The scriptwriter of Silk is former barrister Peter Moffat. "Silk is based on my experience of life at the Bar,” he explains. “The extreme pressure, the hard choices, the ethical dilemmas, the overlap between the personal and the professional, principles fought for and principles sacrificed, the Machiavellian politics, the sex, the drinking, the whole story – life at the Bar is the richest possible drama territory."
Justice will prevail
The series marks his return to the subject matter, after success with Criminal Justice and North Square. It was the big stories and courtroom drama that appealed, although he wanted to explore a specific aspect, this time. “I wanted to make it as much about barristers and their life in chambers as about the trials,” he says.
"I wanted Silk to be full of politics, intrigue and from my experience at the Bar; I felt life in chambers had all of those components."
A few good men and women
Moffat feels that we have a fair system. "I think it’s great on the whole. We have what's known as an 'adversarial system' which means you're not after the truth, you're after a result. One side represents one argument or story and the other side represents another. I think it is the best system. I've talked to many jurors, watched many trials and I feel most of the time the 12 members of the jury get it right."
The real Martha
Shortly before Maxine Peake took the part, a chance encounter strengthened her interest in the real world of the courts. "I met with Helena Kennedy QC at a charity event at the Royal Courts of Justice, around the same time I knew I was going up for the part. I remember thinking 'this woman is quite special and I'd like to find out more about this world'."
Just like Martha
Peter Moffat had an uncanny knack of writing specifically for Maxine. "Martha is definitely one of the first characters where I thought there are a lot of elements I can relate to,” she says, “either in terms of how she behaves, what she wears and her possessions, I mean her flat, I thought, 'Yes, I could live here'.
"And the music that's used in the series – Peter Moffat has great taste in music – when I read the script I was like 'brilliant' – Martha listens to The Clash and she likes Tom Waits."
Adult North Square
Rupert Penry-Jones worked on Peter Moffat’s earlier legal drama, North Square: "Silk is like a grown-up version of North Square, which was almost like a prototype for this. It's similar, but Silk is just a bit weightier and a bit more sophisticated."
All rise for Courtroom dramas
Rupert explains the enduring appeal of series set around the courtroom. "Court scenes are just great drama-wise, and great for actors too, in fact it's the people in the dock that get to do the good acting, the fun stuff. We are just professionals asking questions. The guest artists we have been having in who are playing the accused get to do the good stuff."
Silence in court
As for being a barrister for real, Rupert says: "No, the problem for me and a dilemma we deal with in Silk is the idea of defending someone who you know is guilty and helping them get a not guilty verdict. That, I would find really difficult!"