Caroline Moran interview: writing Raised By Wolves

Raised By Wolves' co-writer chats about mining her childhood for comedy and why The Imperial Death March is the perfect writing motivator...

Tonight, the first series of Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s sitcom, Raised By Wolves, comes to an end. Heavily inspired and based on their own adventures growing up in the West Midlands – although this particular writer veers geographically more towards Dudley than Wolverhampton – the six episodes have also given Rebekah Staton in particular a standout role as the kind of mum telly doesn’t get very often.

Ahead of the series finale tonight, Caroline put down her pen/quill/word processor/Game Of Thrones boxset to spare us some time to talk about it…

It’s a basic question, perhaps, but I’m interested in the answer. How has it been having your own sitcom on the television for the past month? How closely are you monitoring feedback and reaction to it? Are you a reader of reviews and feedback?

It’s odd it being on telly. I’ve not really got my head around it. I get a massive thrill when the continuity announcers go “and now on Channel 4, it’s Raised By Wolves”. I love that. Those announcers have such silky voices.

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I am on Twitter but I’m way more of a lurker than a playa (I believe those are the official terms). I tend to just use it to keep abreast of what Ray Mears and Russell Crowe are up to.

At the launch of the series, it was said that you learned lots of the rules of writing, to help you know how to break them. Can you give examples of that?

Being self-taught I’ve always been of the mind set of “book learning” being the thing to get you somewhere in life. So as soon as I heard about there being ‘rules of writing’ I read all the books and went on the courses. I was in my early twenties and very unsure of myself and they just ended up being fuel for my perfectionism issues. I’d be halfway through writing a scene and start thinking “where’s your rising conflict, Moran? Where’s the button on the end of this scene coming from, ay?” and similar and so would lose momentum. It harshed my flow, let’s say.

But after sodding about in the rough for a good few years, I eventually found books on mythology and psychology that made sense to me (like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell) and learnt about how my writing heroes (people like Jerry Seinfeld, Janet Frame and Charlie Kaufman) worked. So I kind of re-learnt the ‘rules’ but in a way that helped me write, rather than helped me beat myself up. And I started listening to the ten hour version of The Imperial March on YouTube while writing, which I find deeply motivational.

You were present throughout the shoot of the show. Is that you wanting to explore the process? Do you have plans to direct?

Well, it turns out that directing is not about sitting on a camera crane shouting through a mega-phone. So no, no plans to direct at this time.

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You talked before the launch of the show about how you came to realise that your upbringing was a mine of potential comedy ideas. But – in the parlance of The Truman Show – we accept the reality with which we’re presented. So when did you appreciate that you had the guts of a comedy show here?

I’ve always had a load of sit-com ideas about my person. That’s just how I roll. So when I started working with Cait we did loads of surveying of the area of common ground that we could both work in. We have very different lives (despite our identical voices and noses) and so childhood seemed a good meeting place as we’d both been there and so didn’t have to spend ages arguing about how the Garry bathroom would be laid out.

How have your siblings who didn’t get recreated in the show taken it? Are they being lined up for Nick Fury-esque appearances?

Well, Della could have another child… Guess it all depends how nice given siblings are to me at our next family gathering. I’ll just put that out there and let them make their own decisions.

Raised By Wolves is a sitcom, that, for want of sounding pretentious, feels ‘authored’. It feels that it’s genuine to you and Caitlin. Does that mean that every line of every episode would need to be written by you?

Thanks. That’s a very nice thing to say. I guess there is a Moran ‘vibe’. That’s what happens when you shut 8 children in a three-bedroom house with only the TV for company, I guess. As several of our siblings are writers, we’re eyeing them as resources, should there be any more episodes of Raised By Wolves.

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It’s tradition with successful sitcoms to do a bad episode set abroad. Just to give us a taste, where were your family holidays? Raised By Wolves Gone To Rhyl, perhaps?

All our holidays were on a caravan site, in mid-Wales. I can still remember the exact shape of the big rock in the corner of the caravan site that we used to make up stories about. It was called Bedrock, for the record, and was aged and stoic, like a stone Gandalf. He was a noble rock and I miss him. Sweet Bedrock…

You’ve managed to work your love of Game Of Thrones into the scripts. But what’s not made it through the process? Any favourite moments/nerdy references on the cutting room floor? Appreciating that there’s not a cutting room any more…

I got really into the idea of Lee Rhind calling Aretha ‘Sansa Stark’. Sadly, the idea just didn’t fly so that was the end of that. Though it’s having its moment now. In retrospect it’s not as funny as it seemed at the time.

Ideally (if making a functional TV programme wasn’t our goal) I’d dress Della up as Cersei and Aretha as Sansa and turn Raised By Wolves into a Game Of Thrones homage sit-com. Germaine as Hodor? Ha ha. She could just shout “Germaine!” all the time. My ultimate RBW mashup.  

Though now I’m thinking about Della and Bane from The Dark Knight meeting, her in a jumpsuit, him in his motorcycle courier outfit. It’s all getting a bit racy, so I’ll stop there.

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Where do you want to take your writing next? Do you have plans for a Wolverhampton Television Universe?

I’m working on a book at the moment. It’s a comedy fantasy. What’s not to love about capes and shoulder-fur and dragons?

Is television where you’ve personally had the most fun with your writing?

Well, there’s not much to compare to the fun of writing “Grampy is in the bath, reading Heat magazine, farting away – it’s pure heaven” and then turning up on set and seeing teams of incredibly talented craftspeople, experts in their fields, making it actually happen.

Though during one of my early theatre productions I played a lusty lord – and I have to say, my mungbean-filled fake testes were a lot of fun too.

Finally, what’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?

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Crank 2: High Voltage, which I saw having missed the first ten minutes and not having seen Crank either. This left me unaware of the premise of the film and thus incredibly confused. If you have to ask the question “so why does he have to have sex with that woman in the middle of the racetrack?” you know you’re watching a classy film.

Caroline Moran, thank you very much!

Raised By Wolves’ series one finale, The Dorch, airs on Channel 4 tonight at 10pm. See an exclusive clip from the episode, below.

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