Is Happy Valley based on a true story?

Chris Tilly
Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley.

Is Happy Valley based on a true story? The crime drama returns to BBC for its third and final season on New Year’s Day, but is it based on real events?

Created and written by Sally Wainwright – and starring Sarah Lancashire – Happy Valley is a police procedural crossed with a family drama.

Lancashire plays Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood, who blames rapist Tommy Lee Royce for her daughter’s suicide. Series 1 saw Cawood go to war with Royce when she realises he’s been released from prison, while Series 2 continued their battle of wills.

Series 3 is the third and final season of Happy Valley, but is any of the storyline based in fact?

Is Happy Valley based on a true story?

No, Happy Valley is not based on a true story. Happy Valley is a fictional series written by Sally Wainwright. As she told GQ: “The story of Becky and Tommy – the daughter having been raped and Ryan being a product of that rape – I don’t know where that came from, other than I just invented it.”

But Wainwright did receive help from a real-life police officer. As she again told the GQ of the show’s inception: “The BBC asked me if I could create a police drama for them, because I think Scott & Bailey had just done very well on ITV, which I’d written. I thought: ‘How can I make it different from Scott and Bailey?’ And my first thought was: ‘I’ll make it about uniformed police officers.’

“I was put in touch with a female constable who turned out to be somebody I’ve known since I was six. Lisa Farrand, who I was at school with. She came on board and she influenced me a lot. She would engage with the storytelling side of it, as well as the more realistic side of it. So she’s been a really important part of the show.”

How Nurse Jackie influenced Happy Valley

Speaking to the BBC, Sally Wainwright explains how a documentary, British series Juliet Bravo, and acclaimed US drama Nurse Jackie influenced the writing of 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,” Wainwright told the BBC.

“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.”

The new series launches on BBC One on New Year’s Day. Here’s everything we know about the third and final season of Happy Valley.

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