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Raised by Wolves

Raised By Wolves is a six-part series written by Caitlin and Caroline Moran. It’s a modern-day reimagining of the brilliant chaos of the Morans’ own childhood. Loads of kids, no money, home-schooled, and educating themselves on a bounty of books, films, TV and pop music. 

What’s the concept of the show?

It’s about a large, home-educated, unusual family of siblings and their redoubtable, acerbic mother.

A large, home-educated, unusual family living in Wolverhampton. It’s not a great leap of the imagination to suggest that there may be elements of the autobiographical in this…

I think that’s absolutely fair to surmise. It’s definitely based a bit on mine and Caitlin’s childhood. But there’s a dose of awareness that it needs to be a little bit more interesting than what actually happened in our childhood, which wasn’t an enormous amount as we never left the house. That would have made for quite boring television. We decided to spice things up a little bit.

Plenty of people have unconventional family lives. Where did the inspiration come from to write about it?

I think as a family we’ve always been very into telling stories. I can’t remember a time when we wouldn’t play long Sindy games that were epic sagas. And we’d also tell bedtime stories at night. I think because we didn’t go out very much, that was a way for us to entertain ourselves, making up these little fantasy worlds. As we got older, we realised how unusual our childhoods were, and people were really interested in finding out about them. So maybe there was a bit of a story in that. And I think we realised we were always making up stories and characters, so we might as well use those skills for good, and tell the story of how we grew up, and how weird it was. And hopefully keep it funny.

I read that you always used to put on Christmas pantos every year at home. Is that true?

Yeah. We used to do plays, just spontaneous, one-off plays, mainly based around whether we had a new piece of costume. We went to jumble sales, and found things like pantaloons that would often inspire us. I remember Caitlin once found a walking stick, and because of that she decided she wanted to be Jimmy Cricket from Pinocchio, so we staged Pinocchio in order to use that prop.

So why was it that you guys were home-schooled?

I never really got to the bottom of it, to be honest. The reason would change every time we’d ask. I think my parents felt that their experiences in the school system weren’t as good as they could have been. And because they were both young during the 60s and into the hippy movement, they had a natural distrust of authority. So they decided to take education into their own hands. There was a bit of a craze for home-schooling during the 70s. Personally, I think the main reason was that because there were so many of us, mum didn’t want to iron eight white shirts every day. But she would deny that.

In the programme, it’s not particularly alluded to, why the kids are home-educated. Was that intentional?

I’d love to say we were that clever, but it was just sort of assumed for us. We didn’t want to be shoving it down people’s throats. Whilst it’s the setting for the series, it’s not really about them being home-schooled. It’s more just that they happen to be around in the day quite a bit. But it might be something that we touch on if we made any more episodes. If we can get some good jokes out of it.

Is one of the characters more based on Caitlin and one on you?

Yes. In terms of hair colour, if we can just make it that simple, Germaine is based on Caitlin and Aretha is based on me. But more on our teenage selves than our more rounded (hopefully) adult versions of ourselves.

So did you have your nose buried in a book for a lot of your teens?

Yes. And like Aretha, I was very grumpy, and I was very cynical, and very at odds with Caitlin. We were quite close together in age, and physically very close together in a very small house. So we would have epic two-day arguments, as siblings do. So that sort of dynamic is quite real. Caitlin is very much a philosopher, a leader of men. She likes taking people out on adventures, so that’s quite true of Germaine as well. I think Germaine is a bit more scheming in real life. Caitlin isn’t bothered enough to scheme.

So did you tend to write more of Aretha’s character, and Caitlin would do more of Germaine?

Not really. There are aspects of us in all of the characters. When we were writing Grampy we would find our inner-65-year-old former hippy, which is quite fun. And the characters aren’t entirely us, they have their own uniqueness.

How was the writing process? Did you and Caitlin argue?

Well, the rustle and tussle of creative minds is all part of the process. We’d always sort it all out by the end of the day or over lunch. It was only ever about artistic things. There was an epic one-day argument about whether Della wore underwear or not, which got incredibly heated. I think we both walked out of the room at different points. Obviously if someone walks out of the room, the other person can’t walk out of the room, so I think Caitlin waited till I came back in and then she walked out of the room. We never resolved it. In the end we agreed to leave the matter pending, and that I would always write Della as if she was wearing underwear, and Caitlin would always write her as if she wasn’t. 

