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Colin Callender’s Playground Strengthens U.K. TV Drama Team

Variety logo Variety 5/15/2017 Robert Mitchell
© Provided by Variety

Colin Callender’s New York- and London-based production company Playground has restructured its U.K. television production team with two key promotions and a new hire. The move is is designed to help support Playground’s expanding slate of television productions.

Playground has promoted its former creative director, Sophie Gardiner, to head of drama and executive creative director, overseeing Playground’s U.K. television production and development slate. Gardiner originally joined Playground in 2014 after having been commissioning editor for drama at U.K. broadcaster Channel 4.

The company has also hired Melissa Gallant as creative director to strengthen its U.K. production team. Gallant joins Playground from U.K. production company Fifty Fathoms, where she served as head of development. Recent Fifty Fathoms productions include John Ridley’s “Guerrilla” for Showtime in the U.S. and Sky in the U.K.

Gallant will serve alongside Katie Draper, who has been promoted to creative director from senior development executive.

“Good storytelling has never felt more important, and I’m thrilled to have such a strong team with Melissa and Katie spearheading our upcoming development slate,” said Gardiner. “By expanding our creative team we hope to continue to deliver on our ambition to make Playground a home for the best writing talent, both established and new, from television, theater and film.”

Playground is currently in production on its four-part adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Howards End” (pictured) for the BBC and Starz. The drama stars Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen and was adapted from the novel by Oscar-winner Kenneth Lonergan.

Other upcoming high-end U.K. dramas on the company’s slate include an adaptation of “King Lear,” starring Anthony Hopkins, for the BBC, and a new three-part adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” from “Call the Midwife” creator Heidi Thomas for the BBC and PBS’ Masterpiece, which is set to shoot in July.

Previous TV hits include the BAFTA- and Golden Globe-winning historical drama “Wolf Hall.” Playground’s stage productions include current hit “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which recently won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards for its London West End production and is set to transfer to Broadway’s Lyric Theater in spring 2018.

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