Channel 4’s popular prison series is back, featuring Nina Sosanya (known for her roles in His Dark Materials, Good Omens, and W1A) reprising her role as Leigh Henry, the senior prison officer responsible for C Wing at Long Marsh Prison. Following the tragic events of the first series finale, the determined team of prison officers is eager to make a fresh start. However, as the inmates of C Wing know all too well, moving on is never straightforward. With changes at the highest levels and new faces on the wing, Leigh’s newfound connection with Rose (portrayed by Jamie-Lee O’Donnell from Derry Girls) and the secrets they share will be put to the test.
As the entire team struggles to bring positive change to the complex lives of their charges, rumors of an undercover policeman on the wing threaten the order at Long Marsh. The pressure is on Leigh to identify this officer before the inmates do, as another death on C Wing would spell the end for both the wing and Leigh’s team. The question remains: among the new arrivals on C Wing, who could this undercover officer be?
Rose is determined to leave her past mistakes behind and make a genuine effort as a prison officer. She attempts to sever ties with her former gang contact, Louis Costa, but he has different plans. According to him, Rose is being held accountable by the gang for a failed gun smuggling operation, and he claims to be the only one who can protect her. As Rose and Louis grow closer, can she truly trust him? Matters become even more complicated when a notorious double murderer with apparent ties to Costa arrives on the wing. Meanwhile, relations between Jackie and Gary are strained after their affair ends. Gary, clearly struggling to cope, takes out his frustrations on the prisoners. The question looms: will he cross a line this time? Elsewhere on the team, Ali harbours a personal secret, while Don continues to evade work and personal connections with colleagues and inmates. When Don uncovers Ali’s secret, will he step up to offer support?
Leigh may have started to trust her team and explore a relationship outside of work, but when she discovers the undercover police officer’s identity and mission, Leigh and Rose become entangled in a criminal plot that could jeopardise their careers and even their lives.
In an interview with Bradford Zone, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, who plays Rose Gill, discusses her role and the upcoming season.
Interviewer : Do you feel quite at home on a prison set now?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I really do. It’s weird in that you love going back to it, but it doesn’t take long to get cabin fever again. It feels like it’s the closest thing to like a regular job that we’ve had: we’re literally in the same uniform every morning and have breakfast at the same time, so it all feeds into our performances as well. They’ve added more brilliant detail to the set this time to make it even more authentic and lived in.
Interviewer : Do you know where Rose’s story’s going, ultimately?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : Obviously, we like to make our own suggestions that are either noted or not, like every actor likes to do, but mostly we’re just given the gist. The twists and turns for Rose are exciting, but I always enjoy watching other characters and everybody’s storylines progressing – I feel really invested.
Interviewer : Does Rose feel like her problems are behind her now, or does she still worry that her past is going to catch up with her?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I think she does have a bit of naivete and a false sense of security, and we can see that in her mannerisms, But, as in any good drama, that’s shattered very quickly. There are a lot of turns and surprises, a lot of other elements involved and angles that you wouldn’t think of.
Interviewer : Can she look to the future a bit more now?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I think so. Toby Phillips’s (Jack Bardoe) death has shaken her a bit and brought her back down to earth, so she’s thinking about things a bit more. The first episode starts just six weeks after Toby’s death, so while she’s had a bit of a break, she’s probably naïve in going back so soon. But she’s thinking the job’s worth it: it’s something she could be good at and she can honour Toby’s memory. Whether she maintains that attitude remains to be seen.
Interviewer : Is she still traumatised by Toby’s murder and her own indirect involvement in that?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I suppose everybody has their own version of that. Rose has taken the time off where some of the others didn’t, so her coming back is almost a reset for her. But again, it’s not as if things have totally calmed down. She’s just trying to stay positive and laugh and be jovial and give everybody a hug. But other things take over that thought process very quickly, so the focus can’t be on the positive for long. This second series is on the more serious side, and that’s reflected in Rose’s story.
Interviewer : How does she look to honour Toby’s memory?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : Even by the fact that she’s come back and hasn’t just given up, which was obviously her goal through season one. She’s got a good enough attitude, even if she’s not going to be singing and dancing on the way in. But the fact she’s there and she’s positive, she’s accepted she might be good at the job and she’s meeting everybody with a smile, ready to go – that’s a testament to how inspiring Toby was for her.
Interviewer : That ebb and flow with Louis Costa (Ben Tavassoli) is fascinating – who is in charge when season two begins?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : It’s really hard to say because the power dynamic keeps shifting a lot. Their situation develops in a lot of unexpected ways and starts to involve other people on the wing. That reflects life in prison, how things can shift and manifest so quickly. There’s a lot of back and forth.
Interviewer : What does she make of the rumours that there might be an undercover cop on the wing?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : She’s not thrilled about it. But again, we’re getting to the point where nothing surprises her. Her friend and confidant from season one was shot dead in front of her so after that, unfortunately, she can probably take things on the chin a bit more than the day before she started the job.
Interviewer : Does she worry that she might be implicated in what happened?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : At that point, it’s a general worry. But that’s not the only problem on the wing for her or for anyone else.
Interviewer : Now that Rose and Leigh (Nina Sosanya) know each other’s secrets, how is their relationship?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I believe it’s genuine. They’ve heard each other being very vulnerable and open. As opposed to looking at it like they have something on each other, I see it as a support system for each other. No matter how unhealthy it may be, they’re now bonded by each other’s secrets. Keeping those types of secrets and having those links and loyalties to people is very in keeping with the prison system and the environment they’re in, no matter if those secrets are legal or not.
Interviewer : Rose has almost become Leigh’s protégé – is it the first time that someone’s shown faith in her?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : I think so. We’ve been heading this way since season one, when she was told she was good at it and just went, that’s ridiculous, of course I’m not. And seeing a woman in charge of this male environment is quite inspiring to Rose, so she’s happy to accept this mentee role.
Interviewer : What has really stood out for you about making season two?
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell : We had a lot more time and freedom to go for dinners and socialise, which was lovely because there were fewer restrictions after Covid. Otherwise, just being in Glasgow at Christmas was beautiful. We also went to film outside Peterhead, which was gorgeous but deathly cold –probably the coldest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Series Two of The Screw continues on Wednesday’s at 9pm on Channel 4