Fans are curious to know if Happy Valley’s Catherine Cawood is real
17th January 2023

Happy Valley police advisor on character Catherine Cawood

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BAFTA-winning series Happy Valley has been hailed for its grit and realistic depiction of crime and policing in Yorkshire. While the focus is on police officer Catherine Cawood (played by Sarah Lancashire) and her complicated relationship with criminal Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), the show does shine a spotlight on the region. Many are curious to know more about the inspiration behind lead character Catherine and if she takes her cue from a real-life figure.

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

Appearing on BBC Breakfast last week, former police officer and consultant Lisa Farrand spoke about show.

Lisa said of the inspiration for the character: “I always say, there’s elements of Catherine Cawood that every good police officer will recognise of themselves.

“I think you put the uniform on, it makes you a bigger person as well.

“You’re given certain elements of training and you’ve got to take control of the situation.”

She went on to say about the process she went through with Sally and and Sarah on each series of Happy Valley.

Lisa explained: “I worked very closely with Sally from the very early stage of the script development and then once those scripts are locked in, I work with Sarah.

“She quite clearly develops the role of Catherine Cawood all on her own but she’s phenomenal as are Sally’s scripts.”

From her words, Catherine is essentially a creation between Sally’s scripts and Sarah’s interpretation and performance rather than a specific, real-life person.

Nonetheless, Lisa does offer her police insight which again informs the character of Catherine and makes her as accurate as possible.

Lisa and Sally knew each other from primary school with the ex-cop talking about their long-standing friendship.

She said: “Sally and I were at junior school together. We were good friends as children.

“I then moved out of the area, no mobile phones, no social media, no nothing. We didn’t even have a phone in our house.

“And so many years later, a mutual friend reconnected us when Sally had [this idea], ‘I want to make this drama about a police woman’.”

BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty said: “She wanted to speak to a police woman.

“When you reconnected – I’m not going to say was it like old times because you were little kiddies then – but was it like old times?”

Lisa said: “Yeah, it was like going straight back into the way we were when we were younger, just that chemistry together again.”

Despite the series focusing on a police woman, Sally has previously stated Happy Valley isn’t a procedural or a police show per se, but rather about Catherine and Tommy.

Sally previously said of her inspirations for Happy Valley: “I saw a documentary by Jez Lewis called Shed Your Tears and Walk Away and it was about drug and alcohol problems, specifically in Hebden Bridge.

“The other influence was that, when I was a kid, there was a series called Juliet Bravo, which I really, really liked. It was actually not filmed far from Hebden Bridge, it was filmed in Todmorden. It was about a female police inspector and it was a really good show. It’s kind of in my top 10 TV shows from adolescence, so it was my attempt to re-visit that.

“The other big thing that inspired me of course, which I’ve talked about a lot, was Nurse Jackie. I wanted to write my own Nurse Jackie, but obviously I couldn’t write about a nurse, so I wrote about a policewoman instead. When I wrote the first series that was very much in my head as an influence.”

Happy Valley season 3 airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm

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