Behind the Scenes of The Nest with Susan Hogg


Executive producer Susan Hogg talks to TV Drama about the making of the series The Nest, which garnered a 22 percent share across its five episodes on BBC One.

The Nest combines the personal and painful aspects of infertility, the complex issues of surrogacy and the nail-biting elements of a thriller. When a wealthy couple cannot have a child, they pay an 18-year-old to carry their baby. The relationship between the three takes a perilous and destructive turn as each person is hiding secrets from the past. Produced by Studio Lambert, The Nest stars Martin Compston (Line of Duty), Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders) and Mirren Mack (Sex Education).

Distributed by all3media international, The Nest is premiering exclusively in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Acorn TV on July 13, with two episodes. One episode every Monday will premiere through August 3.

TV DRAMA: How did The Nest come about?
HOGG: The idea for The Nest sprang from our conversations with the writer, Nicole Taylor. After our huge success together with Three Girls (winner of five BAFTAs), we were very keen to find the project which would deepen our working relationship even further. Nicole wanted to write an emotional thriller about the issue of surrogacy, which was both intellectually challenging and brilliantly entertaining. Her ambition was to create a gripping thriller that would also ask difficult questions about the moral and ethical rights and wrongs of creating a new life and of buying a baby.

TV DRAMA: What are some of the issues and themes presented in the series?
HOGG: The laws dealing with surrogacy in the U.K. are woefully inadequate. These laws are currently under review and will hopefully change in the near future. The central questions explored in the drama will still be hugely relevant, the moral and ethical questions which arise from the disparity in wealth and opportunity across the class divide.

When almost everything else is monetized in the west, why not monetize the human body? Why shouldn’t a teenager with nothing have the right to make money the only way she can? And why shouldn’t a couple with everything be able to use that wealth to buy the thing that is most precious to them, something that they can’t have any other way? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to use that wealth to create a family? These are knotty moral and ethical questions that we must explore and take responsibility for as human beings.

TV DRAMA: How were you able to fuse a family issue, and unfortunately, a quite common problem for many couples—the inability to conceive a child—with elements of a thriller?
HOGG: Nicole’s brilliance as a writer is always to search for the emotional truth in the motivations and actions of her characters. The three central characters in The Nest are Dan (Martin Compston) Emily (Sophie Rundle) and Kaya (Mirren Mack). These characters all have rich and complex emotional needs, which make them act and drives forward the narrative in thrilling ways. They also all have huge secrets from their past, which they are hiding. Viewers believe in these characters so completely, so Nicole can weave them into the action of a thriller storyline. We are shocked and thrilled by their actions because we’re desperate to know what makes them tick and how they will survive. We want to find out who is guilty and who is innocent.

TV DRAMA: Tell us about the pacing of the episodes and the storytelling techniques used from episode to episode to keep viewers coming back for more.
HOGG: When creating a thriller, the pacing and the hooks are important. The twists and turns of the storytelling are the central elements of a gripping thriller, but hooks only work if we believe in the characters so much that we don’t ask too many questions about their actions. If the audience is shocked by a character’s actions but still believes in them, they will be desperate to go to the next episode to discover more. The challenge is then to twist the story again and again, whilst still believing in the integrity of the characterization. The audience is thrilled by the journey and intrigued by the mystery. One of the most exciting elements of Nicole’s writing in The Nest is how she constantly challenges the audience’s assumptions about the characters. They love Dan one minute and hate him the next. They think Kaya is a really bad’ un only to eventually fall in love with her. Whilst developing The Nest, we wanted to keep the audience guessing about what was going to happen right to the last scene, but most of all, we wanted them to feel satisfied by the ending both emotionally and intellectually. We used specific production techniques to tease the audience with thriller elements. The choice of music and the editing style, including the extensive use of shards of flashback, all serve to enhance the thriller tone.

TV DRAMA: Tell us about the casting process and how you got such remarkable actors.
HOGG: Nicole set The Nest in Glasgow. She was brought up in Glasgow and her roots run deep in Scotland. She wrote the part of Dan for Martin Compston, and when he read the script, he fell in love with it and said yes immediately. Sophie Rundle (Emily) also adored the scripts and was so excited to tackle the part of Emily. The part of Kaya was a huge challenge, to find a young actor who could play such a complex and difficult part was a huge ask but Kahleen Crawford, our casting director, came up trumps with the amazing Mirren Mack. This was Mirren’s first role straight out of drama school and she totally smashed it.

TV DRAMA: How did The Nest perform on BBC One?
HOGG: The Nest was written and shot long before the coronavirus pandemic, and undoubtedly would have attracted a significant audience in “normal” times. But on top of its appeal in “normal” times, it is the type of show that provides a welcome escape from the barrage of bad and frightening news. The show is looked after internationally by all3media international, which is due to announce sales shortly. We are all thrilled by the show’s performance on BBC One. The Nest secured over 22 percent share in prime time across its run, attracting nearly 7 million viewers for the concluding live episode.