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Is Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood based on a real person?

The no-nonsense sergeant is a beloved character on the hit show Happy Valley 

happy valley sarah lancashire
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
17 January 2023
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Happy Valley is the show everyone is talking about at the moment, with fans demanding that Sarah Lancashire receives a BAFTA for her third and final outing as Sergeant Catherine Cawood. But is the no-nonsense character based on a real person? 

According to the show’s writer and creator, Sally Wainwright, the answer is both yes and no. Upon researching sergeants when writing the series, she was put in touch with an officer who was once an old-school friend, and the officer’s personality formed the character of Catherine.

WATCH: Catherine catches Claire in Sheffield on Happy Valley

Chatting on Adam Buxton’s podcast back in 2016, Sally explained: "I knew I wanted to write something with Sarah after Last Tango [in Halifax]… I got in touch with some detective friends that I met through a journalist friend, and I said, 'Do you know any uniform cops, women, who might help me.' They put me in touch with Lisa…and Lisa informed that character a huge amount. 

"We spent a lot of time together. I nicked a lot of stuff about her, not too personal, but her attitude, her way of dealing with things."

happy valley sarah blood© Photo: BBC

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She also opened up about finding inspiration for her other characters, saying: "They tend to be amalgamations of people. I’ve never actually ever nicked anyone lock, stock and barrel, that I’m aware of. It tends to be nicked from here and there, from different people I’ve come across over the years. 

MORE: Who is Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire's famous husband? Meet her family here

READ: Happy Valley: the ultimate season 1 and 2 recap for season three return here

"And some people I use a lot, I have a friend and I use her - 'use' sounds terrible - but she makes me laugh and I take a lot of inspiration from her mad lifestyle and mad life. She’s a fantastic, brilliant person. An unofficial standup comedian, everything she does and says is funny. She helps me a lot." 

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