New copper, new investigation - here's what to expect as ITV's Morecambe-set crime drama The Bay returns for a third series
ITV’s hit drama The Bay – set and filmed in and around Morecambe – returns for a third series this week, and there’s a quite a few surprises in store for fans of the show.
Family liaison officer DC Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) has left the force, and is replaced by DS Jenn Townsend, played by Marsha Thomason. And that’s not the only change viewers might notice.
“We really loved the series two location we briefly visited near the docks and power station – it felt more industrial and so that’s where we’ve located the guest family for this series – the Rahmans.
“Writer Daragh Carville and I had been talking about how hard life is for young men. Teenage boys and men can often feel adrift and discounted and we wanted to look at this sense of disenfranchisement and the lack of opportunities there can be for them in certain parts of the country.
“However, we also wanted to tell a story that had some hope and some ambition.”
This series focuses on the investigation of the murder of Saif Rahman, a promising young boxer whose body is found in the bay.
Oldfield says: “Apparently, Tyson Fury, a native Morecamber, visited the set in a previous series, and boxing seemed such an interesting world to explore. Sport can offer opportunities to young people, whatever their background, and we loved the idea of showing that boxing, often seen as a violent sport, offered Saif respect, self-esteem and the promise of a better life for him and his family.”
Lancaster-based creator and co-writer Daragh says the introduction of a new lead isn’t the only change in The Bay for series three. He says: “When we created series one, we always had in mind that it could be a returning drama, and it was always conceived as such.
“In series one it was the story of the disappearance of the twins who come from a working-class estate in Morecambe. When we started making series two, we were really conscious of wanting to do something different and not just retell the same story so we looked at a much more middle-class family, the family of the solicitor who is murdered in the first episode. We see a different part of Morecambe, the leafy suburban side.
“In series three, again, we wanted to do something different. I felt it was really time for us to tell a story about an Asian family, about a family that’s not necessarily originally from Morecambe, but has made a life there and to try and explore that world.
“We wanted to show a different aspect of the same world but through a slightly different lens. Having made that decision I felt very strongly that I wanted to bring in another writer to work with us on this story, who could bring the detail and specificity that’s always so important to our show.
“We were really lucky to have Furquan Akhtar, a brilliant young writer, come on board and he’s been absolutely instrumental in developing the story of our new guest family that the crime story is focused on.”
But what about that new lead chracter, Jenn Townsend? Daragh says they have been thinking about that since the end of series two.
“When we knew that Morven was moving on I went back to the drawing board and started to think those key questions about what kind of person becomes a Family Liaison Officer; what do they bring to that role and what draws them to it?” he says.
“ I knew that what we didn’t want to do is just replace Lisa as the character was irreplaceable. We didn’t want to just slot in someone who’s very like Lisa again. I started to think about someone who’s really very different from Lisa in the sense that Lisa had a kind of toughness to her and the sense that she didn’t take any prisoners.
“Jenn on the other hand is more empathetic to a fault; she really takes her work home with her, she takes it to heart. She’s someone who struggles a bit with her sense of self and her sense of self-esteem. She has a bit of imposter syndrome.
“Marsha is just brilliant at inhabiting that and bringing that richness and complexity to the character.”
And new girl Marsha says she has fallen in love with the bay, despite the challenges of the weather and Covid-19.
“DS Jenn Townsend has uprooted her life in Manchester to move to Morecambe to be with her new partner, Chris, who’s a deputy head teacher. She’s got two kids and has just started a new job and so it’s a lot of change for Jenn and her kids,” she says.
“When we first meet her, she’s really nervous about fitting in at work and at home, it’s all a bit complicated. She is still dealing with her past and what she went through in Manchester, which then comes to play here in Morecambe. Jenn is dealing with a lot, but she’s also really capable and doesn’t realise how capable she is.
“When the script came around I was really excited about the opportunity,” she adds. “I was a little nervous being the new girl but everyone was so welcoming. They are such a beautiful group of people and I just feel really fortunate to be working with them. They all made it so easy coming in.
“The bay itself is gorgeous and it’s freezing. That’s the best way I can sum it up! I’d never been to Morecambe before. The coastline and the promenade really is breathtaking.
“It’s its own character, with the dark sea and the tides that feel quite dangerous. It was fantastic filming there. When we shoot on the seafront or the beach for the day it sometimes has to be done in reverse or in a special way as the tide can dictate how we work.”
Catherine Oldfield believes the town and the world-famous bay are key to making the show a hit. She says: “It’s distinctive and it’s so beautiful but it’s not manicured...it feels real, it feels like recognisable Britain if that makes sense.
“We’ve probably all been to a coastal town not unlike Morecambe but if you’ve not been to Morecambe itself, I say go, it’s fantastic.”
Erin Shanagher, who plays DS Karen Hobson, one of the family liaison team, agrees.
“The Bay IS the bay. It has its own energy, its own personality,” she says. “I grew up in a seaside town so I very much know these towns that have lasted forever, but haven’t changed. It is its own character and we all take place within that rather than the other way around. Everything’s constantly moving and changing, it’s magical. The people of Morecambe are incredible to us as well, they’re so welcoming. They’ll come to where we’re filming and thank us for filming here. There is such beauty in Morecambe, the sunsets, the skylines when you look across to the Lake District is just phenomenal. One morning we were filming on the seafront and the sun was rising and showing off the snow on the Lakes and it just blew us away. It is a magical place.”
Daniel Ryan, who plays Jenn’s boss DI Tony Manning, can’t wait for the audience to get their teeth into The Bay again.
He says: “What’s been amazing about The Bay is that after the first series, which did incredibly well, the second series aired during lockdown so we had a captive audience. That made a lot of people who never watched the first series binge the two series together so our numbers were even greater.
“Now we’ve got a third to try and beat that, to try and make this even better and I think Daragh has done that. It’s a great story that feels very topical in a way, tackling issues that feel real with a brilliant rounded team investigating.
“It’s going to be an insight for people into a British Asian family and what happens to those dynamics when you have kids born and bred in England with the complications of living in this country, how you fit in and how you don’t.
“I hope people will be very happy to come back to The Bay.”
• The Bay begins on Wednesday, January 12 at 9pm on ITV.