Executive Producer Sean O’Connor has announced his decision to leave EastEnders, it was confirmed today.
Sean O’Connor is stepping down as Executive Producer of EastEnders to concentrate on his feature film career at Camberwell Productions which includes a new project from Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, Gatiss’ first writing feature for the big screen. Sean O’Connor joined EastEnders in Spring 2016. Previously, he was the editor of The Archers since 2013. He returned to EastEnders after an 11-year gap, having worked on the programme as director, producer and story producer.
Speaking of his decision to leave, Sean O’Connor said: “I’ve had an amazing time at EastEnders. Working with the editorial staff, cast and crew at Elstree has been an absolute privilege. They are the kindest, most loyal and hard-working team in the business. But my heart lies in feature films and I’m hugely excited as my film projects are now reaching production. When the BBC asked me to take over at EastEnders, my plan was to stay until the end of 2017 but with production starting on these films sooner than anticipated, I must –-with a heavy heart- bid farewell to Albert Square. I’ll enjoy watching EastEnders go from strength to strength but will miss everybody enormously. Elstree really is a place where you make friends for life”
Following Sean’s decision, John Yorke steps in as Creative Director on a temporary basis. He will lead the editorial vision for the show and will shortly appoint an executive producer to oversee the day to day management to work alongside him. The recruitment process for the permanent replacement will then follow.
Oliver Kent, Head of Continuing Drama Series, BBC Studios says: “On behalf of BBC Studios, I would like to thank Sean O’Connor for all his excellent work on EastEnders. John Yorke is a Walford legend and I am thrilled that he will be joining us for a short period to oversee the show and to help us build on Sean’s legacy while we recruit a long term successor.”
Piers Wenger, Controller BBC Drama says: “I want to thank Sean on behalf of the BBC for the work he’s done on EastEnders, and we wish him all the very best for the future. John Yorke is a creative force in the industry who is passionate about EastEnders, he brings a wealth of experience to the show and will ensure it’s in safe hands while we start the process to recruit a permanent replacement.”
O’Connor and Gatiss will be working together on Handsome Brute, a co-production with Andy Brunskill for Bob & Co. The film tells the gruesome story of the 1940’s playboy pilot, war hero and murderer, Neville Heath.
Mark Gatiss says: “I’m thrilled to be working with Sean O’Connor and Andy Brunskill on the story of Neville Heath – one of the most savage, complex and disturbing murder cases of the 20thCentury. It’s wonderful to have a big screen canvas to explore war-ravaged England and the psychological damage that a whole generation must have suffered.”
Also gearing up for production are Rainy Day Women by David Pirie, based on Pirie’s 1984 Play for Today and co-produced by Kate Ogborn at Fly Film, and Staying On, adapted by Robin Mukherjee and based on Paul Scott’s Booker Prize-winning novel about the final days of the British Raj. Handsome Brute, Rainy Day Women and Staying On have all been developed with the backing of the BFI’s National Lottery film funding.
Sean co-produced, with Kate Ogborn, the feature film version of Terence Rattigan’s classic drama, The Deep Blue Sea directed by Terence Davies and starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. He previously produced Family Affairs, Hollyoaks, Minder and Footballers’ Wives. O’Connor was Editor of The Archers from 2013-2016 and was responsible for the sensational domestic abuse story of Helen Archer by Rob Titchener. O’Connor’s book about the murderer Neville Heath Handsome Brute was published to great acclaim in 2013. His next book, about the Rattenbury murder of 1935 is published by Simon and Schuster in 2018.
John Yorke is a hugely talented creative leader who was executive producer of EastEnders from 2000 until 2003. He then became Deputy Head of BBC Drama before joining Channel 4 as Head of Drama, commissioning shows including Shameless, The Deal, Sex Traffic, Not Only But Always and Omagh. In 2004 he returned to the BBC as Controller of Continuing Drama & Head of Independent Drama, responsible for Life On Mars, Bodies, Waterloo Road, Our Girl and many more as well as overseeing the BBC’s continuing drama series EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty and Doctors. He’s currently MD of Angel Station, making Red Rock for TV3, BBC One and Amazon in the US.
During his time in charge at EastEnders, John introduced popular characters including the Slater clan and was responsible for huge storylines “Who Shot Phil”, Ethel Skinner’s death; and with Sean as story producer oversaw the critically acclaimed storyline involving Little Mo’s rape by her abusive husband Trevor, and Kat Slater’s revelation to her daughter Zoe that she was her mother.