The Long Shadow writer George Kay on changing the show's 'disrespectful' title

 The Long Shadow was written by George Kay
The Long Shadow was written by George Kay

George Kay has revealed how The Long Shadow wasn't the original title for ITV1's new seven-part drama documenting the horrific crimes of Peter Sutcliffe.

The show's writer had originally planned to call the series "The Yorkshire Ripper", yet decided to change it after learning more about the pain the families of Sutcliffe's victims still live with.

"We started by calling it 'The Yorkshire Ripper' when we announced it," says George. "But we learned over time that the name people use to describe Peter Sutcliffe — which obviously began before anyone knew his real name, but then continued after his identity was revealed — was disrespectful in many ways."

"It's especially painful for the victims' families, because it creates a sort of dark brand around a man who doesn't deserve that sort of attention."

Between 1975 and 1980, Peter Sutcliffe terrorised the people of Yorkshire during an evil killing spree that left 13 women dead and countless more lives devastated by grief and trauma.

His horrific crimes left a deep scar on the nation’s psyche and have been the subject of numerous films and documentaries, yet the legacy felt by those still haunted by those dark days is often forgotten.

Based on real events and featuring a stellar ensemble cast, The Long Shadow tells the story of the infamous serial killer — and the manhunt he triggered — through the eyes of his victims and their families, who lost mothers, sisters and daughters.

"This is a story we've been working on for four years," explains Kay. "And in that time, we've learnt lots of things and met lots of people in all parts of this story. I think we've been really good about being flexible and trying to learn and change and understand their stories and their opinions.

"'The Yorkshire Ripper' was a working title, but The Long Shadow is more in tune with the story, we're trying to tell the broader story that we're trying to tell not just about the crimes and the investigation, which are really important, but the the effects of the crimes and the effects that continue long after Peter Sutcliffe himself was arrested."

Kay is also quick to highlight the fact that the series doesn't show any of Sutcliffe's violence on-screen, as he and director Lewis Arnold didn't want his evil crimes to detract from his victims' stories.

"That's a decision we made as storytellers." says Arnold. "If that had been part of the show, I don't think I would have done it. But immediately when I talked to George, I realised that wasn't the intention. There were lots of conversations about how much and how little do we put him in there. He is in there, but we asked how much we needed to tell this version of that story?"

The Long Shadow premieres on ITV1 in September 2023