I’m trailing across a Bradford car park, in gale force winds and lashing rain, trying not to trip over cable wires as I climb aboard an old double-decker bus.
A couple of make-up girls, huddled beneath an umbrella, wander over from the catering van, shielding plates of stew from the rain.
Downstairs on the bus sits Bafta-winning TV dramatist Kay Mellor, in a waterproof coat and pink hat, chatting to extras tucking into lunch. “We’ve had rain, wind, sleet and too much sun holding up filming today. All seasons in one day!” she laughs.
Welcome to the set of Kay’s new star-studded TV drama, The Syndicate 2.
The series, about a group of lottery-winning hospital workers, is set in Bradford and filming has taken place in the city centre and around the district over recent weeks.
Due to be screened on BBC1 this spring, it’s a follow-up to Kay’s 2012 series The Syndicate, about a group of supermarket workers who win the lottery.
The new series stars Alison Steadman, Mark Addy, from hit movie The Full Monty, Siobhan Finneran, from Downton Abbey, former EastEnders actor Jimi Mistry and Bradford actress Natalie Gavin.
In The Syndicate 2, low-paid workers from fictional Bradford hospital St Anthony’s win a share of a £72m Euromillions jackpot. Filming locations have included Bradford’s Great Victoria Hotel, City Park, Little Germany and Manningham. I’m invited to a backstage area set up in a city centre car park to interview some of the cast and take a peek behind the scenes.
“It’s not Hollywood!” laughs Natalie Gavin, as the door of her trailer nearly blows off its hinges in high winds. Inside, it’s warm and cosy as the rising actress – who played Buttershaw playwright Andrea Dunbar in acclaimed film The Arbor and a tough young mother in BBC drama Prisoners’ Wives – takes a break for a photo-shoot.
Producers are keeping tight-lipped about the plot of The Syndicate 2, but each character finds winning the Euromillions a life-changing experience.
Natalie, from Denholme, enjoys filming in Bradford. “I can roll out of bed and roll on set!” she jokes. “It’s an honour to work with Kay, she writes beautifully and creates characters that are a pleasure to play.”
Over in the make-up trailer, head-and-shoulder photographs of the cast are pinned on the wall, and dotted around are wigs perched on stands, and pots of make-up and brushes.
Mark Addy is sitting in front of a mirror having his windswept hair combed.
“The weather is always going to be an issue when you film in winter, but we’re meant to be in Bradford anyway so a grey rainy afternoon gives it an authentic feel,” he smiles.
In a neighbouring trailer I meet Siobhan Finneran, a familiar face from two of ITV’s biggest shows; Benidorm and Downton Abbey. She shot to fame in 1987 film Rita, Sue and Bob Too, filmed in Bradford, and today she’s known to millions of viewers, on both sides of the Atlantic, as Downton Abbey’s scheming ladies’ maid O’Brien. As O’Brien she’s rather sinister in a severe black uniform and scraped back hair, but in the flesh Siobhan is petite, pretty and softly spoken.
“The characters are believable, that’s the beauty of Kay’s writing. The hospital sets are amazing; the art department have done a great job,” she says of The Syndicate 2, adding that she’s happy to be in Bradford again. “A lot of the work I’ve done over the last few years has been away from home so it’s nice to be back up north.”
Bradford City of Film director David Wilson says: “It’s been a real pleasure working with Rollem Productions on Syndicate 2. Although I imagine it’s pretty hectic, having seen the schedules, the locations manager and crew always seem really pleased to be in Bradford so we must be doing something right.”
He adds: “I think Bradford people are getting more used to seeing filming in the city but it’s still very exciting when the end result is on TV or released in the cinema. Bradford has such a diverse range of locations, from the listed buildings in the city centre to industrial sites, and is of course surrounded by countryside, so it’s a great choice for film-makers. We want more of them to know about it, and that is part of the work of Bradford UNESCO City of Fiilm.”