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Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright reveals why she ended hit show - and her next project

The Happy Valley creator spoke candidly about ending the show

happy valley sarah series 3© Photo: BBC
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
August 15, 2023
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Happy Valley’s third season was a smash hit success for BBC, with Tuesday’s National Television Award nominations revealing that the show had picked up three nominations for Best Returning Drama and Best Drama Performances. The show was created by Sally Wainwright, who recently gave a very rare interview on This Cultural Life where she discussed her process. 

Speaking candidly about ending the BAFTA-winning show after three seasons, she explained: "It didn’t feel like a relief. It’s good to know when to stop. I didn’t want it to drag on, I didn’t want it to become a shadow of itself. I wanted it to be remembered. I was hoping desperately that people would respond to the last series in the way that they had the first two, and it wouldn’t be thought of as a bad ending to what had otherwise been a good series." 

WATCH: Ryan's future teased in Happy Valley finale

Sally, who also wrote Last Tango in Halifax and Scott and Bailey, continued: "And I thought if we can end on that, with it being a good, strong series, make that definite, clear decision to end it there, it would be a very good thing to do." 

While the writer’s upcoming Disney+ show The Ballad of Renegade Nell was filmed back in 2022, Sally revealed that she has started writing her next project after a long break, and we can’t wait to find out what is in store. 

sally wainwright cast
Sally with Gentleman Jack cast

"I've just had time off for the first time in 20 years and I’ve really enjoyed it. And that’s been quite an eye-opener," she explained. "To take time off and not worry about what’s coming next. To have that kind of freedom to think, 'I’m going to get back on that conveyer belt when I'm ready, when I have something to say.' 

Happy Valley ended with its third season© Matt Squire
Happy Valley ended with its third season

"I’m back working now, but I really don’t want to get back on the conveyor belt because it’s very compromising, you just spent your life in one room, writing. And you don’t want to let people down so you keep going, you're working to schedules and deadlines. And if you don't finish this script on time, it’s going to throw out the whole shooting schedule which is worth millions of pounds. So I find that frightening." 

Sally has previously opened up about how much she would like to write more Last Tango in Halifax, so could she be penning more of the hit show? 

last tango halifax cast© Photo: BBC
Will Last Tango in Halifax be back?

She previously told Radio Times: "I mean I hope so. I’d like to write this show until the cows come home. I think it’s that things like this kinda slowly cook away in your brain even if you’re not consciously aware of it. So it’s like three years but I think they never go away. We went out for dinner one night me and Sarah [Lancashire] and Nicola [Walker] in January a year back… And it was just hilarious. I was just sitting there listening to them [and wanted to] write for them again."

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