Monday 14 October 2019

'We wanted to show the real horror of gangland' - Darklands co-writer drew inspiration from life of his murdered Westies brother

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 notorious murdered Westies gangster Shane Coates has used his sibling's life as part of the inspiration behind Virgin Media's new big-budget crime drama, Darklands.

Adam Coates - whose brother Shane was the leader of the infamous Blanchardstown crime gang - co-wrote the six-part TV series with Mark O'Connor.

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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 say they used their own real-life experiences when it came to creating the hard-hitting series about MMA fighter Damien Dunne (16), whose brother Wes goes missing after getting involved in crime.

Adam Coates
Adam Coates

Damien then becomes caught up in the murky criminal underworld as he tries to figure out what happened to his brother.

Shane Coates (34) disappeared in February 2004 after moving to Spain's Costa Blanca where he and associate Stephen Sugg tried to muscle in on the drugs trade.

Their bodies were found in July 2006 under six tonnes of concrete in an industrial estate near Torrevieja.

One of 11 children from a respectable Dublin family, Shane ended up straying into crime.

His brother Adam was never involved in any such activities, and said that in the same way that the series character Damien turned to MMA to change his life, he concentrated his energies on TV and film.

"The series comes from a real place where I'm concerned. My brother Shane was the leader of the Westies so when I met Mark, we were actually working on a project about that," Coates told the Herald

"It's not directly based on any real-life events but it's certainly informed by personal experiences.

"To be honest, Damien is a little bit influenced by both myself and Mark because I could have gone down that road but instead of choosing gangland, Damien chose MMA. I chose TV and film."

He said he felt like a lot of dramas tended to glorify organised crime but they wanted to show the gritty 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.

Read more: 'Inevitably you are going to get compared to Love/Hate' - we go behind the scenes on new crime drama Darklands 

"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."

Darklands starts on Virgin Media at 9pm on Monday

Read more: Meet the new faces poised to impress in new Irish crime drama Darklands

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