Tuesday 15 October 2019

True crime: 'Darklands' series inspired by real life

Brutal: Mark O’Halloran in ‘Darklands’, co-written by Adam Coates, brother of gang leader Shane Coates
Brutal: Mark O’Halloran in ‘Darklands’, co-written by Adam Coates, brother of gang leader Shane Coates

Melanie Finn and Aoife Kelly

The brother of one of Ireland's notorious gangsters, Shane Coates, has used his sibling's life as the inspiration for a new big-budget TV crime drama 'Darklands'.

Adam Coates, whose brother was the leader of the notorious Dublin crime gang the Westies, co-wrote the six-part drama series set in Bray with Mark O'Connor.

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Shane Coates
Shane Coates

He said he was keen to show the ugly side of crime as in real life, you can "get a bullet or a knife" at any moment.

Both writers said they used their own real-life experiences when it came to creating the hard-hitting series for Virgin Media about a young MMA fighter Damien Dunne (16), played by rising star Dane Whyte O'Hara, whose brother Wes goes missing after getting embroiled in criminality.

Shane Coates disappeared in February 2004 at the age of 34 after moving to Spain's Costa Blanca where he and his associate Stephen Sugg tried to muscle in on the drugs trade over there. Their bodies were eventually found in July 2006 under six tonnes of concrete in an industrial estate outside Torrevieja.

His brother Adam, who was never involved in organised crime and is one of 11 children, said the plot all "came from a real place".

Adam Coates
Adam Coates

"My brother Shane was the leader of the Westies so when I met Mark, we were actually working on a project about that," Adam said.

"It's not directly based on any real-life events but it's certainly informed by personal experiences." He said they were keen not to glamorise organised crime but to depict the brutal realities of it.

"We wanted to show the real horror of gangland because in the past, it has been glorified but we wanted to show it for how it is," he said. "It's brutal, it's dangerous and it's something that's very risky. There's a high chance of you either going to prison or dying and we wanted to show that."

Adam, a writer and actor, said they originally wanted to call the show Chrysalis as it depicts the “metamorphosis of a young innocent person into a gangster”.

“We wanted to explore the different reasons for why young people get into crime.

“Some of it is aspirational, some of it is desperation, some of it is because they don’t have any other options,” he said.

“They don’t have an education and some are just bred into it, they’re born into families they are involved in crime.”

Members of the media got the first glimpse of Virgin Media’s new crime show at a screening at Smithfield’s IFI yesterday.

Adam, who studied TV and film at college, was joined by members of his family.

He said it was the “first time” that any of them had seen the finished product and said he didn’t think they would be put out by the portrayal.

“They’re happy that something good has happened out of all the bad in the past,” he said.

“Like I said, crime is glamorised a lot, and a lot of people I know and knew growing up look at criminals like they’re celebrities and look at them like they are something to aspire to.

“I want to show it’s a dangerous world. I mean, sure you make money but it’s high risk.

“You can get a bullet or a knife and then that’s it. Every moment of your life leads up to that moment and that’s what me and Mark tried to do with Darklands.”

The new show will air on Monday on Virgin Media One at 9pm.

Irish Independent

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