Published on: 16 December 2022 in Career Development

PODCAST + TRANSCRIPT — Raising the Bar on Accessibility: A Ralph and Katie masterclass with Jordan Hogg and Delyth Thomas

Reading time: 59 minutes and 32 seconds

Welcome to the Directors UK Podcast!

This episode comes from our Q&A with Jordan Hogg, director of the fantastic television series, Ralph and Katie – the first TV drama to star two lead performers with Down’s syndrome.

Jordan spoke to fellow director Delyth Thomas about the steps he took to raise the bar on accessibility in his production. From employing a creative coach and easy-read callsheets, to ultilizing the Call It! App as a safety net for cast and crew.

Ralph and Katie is available to watch now on iPlayer. Call It! is available to download on iPhone and Android. You can listen and subscribe to the Directors UK Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, and other podcast platforms - warning, this one contains some strong language! We hope you enjoy the show!

You can also read a full transcript of the conversation below.

Delyth Thomas: Hello all. Please welcome Lord Hogg of Sealand himself, the glorious director, Jordan Hogg. 

Jordan Hogg: Hello. 

Delyth Thomas: Thanks very much for agreeing to do this chat about Ralph and Katie. How did you get the job? 

Jordan Hogg: Bribery, essentially! I went for a meeting for the The A Word. It was actually for the episode where Ralph and Katie get married. I didn’t get it at the time, so I was a bit down about it. But I went on, a few months passed, and I was on Twitter and I noticed a thing came up saying Ralph and Katie had been greenlit. I was like, ‘This is an amazing show, what a great idea this is.’ So, I emailed my agent. I think this was about 4 or 5 o’clock on a Friday. I said, ‘Look, I’ve seen this on Twitter. Can you get me anywhere near it? I’d love to do it.’ Anyway, the weekend passed and my agent phoned me up at like 10 o’clock on Monday morning and said, ‘ITV Studios have been in touch. Peter Bowker has written a series and he wants you to direct it. It’s called Ralph and Katie.’ I was like, ‘Bloody hell. I emailed you on Friday about that. Of course I want to do it, he’s amazing.’ I didn’t get the initial job I went for, but Peter still remembered me and thought I’d be a good fit for ‘Ralph and Katie’, and it’s weird how it turned out, but it’s still so fortunate, like it was meant to be. 

Delyth Thomas: What drew you to the job? 

Jordan Hogg: The amount of shows that we work on in our industry that are, kind of, the same thing but repackaged. Ralph and Katie from the outset was completely pioneering. Never been done before, never been attempted. As a disabled guy myself, it was the opportunity to put us on a pedestal and show what we can do and what we’re capable of and what the industry should be aspiring to be. It’s not very often a project like that comes along, or it’s never come along before. So, I really couldn’t turn that chance down. I’ve said from day one to the amazing producer, Jules Hussey. I hope she doesn’t hear me calling her amazing. But, yes, I’ve said to her every day that we’re going to change the world. I think we’ve taken a few steps towards possibly doing that with our industry. 

Delyth Thomas: You got the job, you negotiated the deal, it’s all done and dusted, you’re there. How on earth do you start? Let’s start with crew, because that can be quite challenging in this kind of arena. 

Jordan Hogg: Totally. We understood from day one, we were totally going into the unknown. As I said before, it’s never been attempted before, what we’re trying to do. There’s never been a show with two learning disabled leads. Leon (Harrop) and Sarah (Gordy) themselves are both very different people. So, we knew that we couldn’t shoot the show as a conventional drama. We had to do a lot of different things and we had to start off with working out our own way to do things, because our industry seems to be very set in its ways. There’s always a way that things are done. But we had to, kind of, go away from that and start from scratch, say, ‘No, we’re going to do it like this and it’s going to work just as well.’ Well, we hoped.

So, we started off with the crew and I think I used the term… I gave this really shit rah-rah speech to everybody on the first day and I used the term ‘responsibility’, because, for me, it’s a word that’s made up of two other words: ‘Response’ and ‘ability’. Everyone that’s offered a job, we knew they had the ability to do it. They had good enough CVs and the work ethic and whatnot to do the job, but that’s not what we needed, because we knew we had to do things differently. So, the other word is ‘response’. So, the crew we chose, we chose them on how they would respond to the situation we were in. We asked them numerous questions when we were chatting to them, because we knew everything we did would have to be backwards to how it’s normally done before, and everything had to be done in a different way, on a massive scale. 
So, me and Jules sat down and we hand-picked every single individual member of crew. We had to make sure they’d fit our ethos, and understood that everybody’s voice mattered, everybody’s own life experience mattered, as well as what they were going to bring to this and whether they understood the restrictions we were working under and how we had to work differently, and the different techniques we used, and how we had to pioneer new way of doing things. And having no attitude or ego. That all had to be totally left at the door. All the crew we picked were superb from that point of view. We were all part of the same team and we all understood what we were doing. I gave the speech about how the whole industry will be aware of us and what we were doing. We were the pioneers, we were at the front. Everyone would be talking about us and we were all chosen for that. That’s where it started, just getting the best people, the best personalities to do the job. 

