Peter is currently directing The Boys for Russell T Davies. He also directed The Umbrella Academy, Steve Blackman’s superhero series for Netflix, as well as episodes of Altered Carbon for Netflix, the sci-fi thriller, and Cloak and Dagger for Disney as well as on Iron Fist, Daredevil and Defenders for Marvel and Netflix.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
The first time I knew that I wanted to be a director was back when I was about nine or 10 years old and I was an avid fan of the Doctor Who TV show. I couldn’t believe that it was somebody’s job to make up all that stuff and get paid for it. Well, 9 years old, simple pleasures.
But that spirit hasn’t really ever left me.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a director, what were your first steps in achieving this goal?
I completed a Media Production degree at Bournemouth University in 1992 and left there for a work placement at LWT a London ITV franchise working on Beadle’s About, Blind Date, Barrymore and many other live shows.
From this I worked for the National Theatre Studio for a couple of years and then to Derbyshire for my first TV drama, ITV’s Peak Practice. I started as production runner, then location runner then location manager after 3 months. A few years later I was lucky enough to be encouraged to think about directing by a colleague Terry McDonough who was working as lead director on the show at the time. With his mentorship I was able to direct scenes within the show and that’s how I finally started to make tracks towards being a director.
Hollyoaks took me on next and after three years I left to take on a huge project for me, ITV’s Wire in the Blood. Through these early years I was encouraged by colleagues and friends I had made over the years and couldn’t have done it without them.
What obstacles or setbacks did you face in becoming a director?
The most uncomfortable my job has ever felt was during post-production on Doctor Who for the BBC. I was kept away from additional shooting for reasons I’ve still yet to fathom but a lot of personal politics were going on and it was the first time I became aware of how toxic our industry can become when it is manipulated for the personal gain of certain individuals.
How did you develop your voice and hone your craft?
I can’t honestly say. Through experience and exposure mostly. And through listening. To everyone. Collaboration is key to me. To see the best in people and in product.
I remember the night before I was due to shoot my first episode of Hollyoaks. I had never been paid to be a director before and had never really been taught. (Late ’80s media college left a lot to be desired..)
And here I was ready to start and step out in front of the glaring eyes of my first production.
But I wasn’t scared. I was relaxed. Not because I knew what to do, but because I knew it was what I wanted to do. What I’ve always wanted. And that carries me forward to today. You can’t do this job unless every part of you is invested in it. It’s full-time, every day, all day. You’ll never stop thinking about it and that why you have to love every minute. If you don’t, get another job.
How did you get your first break?
I managed to get an agent after shooting The Innocence Project for BBC 1 – but again the methodology wasn’t conventional. An actor I had directed took it upon himself to mention me back at his agency Curtis Brown. Joe Phillips then contacted me and we have continued our relationship ever since.
I can’t say I was hugely ambitious at the beginning. I was just so happy to be doing what I was doing. My work kept moving up the perceived ladder of quality and I kept securing more shows. I couldn’t have been happier. It wasn’t until I had to make a choice of what to do next that things got a little difficult. That’s a privileged position to be in I know but I wasn’t ready for how disappointed I would make some people when I turned them down.
Later I chose to pursue a career in the US. Firstly, via the Wales-based production of Da Vinci’s Demons.
Then after a very happy time on BBC/Netflix The Last Kingdom went to New York for Daredevil and other Marvel Netflix shows.
That’s where things are right now. I won my first pilot episode with The Umbrella Academy, which has recently debuted its second series.
TV Credits: Grangehill (2004-2005), Hollyoaks (2002-2005), Dream Team (2006), The Innocence Project (2006-2007), Wire In The Blood (2006-2008), Spooks (2008), Mistresses (2008-2009), Breaking The Mould (2009), Five Days (2010), Doctor Who (2011), Vera (2011-2012), Silk (2012), Shetland (2013), Da Vinci’s Demons (2014-2015), Daredevil (2016), Iron Fist (2017), The Last Kingdom (2015-2017), The Defenders (2017), Runaways (2017), Altered Carbon (2018), Cloak and Dagger (2018), The Umbrella Academy (2019), Boys (2020), Cipher (2021).
Photograph: Katie Yu