‘None of the characters is quite what you think they are. It makes it an incredibly intriguing story’

Distributor StudioCanal
Producers Rabbit Track Pictures; StudioCanal
Length 6 x 60 minutes
Broadcaster ITV1 (UK)

Playing Nice stands out in the psychological drama space because it is an “intimate” story that makes you think about your own identity, according to StudioCanal executive vice-president of global sales and distribution Anne Cherel.

The debut drama from James Norton’s fledgling indie Rabbit Track Pictures focuses on two sets of couples who discover their toddlers were switched at birth in a hospital mix-up, and must decide whether to keep the children they have raised or reclaim their own biological child.

Cherel says that, at its core, the series – based on the novel of the same name by JP Delaney – is designed to make the audience consider what it is that makes them who they are. It asks questions such as: would we be the same person if we were raised by different parents? Is blood more important than love and time spent together? What part does social class play in our personality?

“The drama makes us consider what we might do if the most precious thing we have is stolen away and the person you thought you were closest to in the world turned out to be a biological stranger,” she says.

Cherel also points to the fact that four adults and two children share the spotlight in the series – a twist on the classic thriller, which tends to centre on one core character.

“We have the opportunity to explore each of the main characters’ viewpoints, and that throws up so many possibilities and theories about what actually happened in that hospital,” she says.

“None of the characters is quite what you think they are, and each has his or her own reasons to do horrible things. It makes it an incredibly intriguing story, and that is where the real thriller element lies.”

The Cornwall setting, with its expansive coastal landscapes, makes the series cinematographic and glossy, she adds. It also offers a sense of idyllic living, which contrasts with the nightmare in which the characters find themselves.

Senior vice-president of production and development Joe Naftalin and director of development Isobel Carter also reveal the impact of having Norton on board from the inception of the project.

“He was already attached to star when we optioned the novel, and his passion and creative drive, both as actor and producer, has been invaluable throughout.

“He is so good with character and script, and a great leader on set – having his involvement really helped set the tone for the show.”

They add that Niamh Algar, who plays the partner of Norton’s character, was the first person they thought of for the role, after being “blown away” by her performance in Shane Meadows’ The Virtues. 

Naftalin and Carter also credit writer Grace Ofori-Attah (Malpractice) who “explores human dilemmas, with tension and humour”.

They add: “Her background as a consultant psychiatrist adds depth and authenticity to the story, while never losing sight of the show’s positioning as a messy, propulsive and entertaining, emotional thriller.”

In an exclusive for Broadcast, the pair also reveal they are putting together another show to make with the indie – which Norton runs with managing director Kitty Kaletsky.