Delyth Thomas: Let’s start talking about things like sets and costume and design, and what you did differently there. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. Doing this, with it being a spin-off of The A Word, I said ‘A Word’ was a swear word, because I said, ‘We’re not doing The A Word.’ It’s like, I want people to think of Ralph and Katie and The A Word as people think of Cheers and Frasier. Totally different shows but still connected. But what we had to do is, we had to stick to the landscape, if you like, of a setting of The A Word. It was obviously still in the Lake District. But it was still its own thing and we still had to have the elements in it that suited Leon and Sarah. But then we had the balance of trying to make it look like this show that everyone is familiar with, but different. We had to find the fine line with it being realistic and not too infantile and childish. We had to be so selective with the colour palette we used, even the wallpaper and the paint we used in the front room. I think Joe (Barcham) the designer, and Ian (Adrian) the DoP, we went and sat in that front room, the three of us thinking, looking at five or six different shades of blue on the wall, ‘No, that’s too CBBC, that’s not going to pop enough, that’s a bit dull,’ and trying to find the right level. Every colour was considered, because we were so conscious of making Leon and Sarah look infantile, we want this to be a serious drama about a young couple. But as well, Joe the designer sat down with Leon and Sarah, and he got them to bring in things from home. Items they had at home which were part of their lives and things they were familiar with. We sat down and asked them what colours they’d do, how they’d decorate the house and what they felt was right and things.

But in doing so, we had to actually find the exteriors first. I always say Leon and Sarah have the biggest house in the world, because the front of the house was in Bollington, the middle of the house was in central Manchester and the back of the house was in north Manchester. So, their house was about 30 miles long, eventually. So, we had to find the exterior, but we had to match the set to the exterior. Because, obviously, we were making it a practical environment for a young disabled couple living in it. So, even when you’ve found the exteriors, it had to be plausible that a disabled couple lived in it. We had steps in the garden, so had to put handrails and things like that and all the accessibility requirements. The easy-turn doorhandles and whatnot had to be addressed. So, it was a bit of a task, but we got there. 

Delyth Thomas: I love the colour palettes on them. The characters are very alive but, as you said, they’re not CBBC. 

Jordan Hogg: We took The A Word colour palette, and all I wanted to do was turn it up a couple of notches. So, I still wanted a sense of familiarity, but I wanted it to be more hopeful and joyous than The A Word is at times. 

Delyth Thomas: Personally, the onesies at the end are my favourite. 

Jordan Hogg: They were classic. 

Delyth Thomas: Talking about involving Leon and Sarah, can you talk to us a little bit about how much you involved them through the whole process, particularly in casting? The way you did it was slightly different. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. I think what happened, on the show, all we were doing, constantly, was trying to find honesty and truth in what we were representing. Obviously, we’re heightened to a certain extent with a learning disabled couple living so independently as Ralph and Katie are. But, again, we wanted that sense of reality. So, we knew, if we could get the actual Leon and Sarah on screen, we’d be laughing, because their personalities are just electric. So, we wanted to capture that, wanted to give them the most comfortable environment possible. So, we included them in literally everything. The colour schemes, the costumes. We introduced them to crew early on, as soon as crew came on board, and everyone explained their positions and what they do. We all bonded like that. But casting was major. Casting the supporting roles for Danny and… 

Delyth Thomas: The lovely café owner. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. I know Jamie, her name’s Jamie (Marie Leary), but I can’t remember the name of the character. God, what’s the name? I’ve gone blank. 

Delyth Thomas: The character’s name is Emma. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, Emma, that’s it, yes. Thank you. When it came to choose the supporting characters, I on my own had lots of Zoom auditions with potential actors. It was me and the casting director. What we tried to do is, again, it was building on the theory of responsibility. All the actors we saw had the ability to do the show, easily and very well and very articulately. But, again, it boiled down to responsibility. How much of a giving person they would be to Leon and Sarah, and how much they would give to them, which was major. So, we managed to whittle down the actors. Then we brought a couple in. I think we brought three for each character into the chemistry reads with Leon and Sarah. What we did is, we told Leon and Sarah we’re looking for who’d work best with them, and their opinion was really valid. So, we had a green room and I brought in... I think I brought in Kerplunk and Jenga. Leon brought his iPod in. What we did was, we just set the games out in the green room and we did the chemistry reads, then we split them up so there was always one of them in the green room with Leon and Sarah. So, we watched them in the green room, to see who was playing the board games and were they playing fairly and whatnot. We ended up going through them and we knew we’d chosen the right people when we went in the green room and the two we chose were dancing with Leon and Sarah to JLS. Leon was showing them a routine that he’d choreographed and they’re all copying Leon. 
Leon and Sarah came to me afterwards, they’re all, ‘We want Dylan (Brady) and Jamie. We think they’re unbelievable.’ So, yes, that worked out really well. Again, it just boiled down to the theory of responsibility. I’ve done a lot of shows and I don’t have time for egos, and this was certainly a show when we couldn’t afford time or patience for any egos. Genuinely, all we wanted was good, nice, giving, caring people. 

Delyth Thomas: Like every show, we want that. 

Jordan Hogg: Exactly. 

Delyth Thomas: Can we talk a little bit about, ‘Inclusion beyond the norm’? Because that was factored in to every element of the production, right from preproduction through to post. Would you talk a little bit about that? About the trainee schemes, about all the other things you’d put in place so that people felt safe? 

Jordan Hogg: I always say, ‘We’re in the business of making magic and dreams.’ So, why should we stand in the way of people wanting to achieve their dreams? So, we set out for this to be the most inclusive show that’s ever happened, I think. Not just in our industry, I think it was probably the most inclusive environment that any industry has ever accomplished. We had a disabled trainee in every department, we had a deaf girl in costume, there was the EPK lady with down syndrome, the on-set photographer was a wheelchair user, we had people of colour in every department, we had trans people. It was inclusive. And everyone was so happy, because what we did is we spoke to every single crew member that was there about their accessibility needs. It wasn’t just the disabled people who had accessibility needs, it was literally everybody. So, everybody felt included, nobody felt separated from everybody else. It was so inclusive and everybody got their needs addressed. We trialled this fantastic app called Call It! Which, obviously, you’re very familiar with, Delyth. It’s just an app, and every day a question comes up on your phone saying, ‘How were you treated today?’ You’ve got the green, amber and red button. You just press, like, green or amber. It depends how your day has been. But it provides such a, kind of, safe environment for everybody. And that show was so happy, because nobody had any stresses or problems or felt like they were causing anyone problems, because everybody was included. 