That was our accord. But then on the first day of rehearsals, Rebekah Staton, who plays Della, came over to us and said “This sounds really weird, but I just want to know, does Della wear underwear?” She’d just gone there. She must have picked up on the tension in the writing or something.

Did that cause another argument?

Yes, it did. And so in the end she said that she’d go off and make a decision on her own about whether she did or didn’t, and then not tell us. That was really bizarre!

How did the writing process work? Did you write in the same room together?

We did quite a bit, but I think there’s a limit to how much two human adults can be in a room together. We’d hire these businessy meeting rooms where, in other rooms, we’d see people in suits making huge decisions or buying and selling stocks and shares, and in our room we’d be fighting about pants. So that felt quite weird. And in terms of actually writing stuff up, we’d go back to our homes and get on with typing it all up. And we did quite a lot of it around lunches. We’d go off and have a lovely lunch somewhere, and maybe a few glasses of wine. So we had all the fun together, and then the hard, gruelling work of actually writing it out was something we did on our own.

It’s quite proudly Midlands-based – do you still have ties there?

I left for University when I was 18, and went back for a year when I was 25. I lived there for a year and tried to grow vegetables in our back garden. But it turned out the soil was very poor and infertile. So that was the end of my vegetable dream. I had a Good Life plan, to go and find myself. We had family there until about seven years ago. But my parents split up, and eventually everyone moved away from Wolverhampton. I’ve still got mates there though. We went back for research purposes when we were writing the show. They go to a nightclub in the final episode, so we went to the equivalent nightclub. You have to do your research, and if it involves drinking a lot of Sambuca’s, that work’s got to get done. So we knuckled down and did it.

Do you have fond memories of Wolverhampton?

Oh, absolutely, yeah. I love the place. It very much looked after me, it educated me. It had great public transport and brilliant libraries and swimming baths – not that I ever used the swimming baths but if I wanted to, they were there. I love Wolverhampton, and am proud to be representing it on TV.

Why did you decide to make it a single parent family?

It kind of wasn’t a conscious choice, really. Della just kind of came to us, and it just felt right that she was going it alone, because she’s such a redoubtable character, she didn’t feel like the sort of person who’d be power-sharing. Once that had happened, it sort of made sense. Hopefully people won’t miss there being a dad, because Della’s more than enough.

How do you feel about the end product?

It’s weird for me, because I’ve been so involved with it. I’ve been on the set and in the edit every day, so it’s difficult for me to be able to see it objectively. Maybe in about two years I’ll be able to watch it and judge it clearly. I think it’s pretty good. I’m very proud of it.

The performances are outstanding, aren’t they?

Yeah, the most amazing thing is how every single person who’s worked ion it has brought something amazing to it. Not just the cast – the crew, the executives. And the cast in particular. Rebekah Staton is mind-blowing. She’s put so much of herself into Della. All that we’ve done in the writing; she’s added more than the same amount of her own brilliance into it. She’s just incredible. And to have discovered Helen Monks and Alexa Davies and Molly Risker and all the rest of the cast members is just incredible. Even the young children are amazing. And they’re all like a family now, which is so lovely. The younger actors call Rebekah their ‘stum’ which is stage mum. They see each other all the time, it’s very sweet.

And what about you. What have you done between sitting at home writing pantos as a kid and getting your own TV series?

I’ve done a series of theatre plays, which was seen by a very select (very small) audience at a variety of fringe venues. That’s where I honed my craft, if I can use a slightly pretentious-sounding phrase. There’s nothing like sitting in the audience on the opening night of your play for you to learn about what does and doesn’t work in comedy. I took a thing up to Edinburgh, I’ve done a bit of stand-up, so I’ve been around, learning my stuff. Incredibly, the pantos that I wrote when I was 7 didn’t get picked up by the West End.

Yeah, but when this comedy is a hit, people will start asking you if you’ve got a back catalogue, if you have anything else.

I can tell them I’ve got a story about a walking stick, and one about pantaloons. Their time will come. I just need to wait for the circle to come round.

Catch Raised by Wolves on Channel 4 Monday 16th March at 10pm

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