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Feuds for thought; EDITED BY SALLY MCLEAN Creator of new BBC legal drama tells why female domination of the often messy divorce business inspired her to write The Split.

Byline: BRIAN MCIVER

THEY'RE the kind of professionals nobody usually meets in a good mood.

The arrival of a divorce lawyer often means a relationship ending but according to the woman behind an eagerly awaited new TV drama about the lives and loves of legal women, and the couples they work with, it's a great way to examine modern families.

The Split, from Abi Morgan, the acclaimed screenwriter of White Girl, The Hour, River and films like Suffragette and The Iron Lady, premieres on BBC One next week and promises to follow in the footsteps of female-led legal dramas such as The Good Wife and Ally McBeal.

Morgan said she was fascinated by the role divorce lawyers play in family mechanics - and what divorce means in a society where half of all couples end in acrimony.

She said: "It originated from a conversation I had with a mother on a hockey pitch. She told me she was a divorce lawyer. To me, law was male-dominated but she said divorce law is predominantly female.

"I immediately thought, 'That's an interesting world.' "Divorce lawyers are family lawyers, so deal with adoptive cases, surrogacy, pre-nups, post-nups. I realised the notion of family that feels simple becomes complicated when you bring the law into it - the law exposes the fragile nature of family.

"We also live in a society where nearly 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce, so inherently I'm always curious about how people sustain and make marriages work.

"One of the most profound things a divorce lawyer I met said was, 'I don't see divorce as failure, I see some marriages as finite'.

"That's at the heart of the series.

We put huge pressure on ourselves to have this happy ever after and, in a time where we live a lot longer and have so many more options and choices and more opportunities for women to create their own wealth, it reconfigures what marriage is."

The six-part series promises an authentic and witty exploration of modern marriage and the legacy of divorce through the lens of the Defoes - a family of female lawyers at the heart of London's fastpaced and emotionally charged divorce circuit.

family drama Abi was fascinated by divorce Morgan added: "I was surprised at how complex and varied family law is. There's the complex world of pre-nups, which raises questions that make for an incredible story - legislating for an end when you're at the beginning and in that bubble of love. There's child arrangements and the rights of parents, surrogacy, issues about fertility. It suddenly felt like a very rich and complex world to interrogate.

"The legal drama is a Trojan horse to explore the family, centred around Ruth Defoe and her daughters Hannah, Nina and Rose. I wanted to explore a very femalecentric world - I was a huge fan of Scorsese films and used to look at these big male ensembles and wanted to see more female ensembles that weren't just buddy movies.

"It was also a chance to have a multi-generational cast of women."

Morgan." At the heart of the series are Ruth Defoe (Deborah Findlay) and her daughters Hannah (Nicola Walker) and Rose (Fiona Button).The star cast is rounded out by Meera Syal and Annabel Scholey, while other halves include Stephen Mangan, Barry Atsma and Anthony Head.

Former Spooks star Walker said she was delighted when she received the script. She added: "I think the main difference for me, when I read the script, was that it wasn't so much a legal drama.

"It was about love and family and relationships and the drama comes through that.

"This feels very real, even though it's dealing with a part of society that's very moneyed.

"When you get the family on their own in the kitchen, throwing things at each other, their problems are the same as ours."

." ? The Split, BBC One, April 2

CAPTION(S):

FAMILY DRAMA Abi Morgan was fascinated by divorce

LEADING LADIES Deborah Findlay, Annabel Scholey, Nicola Walker and Fiona Button
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 18, 2018
Words:670
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