There was one of the runners called Ben, I nicknamed him Tea Ninja, because I literally put an empty teacup down, I’d put my hand out and it’d be full again.  He’d do it without even appearing. He was amazing. But when Ben first appeared, he came into the office one day, on his first day, and he daren’t look at me in the face, he had his head down all the time. I just said, ‘Come and sit at my desk,’ and we had a chat to him and we asked him what he wanted to do and things. Jules was sat opposite me, the producer, and when Ben left she went, ‘God, I wish I’d recorded that,’ because the lad physically changed during that conversation, he really became somebody else. He had his hand missing on his left arm, I think, and he always used to pull the jumper down over it, when he came in he pulled his jumper down over his hand. When he’d left the room, I said to Jules, ‘I’m going to have him in a t-shirt by the end of this job.’ After about a week of shooting, he’d started rolling his sleeves up on his jumper. By the end, he was in a t-shirt. Me and Jules got him a t-shirt with ‘Tea Ninja’ on, that he wore. He ended up going to the costumer sale and he bought all of Brian’s costumes. In the Lake District, we were all in a hotel, and he was the last one partying at 3 o’clock in the morning in the hotel bar. So, I think, the point of all this long-winded story is, we didn’t just make an inclusive project with Ralph and Katie, we changed people’s lives. We really helped people. I think, as an industry, we have the power to do this. I can’t understand why every show doesn’t do this. What we did was not difficult at all. All it took was a little bit of thought and speaking to people, and communication. 
Early on, I always said, I said to the whole crew, ‘If you’ve got a question about my disability, just come and ask. It’s nothing to be frightened of at all. If you’ve got a question, just ask. We’ll always answer your questions.’ 

Delyth Thomas: They’ll be terrified of you, Jordan, because you’ll get all sweary. 

Jordan Hogg: I do, yes. Like a force of nature. 

Delyth Thomas: Let’s play the first clip. 

Here, we watched a clip of Ralph’s dance scene from episode 2. It’s 19 minutes into the episode. 

Jordan Hogg: It’s alright that scene, isn’t it? Kind of makes sense. 

Delyth Thomas: It’s such a sweet scene. It brings to how you worked with Leon and Sarah. Let’s talk a little bit about the techniques. Was it Jess? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, I mean, Jess started really early on, I think. 

Delyth Thomas: Could you explain who she is? 

Jordan Hogg: Jess (Mabel Jones) is our access coordinator or creative enabler, creative coach. She had different techniques on how learning disabled people interpret different things, different emotions. She was like an acting coach for Sarah and Leon, so to speak. She had a plethora of techniques she used to find emotions with them. Jess came onboard about six weeks before we started shooting. She had her own space in the studio, which was like a rehearsal space for Leon and Sarah. She spoke with them about all the different episodes. I think episode five was about Ralph having cancer. She took Leon to the medical museum and things, to understand what it was, and she had lots of conversations. She went to speak to a counsellor with Sarah about when her parents got divorced and things like that. She created this big wall, and they had all different cards for the different scenes along the walls. So, if we were doing a scene, she could just point to the card, at what point we’re filming in the story, so Leon and Sarah knew. She did a lot of rehearsals with them, and I’d go and sit in with them. I didn’t really give my input at that stage, I just wanted it all to sink in for Leon and Sarah, the storylines. I didn’t want to interfere, but I went to sit and watch a few of the sessions. As well as doing that, I think Jess associated a different colour or smell or object to the episode we were doing, so Leon and Sarah knew what episode we were doing by associating it with what smell, colour or object it was. The techniques Jess used… if we didn’t have Jess, I don’t think we would have been able to do the show at all. 

Delyth Thomas: It’s that balance, isn’t it? It’s like, how do you tread that line and how do you, as a director, work with someone like Jess so that she doesn’t step into your territory? But equally, you have to collaborate. If you don’t collaborate, you don’t have the end performance. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. I mean, I think, again, it goes back to responsibility. I can’t have any ego at all. I had to respond to the situation, and me and Jess worked very closely on what we needed. We’d block it together, thenI would never give notes to Leon and Sarah on the floor. I’d always call Jess out and me and Jess would just stand off set and say, ‘I need a bit more here, a bit more there.’ We’d do it like that. But I think, as such, I had to literally edit in my head all the time, I could take one line out of one take, one line out of another. It’d be very rare we’d get a full scene in one go. 

Delyth Thomas: Would you talk about the fishing scene in that context, please? That’s quite an interesting one to talk about, I think. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. That was the last scene we shot in the whole series. After, like, a six-week shoot, I think, everyone gets fatigued, but I think there are things you forget when you’re working with people with disability learning that you maybe don’t quite think about, and fatigue had become quite a big factor for Sarah. She was actually nodding off during that scene. The techniques we’d had with Jess, we found them quite successful with a technique called “mirroring”, where Jess would do the performance and Leon had to do that performance back to her. Then we just pick out the lines in post. But I think it had got to the point where - I mean, it’s the same with any actor - but I think the technique had started to wear a little by that point, and Sarah wasn’t really responding to Jess as well as she was previously. So, I think we had a point where we had to go nuclear, where I had to go in and I acted in the scene with Sarah, and I think it was, kind of, when the director comes onboard and starts acting part of the scene it, kind of, ups the ante somewhat. I think me and Sarah went over that scene about seven times. 

Delyth Thomas: Did you do a lock off and split screen then? 

