it really effects the whole of the journalist’s life. It's not just their work life. They really do take their work home.”
The actress reflected that the role has impacted her professional life. “Unfortunately for journalists I am now completely intrigued by them and what they do and how they do it.”
Press begins on BBC One Thursday 6th September.