I wanted Life to be like an Attenborough documentary, says writer of BBC drama

The series begins on BBC One on Tuesday.
The series begins on BBC One on Tuesday. The series begins on BBC One on Tuesday.

The writer of a new BBC drama titled Life has said he wanted the programme to be like a Sir David Attenborough nature documentary.

The series tells the stories of a group of people living in close quarters in a house which has been divided up into flats.

Mike Bartlett, who created and wrote the series, said he wanted the programme’s name “to suggest one of those huge Attenborough nature documentaries”.

23 Walks premiere – London
23 Walks premiere – London Alison Steadman (Ian West/PA)

He added: “That in the same way, by looking at the intimate lives of individual creatures, we learn something about the larger species.

“Exploring something epic through the tiniest detail.”

The programme, which is set in Manchester and is in the same universe as the Doctor Foster series, stars Alison Steadman, Adrian Lester and Melissa Johns.

Bartlett said he wanted to write about “how we crave being connected to other people but at the same time often end up feeling lonely, or disconnected”.

He added: “I used to live in a flat that was part of a divided-up old house.

“You could hear intimate details of your neighbours’ lives, but when we passed in the corridor we barely exchanged two words.

“I was fascinated by that apparent contradiction.”

TRIC Awards 2020 – London
TRIC Awards 2020 – London Alison Steadman (Ian West/PA)

Steadman, who plays a woman called Gail who encounters marital problems at the age of 70, said she thinks “so many people will identify with these characters, and they’ll feel for them”.

“Some of the situations are very uncomfortable and may make people squirm,” she added.

She said Bartlett’s writing is “quirky”, adding that “there isn’t one line in this whole script, where I’ve thought, ‘That doesn’t feel quite right’.”

Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Lester, who plays a university lecturer who has also encountered difficulties in his marriage, said the series tells important stories “because they remind us just how much strength ordinary people have when facing everyday, huge problems”.

He added that the series has “a very positive, very open heart”.

“The series wears its heart on its sleeve.

“It’s a positive thing to watch,” he added.

“It’ll make you feel good, and I think we could all do with a bit of that right now.”

Life begins on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Tuesday at 9pm.