Jordan Hogg: No, we’d managed to knock-off the wide, it was when we came to do the singles. That’s when I did the scene and I did the mirroring technique. So, on the singles with Sarah, it was literally line by line - I was literally repeating the same line about five times, again and again. Then move onto the next line. But it was really trippy trying to think about getting the performance there and not really knowing what was on the monitor. 

Delyth Thomas: That’s quite challenging. 

Jordan Hogg: Totally. It was really tricky. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I mean, I’ve done a lot of children’s before, but I’ve never had to do the mirroring technique myself. 

Delyth Thomas: I have. It’s not easy. 

Jordan Hogg: No, it’s really tricky. But we’ve done it, and that was not the only technique we used. We used music and dancing. 

Delyth Thomas: Day one: was it what you expected? Day one of the shoot, did you breeze in, have that powerful day and go, ‘Here we go’? 

Jordan Hogg: Excuse my language, but going into it, we had no fucking clue what was going to happen. Really, it was like, ‘Best laid plans,’ and all that, but getting on the floor, I was thinking, ‘Fucking hell. How is this going to work?’ 

Delyth Thomas: And no two cameras? 

Jordan Hogg: No. Again, it was a thing we thought about early on. We were very conscious about the amount of voices and noise on the floor. So, we only used one camera. But the fantastic DoP had the idea of shooting in 6K. 

Delyth Thomas: Smart. 

Jordan Hogg: So, as such, we could get, obviously, two sizes out of one shot. Because we were aware that we probably wouldn’t get the same continuity of performance take after take. So, we shot in 6K. That was one of the things we did. Unbeknownst, we’d bought so much storage and we’d nearly run out of storage for the whole shoot by middle of day two. Yes. So, we had to, kind of, be selective with the use of 6K after that point. But, yes, I think day one, when we came into it — I don’t get nervous, that’s probably one of my strongest traits as a human being, I don’t ever get nervous. But there was some trepidation on knowing what we’d get. The comfort we had was knowing that we’d done everything we possibly could to try and achieve what we set out to do. We knew we had the right people in place, we knew we had a plan. So, as a director, what more can you ask for, really? 

Delyth Thomas: Extra time? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. 

Delyth Thomas: Another week? Because that’s quite a fast shoot for this kind of thing. 

Jordan Hogg: Exactly, yes. It was quite tight. But we had everything in place. Yes, we just kind of went for it, because we always knew, as I said previously, that if we could get Leon and Sarah on screen we’d be winning. So, it was all about creating that environment. We did little stuff, like when we did a block, we’d do a block and show it to the crew, then we’d ask Leon and Sarah to leave and when they’d left, that’s when we started discussing shots and things. We didn’t want to burden Leon and Sarah in any way, shape or form with any form of technical jargon. We just wanted them to be them, and be comfortable in the environment with all these voices and shouting and chaos going off and whatnot. So, as soon as they left, that was when we discussed what we were going to do. 

Delyth Thomas: Did you include their PAs in those discussions so they could prep Leon and Sarah as to how long that would take? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. Leon and Sarah had their own spaces to go to. I think we set up individual spaces for Leon and Sarah. They had a space to relax, a space to go to when we’re not filming, and on set. So, they had three distinct zones they went to. Like, their dressing room was the place they went to relax and sleep and things, and they had another space to go to when they were still needed on set, but it was their space. We do little stuff, like, we didn’t have red light and bell. Frequently, we’d turn over without declaring it. Literally, the first AD would walk past the front of the camera going like that, so that Leon and Sarah wouldn’t know we were turning, and we’d just shoot things on the hoof. See what we could get. Because all of a sudden, when you put the clapper board on, everyone freezes and goes tense. A weird thing that I worked out, I’d do a block with Leon and Sarah, we’d do three or four runs of it, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect,’ we’d get there, then we’d do a crew rehearsal and it’d completely go. It’d completely go back to scratch, the performance you’d get. Then it always took five takes - don’t ask me why - for the performance to come all full circle and back to what we had in the block. That’s a technique we, kind of, fell into. 

Delyth Thomas: So, you’re up and running, then you’ve got the deep joy of COVID. You managed to get through the first week. What was the response from Execs looking at rushes and assemblies? Because that’s always that nail-biting first week when they’d have a look at that on the Friday. 

Jordan Hogg: I think, before we started to shoot, there was a great deal of fear, if you like. And trepidation from upstairs about if this was possible and if it’d fall on its backside. It’s the case with anything when you’re going into the unknown, you don’t know what you’re going to get. I had no clue, none of us had any clue, but we weren’t handling the money and the politics side of it, we didn’t have to worry about that. But a lot of pressure was on the people that did. I think they were slightly concerned all through pre-production. But, after the first week’s rushes, I think we, realised that we’d found a groove and rhythm and I think Sarah and Leon were pulling it out of the hat and our techniques were working. It was tight at times. We always had a KBS at the end of the day. It was always Hollywood in the morning, Hollyoaks in an afternoon. So, it was, kind of, yes. But they soon relaxed when they realised that I had a plan, the DoP had a plan, the designer had a plan. We were working a treat when Jess, Leon and Sarah knew what they were doing and their responsibilities and everyone knew their places and everyone was pulling in the same direction. It, kind of, works for everybody, really. The nerves were palpable when we first started. 

Delyth Thomas: Shall we look at the second clip and then we can talk about other things that you brought in? 

Here, we watched a clip with Ralph and Katie from episode 4. From about 13 minutes to 15 minutes in. 

Delyth Thomas: Such a lovely scene. 

Jordan Hogg: It looks lovely, but I’m having horrific flashbacks. 

Delyth Thomas: Just a general shout out to people who are watching, please do ping us some questions as we go along if you would like. Tell us about how you did that? 

