Sean O'Connor (born 11 February 1968 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England) is a British producer, writer and director working in theatre, film, television and radio. He was the editor of the long-running BBC radio drama, The Archers from 2013-16. He replaced Dominic Treadwell-Collins as the executive producer of EastEnders in June 2016. It was revealed in June 2017 that O'Connor had left EastEnders to focus on his career in feature films.
Early life and education
O'Connor grew up on The Wirral, where he attended a grammar school, St Anselm's College, run by the Christian Brothers. He later earned a degree in English from University College London. Following his graduation, O'Connor successfully applied for a place on ITV's Regional Theatre Young Directors’ Scheme.
O'Connor produced the feature film version of Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea directed by Terence Davies and starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale. The film is based on Rattigan's 1952 play which had previously been filmed in 1955, starring Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More. Produced by Camberwell Productions and Fly Films, The Deep Blue Sea was released in the UK in 2011, the centenary of Rattigan's birth. O'Connor introduces the playtext of The Deep Blue Sea published by Nick Hern Books with notes by Dan Rebellato. O'Connor serves as a trustee of the estate of Sir Terence Rattigan.
Television and radio
In the late 1990s, O'Connor worked as producer of the long-running radio drama The Archers, storylining and directing the programme. He re-introduced several popular characters including Kenton Archer, Adam Travers-Macy and Lillian Bellamy, as well as introducing Fallon Rogers, Ed Grundy and Emma Carter. Subsequently, he was appointed as Series Producer of Hollyoaks (C4).
In 2005, O'Connor was appointed producer of the Channel 5 soap opera Family Affairs. He planned to revamp the show but was told that the show would be axed. He appointed Dominic Treadwell-Collins, his future predecessor in EastEnders as story producer and reintroduced characters Eileen Callan (Rosie Rowell) and Melanie Costello (Rebecca Hunter).
On 5 August 2013, it was announced that O'Connor had been appointed editor of The Archers. Of his return to the show, O'Connor commented "I'm delighted to be returning to Ambridge to work with the team in Birmingham. I'm honoured to take the reins of our national epic drama and to build on the extraordinary achievements of Vanessa Whitburn who dedicated much of her career to this unique cultural institution."
In 2001, O'Connor was appointed as Series Story Producer at the BBC soap, EastEnders story-lining the award-winning Kat and Zoe Slater story, the domestic violence story featuring Little Mo, and Dot Cotton's marriage to Jim Branning. He left the show in 2005. He went on to both produce and direct the show.
On 18 February 2016, it was announced that O'Connor would return to EastEnders after 11 years and take over from Dominic Treadwell-Collins as Executive Producer. On his return he commented "I'm thrilled to be back in Walford and particularly delighted to work once more with many dear friends and colleagues both backstage and on screen. I loved my time working at EastEnders previously; there's nothing quite as challenging nor as rewarding."
Following this, he announced he would be stepping down from The Archers, saying "At the same time, it is a real wrench for me to leave Ambridge. The Archers is an extraordinary programme – a jewel at the heart of the BBC and in the hearts of the British public. Working on it, with the extraordinary cast, writers and production team in Birmingham has been an absolute privilege. The Archers has been a part of my life for much of my life - and though I’ll be away from Borsetshire, I'll continue to listen to the villagers of Ambridge, who feel to me – as they do for millions of listeners - like family."
O'Connor's first episode as Executive Producer aired on 11 July 2016. Although O'Connor's first credited episode aired in July, his own creative work was not seen onscreen until late September. On 23 June 2017, it was announced that O'Connor would be leaving EastEnders after a year in the role of executive producer. O'Connor said: "I've had an amazing time at EastEnders. Working with the editorial staff, cast and crew at Elstree has been an absolute privilege. They are the kindest, most loyal and hard-working team in the business. But my heart lies in feature films and I'm hugely excited as my film projects are now reaching production. I'll enjoy watching EastEnders go from strength to strength but will miss everybody enormously. Elstree really is a place where you make friends for life." O'Connor's final episode as Executive Producer aired on 24 November 2017.
