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I wanted to show Christine Keeler was no tart, says Northern Ireland director Andrea Harkin


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Sophie Cookson as Christine Keeler

Sophie Cookson as Christine Keeler

Derry Girls cast members Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Dylan Llewellyn, and creator Lisa McGee

Derry Girls cast members Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Dylan Llewellyn, and creator Lisa McGee

´┐ŻLorcan Doherty

Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler

Derry director, Andrea Harkin. On the set of The Trial of Christine Keeler

Derry director, Andrea Harkin. On the set of The Trial of Christine Keeler

Sophie Cookson as Christine Keeler

She is the woman behind some of the top, big-budget dramas on our television screen at the moment, but multi-award winning Northern Ireland director Andrea Harkin says she is just a Derry Girl at heart.

The 38-year-old, who is still based in Northern Ireland but works in London, has been nominated for a Bafta, directed award-winning dramas on BBC and recently completed work as the lead director on highly-acclaimed The Trial of Christine Keeler for BBC One.

She says there are days she has to pinch herself but that moving in celebrity circles and working with some of the biggest names in acting is just all in a day's work.

"When I started off on this journey and I started film-making, I thought I might like to make little low budget feature films," she admits. "I never thought I'd be working on multi-million-pound prime-time drama. I didn't really see that. It has been really great."

Andrea has just finished work on The Trial of Christine Keeler, which has had viewers glued to their televisions for the revamped story of the Profumo affair told from a rare perspective, Christine's. She says it felt like activism telling the story a different way.

"It definitely felt special," she reveals.

"It felt like a big step up for me. There was a cast of 79, there were a lot of locations and the BBC told us that they wanted it to be their flagship Christmas show, so we had a bit of pressure to make this good. I worked on it for over a year, it was a long job but it was brilliant.

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Derry director, Andrea Harkin. On the set of The Trial of Christine Keeler

Derry director, Andrea Harkin. On the set of The Trial of Christine Keeler

Derry director, Andrea Harkin. On the set of The Trial of Christine Keeler

"It's lovely to hear that people love it. I am really proud of it. It felt like a passion project for everyone involved. I think that was because the material was so good and we were doing a fresh take on Christine Keeler. She had been written off in the history books as this promiscuous tart, labelled a slut and a prostitute, and her story was always told from a male perspective.

"We wanted to tell it from a female one, and from Christine's perspective. Basically to show a bit more of her life and what she was going through, her back story and how she was manipulated.

Christine Keeler

"For that reason it felt special because it felt like there was a little bit of activism, although it was subtle. It felt like there was a meaning and purpose behind it."

Andrea finds herself moving in circles with some of the top names in entertainment, yet she stresses it's all about getting the job done.

"On Come Home I had worked with Christopher Eccleston and that had been the first time I had worked with an actor of that profile," she says.

"And we had Sophie Cookston, James Norton, Emilia Fox and Ben Miles on Keeler. But there is no star power. You are doing a job together and you don't see them through that starstruck gaze, you just see them as collaborators.

"But of course it is exciting to meet them because I knew of their work and I thought highly of them. But on the day it is very much getting the job done. There is no star power getting in the way."

Andrea went to school with another famous Northern Irish daughter - Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee. The two were in the same A-level drama class and Andrea says she has always admired her skills.

"Lisa is brilliant and I am a huge fan of Derry Girls," she says.

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Derry Girls cast members Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Dylan Llewellyn, and creator Lisa McGee

Derry Girls cast members Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Dylan Llewellyn, and creator Lisa McGee

´┐ŻLorcan Doherty

Derry Girls cast members Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Dylan Llewellyn, and creator Lisa McGee

"We were at Thornhill College together and a lot of the in-jokes felt like a trip down memory lane. Her short play won the North West Schools Competition back then and I remember cheering her on all the way. There was never any rivalry, because at school it felt very much like Lisa was the writer and I was the director but sadly we never collaborated as we were in different groups. I had lots of admiration for her back then and still do and I'm proud to say I'm a Derry Girl of that generation."

Andrea is now working on an exciting new series written by those behind the smash hit Black Mirror. Set in the future, it's about the concept that science can tell you who your soulmate is and how that wreaks havoc on various relationships and situations. She says she is sometimes in disbelief over what she has achieved.

"Me and the producers have had some really nice emails from the BBC to say that they are very, very happy with it and that is a pinch yourself moment," she says. "It's really rewarding to see that all the hard work paid off. I'm proud."

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