Jordan Hogg: You can totally ask anything, as well. I’m open to anything. Well, that was shot on, obviously, different days and different things, but I’m just speaking about the exterior first. There are things that you don’t count on with people’s disabilities. That shot in the back garden was at the very end of a long day. Believe it or not, Sarah had eight layers on, there. 

Delyth Thomas: She had what, sorry? 

Jordan Hogg: Eight layers on of thermals. 

Delyth Thomas: She was cold then? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. I mean, we knew she got cold and didn’t have brilliant circulation and things, but we had to really look after Sarah that night and it was literally, she was probably outside for 20 seconds and she was properly shaking and I was properly scared for her. I had to be as quick as possible. We rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed, and we literally pushed Sarah out for, like, 20 seconds and I felt really bad for her because she was really cold. 

Delyth Thomas: She doesn’t look happy. 

Jordan Hogg: We’d done everything we could. So, we really had to take care of Sarah that time. But she was a trooper and she did it and she was okay. But I just wanted her in and out as quick as possible, I didn’t want her to struggle. But the second half was a lot more tricky when she’s in the bedroom. So, we brought in the most amazing person called Ita, Ita O’Brien, who’s an intimacy coordinator. And, can I just say, having an intimacy coordinator in our industry is the best idea and the best thing ever, and I will advocate intimacy coordinators until the day I die, for everybody. 

Delyth Thomas: I mean, you wouldn’t do stunts without a stunt coordinator, so why would you not? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, exactly. I can’t understand why there’s any form of resistance whatsoever against the intimacy coordinator. I don’t get it. But it was so helpful having Ita there. And on that day, as well, I was exceptionally terrified because we didn’t have Jess on that day. So, I had to act as Jess, which doubles my stress levels. As well as trying to direct the thing, I was trying to be the accessibility coordinator as well. I had Jess on speed dial, a ‘What the fuck do I do?’ kind of thing, essentially. I don’t know if you guys noticed on that one, but a tear came out of Sarah at the end. I think that was about take 13. It’s hard getting someone to cry as an actor anyway, it’s a skill. We couldn’t use any tear stick on Sarah or Leon, so trying to get Sarah to cry was tricky, and we’d, kind of, run out of things to do. I was telling her, ‘Let’s make the audience cry. This is your BAFTA. This is how we’re going to get awards and recognition. This is the scene of the episode that we need to nail.’ And all the other stuff you come out with as a director. It was pure luck that Sarah just laid down and her eyes started watering. She wasn’t even aware that it had happened, it was just pure fluke. But, again, trying to work with Leon and Sarah that day without any Jess and trying every technique in the book that I could think of to try and get something like that was tricky. So, if you’re in a situation like that and you do lose the intimacy coordinator, as a director, you have to, kind of, embrace that role as well. I think every director on every project should be open to that. 

Delyth Thomas: I think you should talk about how you managed when you got COVID, because this is all shot in COVID times. It gives a whole other dimension and level of trickiness. 

Jordan Hogg: Probably the most stressful time of my life, Delyth. We were going so well. We’d shot five weeks, was it five? Four weeks. We’d just gone out of studio and it was the first day on location, I think. I felt a little bit snotty. I said to the COVID coordinator ‘If I haven’t got COVID, I’m not well, I must have COVID.’ We did a test and yes, I had COVID. I was like, ‘Shit.’ We’d such good groove with Leon and Sarah. We weren’t stopping, nothing was stopping us keeping going, we didn’t want to throw off how well we were running. So, they locked me inside a van with a monitor and a talk-back for the day. As the day was going on, I was feeling worse and worse. I was sweating in the back of this van, the windows were steamed up. I was trying to communicate through the talk-back, and people were talking to me through the window of the car. When I went to the toilet, I had to have someone escort me down the road to the toilet. It was hell. We realised we couldn’t keep doing that. So, Coops stepped in for day two. So, I was trying to relay messages to Coops and she was trying to relay them to the floor, which was starting to get jumbled after a while. Coops was amazing and battled through that and did a fantastic job. But then we thought, ‘Well, there must be an easier way to do this.’ 

Delyth Thomas: I’m just going to jump in and say Amy Coop was the Second AD, a director in her own right as well. 

Jordan Hogg: I tell you what, Coops is a brilliant second, but she’s an amazing director as well. She deserves all the credit. So, then we came up with another technique. By this time, I was, kind of, dying in my apartment with COVID, it was setting in by this point, but I had the camera feed on my laptop and I had a FaceTime feed on my iPad. The first AD had me on FaceTime around his neck so I could talk directly to actors without being there. We managed to muddle through 3 or 4 days doing that, which was quite cool. We managed to keep it going, because we couldn’t stop, we had to keep going. But, yes, if you can keep going through COVID like that, I think anything was possible. But we had to be very careful of Leon and Sarah with COVID as well, because they’re quite vulnerable to it, so we had to take all measures. We knew it was coming, because my boy tested positive for COVID on the Sunday, so I went in on the Monday and I was still negative, but still I was isolated in the studio - so I was still around, but then on the next day when we got onto location, I tested positive. It was like four hours. When I wanted to go to the toilet on that first day, they literally had to empty the corridors. I think Jo’s took a video on her phone of me walking that corridor and everyone running out of the way as I was approaching. It was like something off Monty Python

Delyth Thomas: I think it’s testimony to how fantastic your team were. 

Jordan Hogg: It was thinking outside the box and thinking logically how it could be done. We had to literally do that with everything on this show. 

Delyth Thomas: I’m going to play the next clip, because it’s so joyous. 

We then watched Leon’s dance scene from Episode 2 of Ralph and Katie, which takes place twenty minutes in. 

