Interview with Dolly Wells, the director and executive producer of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Interview with Dolly Wells, the director and executive producer of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

PHOTO: Connor Reynolds (Jude Morgan-Collie), Lauren (Yali Topol Margalith), Cara Ward (Asha Banks), Dolly Wells (Director), Pip Fitz-Amobi (Emma Myers), and Zach Chen (Raiko Gahara). (Image: BBC/Moonage Pictures)

June 21, 2024 – Interview with Dolly Wells, the director and executive producer of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Can you tell us a little bit about the show?

A Good Girls Guide to Murder is based on Holly Jackson’s brilliant book, about a young woman, Pip, who’s in her last phase of childhood. She’s just about to leave school and is working out who she is. At the same time, she wants to open up a closed case about the death of Andie Bell. She feels that she will be the one to find out who really did it.

What do you think makes A Good Girls Guide to Murder right for a television adaptation?

You’re gripped from both the beginning of page one of the book and the script. There are so many twists and turns. It’s a combination of really exciting plot and a lovely coming of age story. That hits a real sweet spot.

What’s the tone of the show?

On one hand we lean into nostalgic films like Grease, Booksmart, Clueless and The Breakfast Club. On the other we have a hint of shows such as Euphoria about young people going through all sorts of dramas.

Why is it story for now and what will make it stand out?

It’s a story for now because any good story is a story for now. I feel it will stand out because fundamentally it’s about a group of young people with Emma Myers at the helm playing Pip who is a curious, brave, sort of everyday hero.

How did you find the perfect Pip and Ravi?

Given quite a number of people know these characters to a degree, it was so important to get somebody absolutely fantastic for Pip. We were all hooked into Emma Myers from the start, we knew she’d be perfect. We also got our perfect Ravi in Zain Iqbal, which was really exciting. It was just something you’ll see when you watch him. He’s really wonderful. The casting was incredibly important, but it was really fun. When Pip and Ravi did their screen tests together, we were so excited as they were really wonderful together.

What have Emma and Zain brought to those roles?

Emma and Zain have just made Pip and Ravi jump off the pages of the script. Emma is perfect. Her physical comedy, her movement is very good, but she also brings a fierce curiosity, wanting justice and being so clever. On top of that she is cheeky and funny. She’s just a very, very good, strong actress. Their dynamic together is great. They’ve got a great on-camera chemistry. With Zain, I feel like he’s like a modern Keanu Reeves, he’s really good at action but he also makes Ravi vulnerable, you can also see the fun and the sweet aspects of his character, that he’s gone through something quite hard and has been reawoken by Pip. They’re perfect for the roles.

How did you find that perfect friendship group to fit around Pip?

Yali plays Lauren, she brings a sort of Marilyn Monroe comic aspect to the character. Then there’s Raiko who plays Zach and he brings this eccentric, slightly deadpan aspect to Zach. Jude who’s playing Connor, who’s funny and plays the daft one, really. Finally, we have Asha who plays Cara, who’s Pip’s best friend. She’s warm and sweet and supportive and they play off each other so well, feels like they really are best friends. They all come together and work so beautifully, like an orchestra.

What do Gary and Anna bring to the roles of Pip’s parents?

Gary Beadle is playing Victor and he’s brilliant because he’s warm and funny and commands this quiet respect. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Leanne, Pip’s mother and she was a delight, we’re just so lucky to have her. There is something about her that you absolutely believe she and Emma are mother and daughter. Additionally, we’ve got Mathew Baynton playing Elliot, who brings a warmth. You believe he’s a teacher, but he still seems young and in touch with the younger ones. He’s got that same intellectual curiosity that Pip’s got, so there’s that nice relationship between them.

How did Axbridge as a location bring Little Kilton to life?

Little Kilton in the show is really important because it’s got to be a chocolate box village, to seem really pretty, but must have this feeling of the woods surrounding it, of nature encroaching in this rather dark, menacing way. You want Little Kilton to seem perfect on the surface, like Twin Peaks in a way. We chose a town that when you come through the main high street, it twists and turns, and the houses are very bright colours, but it is surrounded by very woody hills. It feels very British but it has an edge.

What about the woods as a location?

The woods look very beautiful and were a very beautiful place to shoot in, but are on the outskirts of the town and it feels a bit lawless. It has a Lord of the Flies feeling to them, like there’s no rules in the woods, and you aren’t really sure what’s happening in the shadows.

How did you translate the scripts from page to screen?

What I was the most interested in was getting really strong performances, to feel like these characters and these scenes feel real. It’s really exciting picturing how all these pieces will come together, wondering how the town will feel, how the proximity of the houses, woods will feel, what the memorial wall will look like. We had really great heads of department, casting, locations, art department costume, hair and make-up, it goes on. A million things come together to create this world.

In terms of tone and visual style and pace, what can audiences look forward to by way of the production values?

The tone of the show is warm, playful and inviting but also takes you into a dark, more menacing territory. With the help of my very talented Director of Photography Seppe Van Grieken, we wanted to make the world accessible, a world you want to be a part of and can relate to, while also visually affecting with great locations. We also wanted to get the pacing right, which we felt was so important for this show and everything that happens within. There are moments when it can be a bit slower, when you’re getting to know the characters’ relationships and who they are. Then when things become more urgent or you’re following a clue, it has to speed up. We hope that comes across.

What do you feel you’ve achieved with the series?

We had a really great time making the show, which I think is very important. Everybody worked incredibly hard to bring to life the world that Holly so brilliantly created in her books and that in turn Poppy so brilliantly adapted in her scripts. And we all had a really good time. The actors’ enthusiasm was infectious.


Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here:

It’s the Summer holidays, but teenager Pip Fitz-Amobi is focused on an unusual school research project. In Little Kilton five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell went missing. Her boyfriend Sal Singh sent a text confessing to the murder before being found dead, seemingly taking his own life. Andie’s body was never found. Case closed. However, Pip isn’t so sure and is determined to prove Sal’s innocence.

The six-part series is based on Holly Jackson’s smash hit novels and stars Emma Myers (Wednesday), Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland, A Spy Among Friends), Gary Beadle (Rye Lane, Small Axe), Mathew Baynton (Ghosts, Wonka) and newcomer Zain Iqbal.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was filmed in and around Somerset, England. Commissioned by the BBC, the series is produced by Moonage Pictures (The Pursuit of Love, The Gentlemen, Bodies) in co-production with ZDFneo and Netflix.

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Monday 1 July.

BBC iPlayer

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