Set in the fictional Long Marsh men’s jail, Screw follows the lives of six prison officers working in the facility and is written by Rob Williams, who used to be a teacher in prisons.
Some of TV’s best known stars, including Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell and Nina Sosanya, who has appeared in a string of hit comedies and dramas including His Dark Materials and SW12, lead the cast.
For O’Donnell, who plays newcomer Rose, learning the job of a prison officer was an eye-opening experience.
“The producers brought in some professional prison officers so we could find out what it’s like to work in a prison, and they were very honest with us,” she explained.
“Two of the officers we spoke to were women and that was a big surprise, learning how many women work in men’s prisons.
“Although these were small women, they were obviously really confident and very powerful. It wasn’t the obvious image whenever you think of a prison officer.
“We learned some basic techniques about how to defuse a physical situation, and also the respect they have for the job and the compassion they show for their colleagues and the prisoners. It added a lot of layers for me.”
O’Donnell, who says a new series of Derry Girls is being written, admitted working on the show gave her food for thought about the prison system.
“I was surprised by how underfunded and overcrowded the system is. There are people in there with severe mental health problems, people who have made awful mistakes, and people who have stolen from their corner shops, and all of them are treated the same in terms of where they end up and their rehabilitation.
“I just don’t understand how prison can be a solution for all those different people.”
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