Jordan Hogg: I think it should be law that everyone has to watch that first thing on a morning. 

Delyth Thomas: Talk about the scene for us. 

Jordan Hogg: I think that I’ve worked with a lot of actors in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked with another actor like Leon, who’s as proud to do what they do as he is. And Leon loves dancing. That was all his choreography, more or less. He loves JLS and he choreographs his own things. I said to Jess, ‘How many takes do you think Leon’s got in him for this?’ And she said, ‘He’ll do it all day, just give him a bag of crisps every now and again, he’ll keep going.’ The joy you see on screen was literally oozing from Leon doing that. I think he rehearsed that for about 3 or 4 weeks before we shot it, and I think we did that in about 3 or 4 takes and he absolutely loved it - but I think that dancing became a mantra for the whole show, because every day it was normally about 11 o’clock and about 3 o’clock when, as you do, anybody does, we had a dip in energy on the set and we would just blast a random song and literally the whole crew would come running to set, everybody had had a boogie for about two or three minutes, then everyone would run off set and we’d literally roll off straight away and try and capture the energy that was on the set. I think that dance we did there on my birthday actually. We were shooting at Bollington in Cheshire and it was the front of the house and there was a lovely green outside the front of the house and at the end of the day we put the music on and we all started doing that dance, the whole crew and the pub over the road emptied and everybody from the pub came, and we had a massive impromptu dance on the green. 
Leon was leading us all and he was so chuffed, and it’s about embracing the energy, what people enjoy and trying to capture that energy was a massive thing for us and. Think we’ve got to do a big push this year to try and get Leon on Strictly just to do that dance. 

Delyth Thomas: His comedic timing generally is so good. 

Jordan Hogg: I’ve worked with many seasoned actors, household names. I can easily say that Leon is in the top three actors that I’ve ever worked with. His timing is impeccable, he loves what he does, he’s all over it, he wants to understand the character, he wants to understand the emotion, he wants to be there. He was so proud. His goal in life is to be number one, be the lead on something, and he was so proud of it. And he just won a BAFTA Breakthrough and I can’t think of another person more deserving. 

Delyth Thomas: Other actors like Pooky (Quesnel) are so comfortable. You had a fabulous post-person in episode two. When you had extra parts, did you find it useful to bring in people that they knew, or was that just a happy accident? 

Jordan Hogg: I think describing the post person as fantastic is probably a bit over-enthusiastic. Acceptable is more… I think Jules is an amazing producer and this couldn’t have happened without her at all. She’s an amazing producer, but I genuinely can’t think of a better human being than Jules Hussey. I’d never tell her this, but I love her deeply and I’d do absolutely anything for her, but don’t ever repeat that to her. 

Delyth Thomas: Did you encourage crew members if they had five minutes to be in the back of a shot? 

Jordan Hogg: Well, I was in it. 

Delyth Thomas: That’s what I was angling for. 

Jordan Hogg: I had my Hitchcock in episode two, Peter Bowker was also in episode two. I think Bowker was in every episode, actually. I always say that Pete looks like Morrissey if Morrissey didn’t give a shit, so I put him in everywhere, and Kieran actually was the third and they created between themselves a sub-plot of son and father. 

Delyth Thomas: Did Leon and Sarah respond to that? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. There was a line in it that didn’t make the final cut, I think Leon had to tell me to fuck off in it. It didn’t make it, but he was so chuffed at telling me to fuck off. He was so excited about that. Literally everybody was on it, all the cast and crew — we literally sat them down with Leon and Sarah beforehand, so they were familiar with them. I think Pooky had a good relationship with Leon beforehand from The A Word and things. There was Leon, Pooky and Christopher Eccleston from The A Word and I’ve since drummed up a bit of a relationship with Chris, and he said he thinks of Leon and Pooky as family. That’s what we wanted to capture. I have the connection with Pooky as well… sorry I’m getting emotional talking about it now, but episode five was kind of my episode, and I think the relationship that Pooky has with Leon in that episode was very similar to the relationship I have with my Mum, and I wanted to capture that… and I think we did.

And I think again, it was going back to the whole situation with casting, where the actors we cast had to give as much of that relationship with Leon and Sarah on a personal level, and I think we kind of did that with Dillon and Jamie as well. They had to be totally giving to Leon and Sarah and have a relationship with them. With Leon telling me to fuck off, Pete said he wish he’d filmed it, because there’s a scene in episode five when Ralph told Brian to fuck off. Me and Leon were stood in the kitchen and Leon had done it a few times, but we’d not quite got there. I’d gone up to Leon and I’d just gone, ‘Fuck off’, like that to Leon and Leon had walked straight out the door to do the take and Pete said, ‘I wish I’d have filmed that out of context’, me just going up to Leon and going, ‘Fuck off’ and walking out the door. 

Delyth Thomas: Well that brings us to post. So talk a little bit about post-production. The famous line, ‘Have you got a shot of?’ How do you navigate those waters? 

Jordan Hogg: I didn’t want to be in the position where they said to me, ‘Have you got this shot? Have you got that shot?’ I think dealing with what we had, the situation we were in, I think that was quite low down on the list of the issues we had to tackle — and I think what we did with employing the technique of 6K. Every shot gave us two shots essentially. I think at times, we didn’t just shoot at 6K, we shot a lot of stuff at 50 frames and only on the singles of Leon and Sarah, so we knew if we had to, we could slow down any reactions that were there, or manufacture any reactions that were there, as well as where there are numerous bits where we sped shots or we slowed shots down. We had to play shots in reverse at times, and we used split-screen quite a lot. 

