Why the Rigorous Editing Process of ‘Bad Sisters’ Makes the Show So Good

This interview with “Bad Sisters” editors Catherine Creed and Derek Holland first appeared in the Below-the-Line issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Based rather faithfully on the Flemish TV series “Clan,” AppleTV+’s “Bad Sisters” transplanted the darkly comic tale of a group of five sisters, one horrific husband and a possible murder to a dreamy depiction of greater Dublin. But the real narrative hook of the series, and the reason it became a talking-point show last summer, is its labyrinthine structure: Just as you’re embroiled in a storyline, the focus can shift on a dime (through a nifty film-reel effect) and transport you to another time, often not that far back in the chronology, deepening the focus and development of its many characters and creating more intrigue.

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The ability to jumble the timeline, editor Derek Holland said, came about through a string of unfortunate yet fortuitous circumstances. “We had a director who had a looming deadline to go to another job, and all sorts of COVID delays in the middle of the shoot,” he said. “The second block (of episodes) got pushed and went on much longer than was intended, but it worked out to be a huge advantage because there was a stage where all 10 episodes were in the edit suite at the same time and none were locked. So especially for someone like (co-creator and star) Sharon Horgan, she could see how arcs and moments were developing in Episodes 9 and 10 and filter those back into decisions in Episode 1 or 2, which was a real luxury.”

Claes Bang and Anne-Marie Duff in “Bad Sisters” (Apple TV)
Claes Bang and Anne-Marie Duff in “Bad Sisters” (Apple TV)

The show’s central mystery finds insurance investigators played by Daryl McCormack and Brian Gleeson looking into the death of John Paul (Claes Bang), nicknamed “The Prick” for his insidious emotional abuse of his wife, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff). Editor Catherine Creed worked on the crucial back-half episodes, where the mystery wrapped up and each piece of the puzzle had its own unique hiccups, made more difficult because the timeline would be jumping back and forth and couldn’t be easily delineated. “I remember saying, ‘Jesus, this is gonna be tough,’” Creed said. “I’ve done lots of things with flashbacks, but these are flashbacks to the recent past, right? So you can’t use costumes much, and you can’t do hairstyles. And it’s very important not to give away certain aspects. It’s easy to get lost in that when there’s a whole gang of you editing because, obviously, we all get lost in our own episodes.”

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Even though “Bad Sisters” tells a fairly self-contained story, fans were overjoyed to learn that a second season has been greenlit. The show left enough teasing strands to build upon (so…what about that body discovered in the freezer?), and Creed and Holland are not at all surprised people want more. “‘Clan’ was one season and done, and story-wise, ‘Bad Sisters’ is quite faithful to that,” Holland said. “But the creators and the actors have created all of these characters that audiences want to watch, no matter what they’re doing. They could be sitting around drinking tea. It’s very enjoyable just spending time with them, whether they’re trying to kill the Prick or not.”

Read more from the Below-the-Line issue here.

TheWrap magazine below the line issue cover
Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap