Behind the Scenes of Charlotte in Sunderland

Charlotte Crosby came into the public eye after appearing as an original cast member of Geordie Shore from 2011 to 2016. Featuring in a show largely centered on the Newcastle partying scene invites all sorts of assumptions from the general public, but Chatterbox Media set out to challenge these preconceptions and show Crosby in a new light in Charlotte in Sunderland.

David Metcalf was finishing another series with Chatterbox when he heard about the new show and was quick to board as director, both eager to work with the production company again and to work with Crosby. “Charlotte is somebody that almost everyone in the U.K. has heard of and has won a legion of fans around the world,” he says. “I knew that if we could approach the series in a different way to how people might expect to see her, we could make something fresh and exciting.”

The team wanted to create a show that would help bring in a new audience, striking a balance between entertaining those who didn’t know Crosby from Geordie Shore and catering to those who had loved her for a long time. “There’s only one Charlotte Crosby,” Metcalf says. “We didn’t want to lose the hilarious, energetic and outrageous side of her that people love. However, we were keen to reframe her to create a distinct new series that reflects and captures where she’s at now.”

After first meeting Crosby and her family, he knew right off the bat that it would be a compelling show. “Charlotte, [her partner] Jake and her mom and dad are comedy gold; a director’s dream,” he says. “The familial chaos we see in the series comes so naturally to them. It was infectious to be around. I knew that if we could capture the energy of Charlotte and her family, because they are so relatable, viewers at home would laugh and cry with them.”

At the start of filming, it was unclear just what direction the show would take. “Until we started to form a relationship with the family and get into their world, we didn’t quite know” where the series would go, Metcalf says. “We knew that Charlotte and her mom have a fashion brand and were excited to see Charlotte navigating the world of business.”

As with any reality show, though, anything can happen—and it certainly did. Charlotte in Sunderland turned into so much more than anticipated. “It turned out to be a monumental year for Charlotte personally, for both happy and sad reasons,” Metcalf explains.

Metcalf and the team captured an emotional roller-coaster of a year in Crosby’s life, filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She moved in with her partner Jake, learned of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and gave birth to her first child.

As a director, Metcalf stresses the importance of building a relationship with those you are filming, which is vital when capturing such deeply personal moments. “Above all else, we never force the cameras into these,” he says. “We were lucky enough to film with Charlotte and her family for an entire year, so we built up a close relationship and one where they knew they could trust us.”

It also helped to be filming with two to three cameras equipped with long lenses at all times. “This allowed us to let the scene play out naturally without interruption from those behind the cameras, allowing the family to almost forget we were there,” Metcalf says.

Chatterbox and Metcalf set out to show Crosby in a different light, but as Metcalf built up trust with the family and employed camera work that allowed the team to step back, the series was able to turn into something much more intimate and meaningful. It became “a series that depicts in the most personal way a family navigating the most momentous year and experiencing the milestone moments of life that so many of us go through.”

Viewers can catch up on Crosby and her family’s roller-coaster of a year on BBC iPlayer, where all episodes of Charlotte in Sunderland are available now.