Delyth Thomas: Is that something you did in post? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, it wasn’t designed on the floor, but we thought, ‘That’s better now, can we somehow manufacture it?’ We tried not to use ADR too much, because we wanted to be truthful to the performances that we had — so we did some ADR, but it didn’t go in the final take 90% of the time, because the truthful performances from Sarah and Leon were the ones that were caught on camera. It was quite hard to replicate that performance again in ADR and get it accurate, but they’re fantastic anyway, they were all over what we needed. Most of the ADR we used was from the other actors that were put in. 

We didn’t shoot scenes in their entirety, as I said before, we were literally going line by line at times, so my editor was orally good at picking out the right performances and trying to piece things together and manufacture things on the hoof, and I think there was a montage in episode one where Emma moved in with Ralph and Katie, and we used the song “Just the Two of Us”. It was originally scripted as The Spice Girls, “Two become One”, but when you watch it and put The Spice Girls on it, it made it look like Katie and Emma were having an affair, rather than moving in, so we had to come up with a different song, so extra for that as well. We literally had to use every technique you could possibly imagine to try and manufacture the right performances at times. Every scene must have about four or five different takes in for them to work. I was constantly mindful. I was saying to the Ssript supervisor all the time, ‘Mark that one off, no forget that, use that line from that take, that line from that take, that line from that take’ for it to work - so you had to be constantly thinking on your feet and working all the time, which isn’t a bad thing at all. 

Delyth Thomas: You clearly had a good script supervisor. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, they were very busy. 

Delyth Thomas: I wanted to talk about beyond the show. There’s some really important things that have come out of it. Visibility for you and for the actors, but I want to start with Rotten Tomatoes and iPlayer. 

Jordan Hogg: We got an email from one of the execs that we got a 100% review on Rotten Tomatoes, which is really good, but then I looked at what the summary was on Rotten Tomatoes about Ralph and Katie and it was something like, ‘Uplifting tale about a couple living with Down’s Syndrome’ and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ And iPlayer had said the same, and I was like, ‘For fuck’s sake, everything we’ve fucking done, how hard I’ve worked, how hard Jules has worked, how hard the whole production has worked to do the show.’ This is not a show about fucking disability or Down’s Syndrome. This could be a show about any couple dealing with daily problems and daily life. I set out to make this the British version of This is Us. I had no interest whatsoever in making a show about disability, this is not what it’s about and I thought that was very short-sighted of iPlayer and Rotten Tomatoes to think this is a show about disability. It shows that they haven’t watched the show. Everything we’d worked for is about representation and inclusivity and not about disability and for them to do that really, I’ve got a term I was using throughout: ‘It boiled my piss.’ That’s the term I was using frequently whenever I was getting annoyed. I was bought a diary with 98 degrees on the front, which is the temperature that piss boils at. 

Delyth Thomas: It’s important that you directed it, and you were writing to them saying, ‘No.’ 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. It’s not just about having disabled people working as part of the production. Lived experience is the big thing, and I think I have to talk about Jules again. She’s an amazing person, I’ve learned more from Jules about disability in nine months than I have in the previous 38 years of my life. Jules doesn’t have a disability, but she has such life experience of living with people with disabilities, she understands disability better than anybody I’ve ever known or ever met. She’s taught me so much and she doesn’t have a disability - but this show couldn’t have happened without her and all her life experience. About 80% of the stuff that was implemented on the show has come from Jules and Jules’ experience and willingness to push and achieve this and again, that short-sightedness of someone like BBC iPlayer to put something like that boiled my piss. 

Delyth Thomas: Episode five is such a fantastic episode, and it’s true of any young man and his Mum. 

Jordan Hogg: I think the show, up to that point had been uplifting and it had always been real life stories, but I think the thing about ep five is, it’s something that affects everybody. Everybody can relate to ep five, and I think Leon had such an understanding of that episode and what we were doing, and about cancer. Sorry, I’m getting emotional. I was able to implement my plans for the film without any restrictions, because Leon had gone in depth and he really knew what we wanted and had to do. So at times, going back to responsibility, I had to give some creativity to get the story told and the right performance, but with ep five, I was able to run with my plans without any limitations and things. The themes and the stories about it affecting everybody, and one day he will lose this person he loves and the relationship with him and his mum - that was resonant with everybody and I think that’s what makes it so strong. I think even with the opening titles, we didn’t have a bright, cheery image, we had choppy water and thunder to set it up, so yes. 

Delyth Thomas: I’m going to open up to the metaphorical slash cyber floor. We’ve got a question in. To what extent were the leads and other people with relevant lived experience able to contribute to the storylines? If so, how did you do it? 

Jordan Hogg: I think from a storyline point of view, there’s six episodes and there’s six writers. Pete was on episode one. Pete doesn’t identify as having a disability, but the other five writers had disabilities and they’re all new writers as well, or fairly new. So they all brought their experience to it and I think I, as a disabled guy, I view the world a different way and I understand how people view me - and everyone has their own unique view of the world, and I think it’s important that the people who make these episodes, the writers and directors, have to have an understanding in this context of disability. Even if you don’t have a disability, lived experience is key to that and I’ve always said that I would not, if they do a season twp, come back for season two. Because other disabled people have to have the opportunity, and I’d hope the writers would do the same. I hope they’d have new disabled writers as well, because I can’t keep directing disabled stories, and the writers can’t keep doing the same things - so I’d hope we’ve opened the door to other people. 

Delyth Thomas: Did Leon and Sarah have a say in storylines? 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. We sat down with them and spoke about the stories with them and they kind of got attached to those stories a lot. Leon got very attached to episode five and Sarah got attached to episode four. We spoke about their understanding and what they would feel in those situations, and Leon had a really good understanding of episode five, from the storyline in The A Word when his mum got breast cancer, so he’d encountered that before. One of Sarah’s worst nightmares would be her parents splitting up and that’s what we did in episode four, so she had a real emotional attachment to that as well. So, she was able to go to places and bring that real life emotion with her. I brought my own lived experience of having a disability and Jules, I’m giving her far too much credit here, but Jules brought a lot of her lived experience out in pre-production as well, which was utterly invaluable. 

