Abi Morgan Q&A: “It makes me happy that Obama was president”

The playwright and screenwriter talks revolution, the Kardashians and US gun laws.

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Abi Morgan, a playwright and screenwriter, was born in Cardiff in 1968. Her work includes the films “The Iron Lady”, “Brick Lane” and “Suffragette”, and the TV show “The Hour”.

What’s your earliest memory?

My elder sister carrying me when I was no more than two. I remember the weight of the sway. Like being dragged out of the pool in wet pyjamas (that was the 1970s brand of physical education).

Who are your heroes?

In childhood? Judy Blume. Her books spoke to me. In adulthood?  Barack Obama – listen to his response on good gun control in the last few days of office. It makes me happy he was president once and heartbroken that his term came to an end.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

The Queen of Distraction by Terry Matlen. An enlightening book about adult ADHD.

Which political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Barack Obama. With Michelle by his side. I was looking forward to Hillary by his side.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

The Kardashians – but that was taken this year. So, the works of Nora Ephron.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

58 BC. Cleopatra was a girl and I could hang out with her and her sisters and see how they spoke at that time. Natural dialogue in period drama is a bitch to get right.

What TV show could you not live without?

My own shows. They’re my bread and butter and have kept us in football boots and dog food.

Who would paint your portrait?

Jenny Saville. She leaves you nowhere to hide.

What’s your theme tune?

“Get Happy” from Summer Stock, preferably sung by Judy Garland.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

There is no room for doubt. It’s the only way I know how to silence the voices. Or the Buddhist phrase: “Love the flower in winter when it says nothing.” It’s a good adage when you have writer’s block. It’s all going on. You just can’t always see it on the page yet.

What’s currently bugging you?

Guns. Donald Trump. Brexit. Endemic sexual violence in all industries. And a loose filling.

What would make your life better?

Tighter gun laws in America. In fact, tighter laws governing the global arms trade. So I don’t have to open the pages and see more kids being shot and killed in Florida and Syria and Hackney every day.

When were you happiest?

The early hours after my children, Jesse and Mabel, were born. Tea, Marmite on toast and a deadline met. There is no better moment than when you press send, and those two are my greatest achievements yet.

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Stand-up comic if I was funny. Dancer if I could dance. Psychiatrist if I wasn’t so personally nutty.

Are we all doomed?

No. All art dies after revolution. We are in revolution. It’s sad. It’s hard. It’s difficult but it motivates. Art lives. It’s the most exciting place in time to be.

Abi Morgan’s new drama “The Split” starts on BBC One on Tuesday 24 April at 9pm

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Enoch Powell’s revenge