As a graduate of the Regional Theatre Young Directors' Scheme, O'Connor has worked all over the UK as a theatre director. His work has featured at Liverpool Everyman, Hornchurch, Salisbury Playhouse, Chester Gateway, Windsor, Guilford, Bath, Richmond, Chichester, Cardiff and Edinburgh. In 1995, O'Connor directed the UK premiere of Dorothy Parker's drama, The Ladies of the Corridor (1953) at the Finborough Theatre and the first London revival of Christa Winsloe's Children in Uniform (1931) (Madchen in Uniform) at Battersea Arts Centre. He is also a graduate of the BBC Drama Directors' Course.
O'Connor has made a study of 20th Century drama, particularly neglected or forgotten works. In 1997, he published Straight Acting; Popular Gay Drama from Wilde to Rattigan, examining the work of British gay playwrights who dominated the West End in the 20th Century. Dartmouth's Professor of Gender Studies, Michael Bronski, praised the book, claiming that it "almost single-handedly reinvents what we think of as the history of modern gay theater".
The same year, he adapted and directed the play Vertigo based on the novel D'Entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, which was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's film of 1958. This, the first stage adaptation of the story, retained the original French wartime setting of the novel. The play first appeared at Chester Gateway Theatre featuring Marcus D'Amico, but was subsequently produced by Bill Kenwright at the Theatre Royal Windsor starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove. A revival at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford starred Anthony Andrews in the central role, replacing Martin Shaw.
In 2001, O'Connor adapted Winston Graham's 1960 novel Marnie for the stage which played at Chester Gateway Theatre and The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke. The adaptation returned the story to Graham's original post-war British setting and preserved Graham's bleak ending.
In 2010, O'Connor adapted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as Juliet and Her Romeo which played at Bristol Old Vic, directed by Tom Morris and starring Siân Phillips, Michael Byrne and Dudley Sutton.
- "Dominic Treadwell-Collins steps down as executive producer of EastEnders and Sean O'Connor confirmed in the role". BBC. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Jackson, Jasper (18 February 2016). "EastEnders: Archers editor to take over as Dominic Treadwell-Collins quits". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Stanford, Peter (20 October 2014). "Sean O'Connor: The man who 'sexed up' the Archers". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Staff. "RTYDS Directors: Past RTYDS Directors and their placement theatre, 1960 until present: 1990-1999". Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- "Terence Davies Enters The Deep Blue Sea". Empireonline.com. 5 December 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
- "EastEnders producer Sean O'Connor takes over The Archers". BBC. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Kilkelly, Daniel (18 February 2016). "All change at EastEnders: 7 things you need to know about the show's new boss Sean O'Connor". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Davies, Keri (5 August 2013). "New Archers editor announced". BBC. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "Dominic Treadwell-Collins set to depart as Executive Producer". 18 February 2016.
- Harp, Justin (18 February 2016). "EastEnders shocker! Dominic Treadwell-Collins is leaving as showrunner". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- "Editor Sean O'Connor To Leave The Archers". BBC. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- "11/07/2016, EastEnders - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- "27/11/2017, EastEnders - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Review of Schoolgirls in Uniform". Cix.co.uk. 1 May 1997. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
- O'Connor, Sean (14 February 2013). Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller. Simon and Schuster. ASIN 1471101339.
- Straight-Acting: Popular Gay Dramatists from Wilde to Rattigan (Lesbian & gay studies): Sean O'Connor: 9780304328642: Amazon.com: Books
- Lyn Gardner (24 January 2001). "Theatre review: Marnie". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
- Moral, Tony Lee (29 July 2013). Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810891081 – via Google Books.
- Spencer, Charles (17 March 2010). "Juliet and her Romeo at the Bristol Old Vic, review". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK.
- Shakespeare, William; O'Connor, Sean; Morris, Tom (16 April 2010). Juliet and her Romeo. Oberon Books. ASIN 1849430810.
- O'Connor, Sean (11 July 2019). Alma Rattenbury. ISBN 978-1471132711.
| Editor of The Archers
| Executive Producer of EastEnders
as Executive Consultant of EastEnders