Delyth Thomas: Talking about how much Leon and Sarah were attached to storylines, did you ever improvise around the script? Was Peter open to letting you play with it? 

Jordan Hogg: I think Jules went through the script early on in pre-production and we flagged up things that we might have difficulty with. They were quite rigid on us sticking to the script - well they were very rigid on the script - we couldn’t really change anything to a crazy extent, but then eventually we did some takes that weren’t quite getting through and we said, ‘Look, we’re going to have to change this’. But we always had a go at everything. We tried to stick to what was on the page. 

Delyth Thomas: There’s a comment here saying, ‘It’s really important that you valued your whole team.’ Every member sounds like they were valued so highly. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, totally. I wanted everybody to understand that they were so valued and we didn’t have any time for people feeling left out or ostracised in any way. Every voice mattered, and I literally listened to everybody’s opinion on everything. I see my job as a director not to be a dictator. I always see the director as the person with the flag running at the front. In that sense, we were all part of a team. The camaraderie on there was really good. 

Delyth Thomas: Talk to us about your accessible call sheet, and everything you did in terms of badges. 

Jordan Hogg: The call sheet was fucking superb. When you look at a call sheet, sometimes it’s like looking at the fucking Matrix. All we did on the call sheet was what time breakfast is, what scenes we’re doing in the morning, what time lunch is, what things we’re doing in the afternoon, with pictures. You could just stick it up and glance on it. People working in the industry for like 30 years were saying, ‘This is the best thing ever, why haven’t we always done this?’ And I’m going to work in Budapest next week and I’ve said to them, ‘I want these to be the call sheets’, especially working with foreign crew as well, it’s understandable for everybody. The amount of crew we have to remember. What we did is, we all had name badges on with our names, our pronouns, our job and something we liked. It was just superb. 
I would implore from now on, every shoot to have easy-read call sheets, the Call It! app and name badges. 

Delyth Thomas: Do you have one thing that you take away from the shoot? 

Jordan Hogg: Well, it’s the greatest job I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine doing a job better. It was really, really, really hard at times. Really hard, the hardest job I’ve ever done. It was the best job I’ve done because we didn’t just make a pioneering show, it went way beyond that, way beyond that. We’ve changed people’s lives. We’ve given people opportunities and freedoms. We’ve opened the door for more disabled creators. We’ve shown the industry what can be achieved on nothing. We’ve, kind of, led the way. I promised Leon on day one that I will get him a BAFTA. That is my dream, that we get some form of recognition for this show, for Leon, for Jules. If nobody else but them two, I’ll be happy. 

Delyth Thomas: You’ve got one nomination in already. 

Jordan Hogg: We’re getting there. 

Delyth Thomas: Leon with this BAFTA Breakthrough. 

Jordan Hogg: BAFTA Breakthrough, yes. I got it a couple of years ago and I get an email every year saying they’re looking for nominees. As soon as it appeared, I rang Jules and said, ‘Let’s put Leon in,’ and yes, it came through and he so deserved it. He’s a wonderful, wonderful actor, and a lovely, lovely person. 

Delyth Thomas: Talk a little bit about doing Eric and Ernie with you and Leon in the bed. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes, we did some EPK stuff and me and Leon FaceTime each other every other day. It’s just Leon FaceTiming me and taking the piss out of football really most of the time, but yes, we did EPK stuff, and instead of doing the standard stuff like sat in the chair and talking, me and him got in Ralph and Katie’s bed and sat up in bed and just chatted to each other about the show. Just for something different, but yes, I see Leon as my little brother, and I’ll always be there for him and do what he wants - and I’ll go see him and whatnot, he’s got an open invitation here. I think it would be a disservice to Leon if his dreams aren’t handed to him, because he deserves everything that comes his way. 

Delyth Thomas: I hope you all win. The two shots, your choices in the edit where you just let the two of them play together. 

Jordan Hogg: Leon was very good. She called him Tiger. 

Delyth Thomas: Did she? 

Jordan Hogg: He used to go, ‘Rawr’ and she used to go, ‘Down Tiger.’ So yes, they had a really close relationship and they were friends. As I was saying, all we really had to do was capture Sarah and Leon, then we knew we couldn’t fail. So yes, it was just trying to create the environment where they could be themselves. 

Delyth Thomas: Thank you for sharing so much. Everything about the shoot is so groundbreaking. 

Jordan Hogg: I was speaking with a guy at the Inevitable Foundation in the US that supports disabled writers and directors. They know of one disabled director and five disabled writers in the whole of the US. We’ve done that in one fucking show. This is our time now. We’ve shown the industry what can be achieved on nothing. There’s a whole talent pool here that is untapped and it is a fucking great talent pool. 

Delyth Thomas: You’ve opened it up for anybody, so they’re not afraid to talk about if their disability is not visible. 

Jordan Hogg: Yes. 

Delyth Thomas: It’s just a joy. 

Jordan Hogg: I was going in a shop today and a woman who I didn’t really know, but she knew my mum, she came up to me and said, ‘Ralph and Katie was amazing.’ I didn’t know who she was, but she knew my mum apparently. 

Delyth Thomas: I’m so delighted that you, as the director in a television series, are getting the recognition. 

Jordan Hogg: I think our position gets frequently eroded, and I don’t think enough people understand what we actually do. 

Delyth Thomas: Thank you very much. 

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