MADELAINE Leech has worked in production design for 29 years, but has never filmed a show in her home town... until now.

The designer’s latest project is Grace, the ITV adaptation of Sussex-based author Peter James’ award-winning crime novels.

The drama, which stars John Simm in the lead role as detective Roy Grace, will adapt the first two stories in the series – Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead.

Filming is due to start this month after it had to be put on hold earlier this year due to coronavirus.

The Argus: Production designer Madelaine Leech, who grew up in BrightonProduction designer Madelaine Leech, who grew up in Brighton

Peter James himself has said he “could not be happier” that the whole production is being shot in and around Brighton, and for Madelaine, who grew up in the city, Grace is a project which is especially close to her heart.

She said: “We really want to show all the different aspects of Brighton, from including images of the seafront and the countryside all the way from Shoreham to Peacehaven.

“We are giving it a good showcase and taking in the sights of Sussex – it’s not just indoors all the time.

“There has been filming down here before, on police drama series Cuffs for example – but I think this project is unique as the whole production is being shot here.

The Argus: Part of the series will be filmed at the Van Alen building in Marine Parade. Photo: GooglePart of the series will be filmed at the Van Alen building in Marine Parade. Photo: Google

“We’ve been using local artists, painters and craftsmen and I’m trying to source as many props locally too.

“The feedback from places like second hand shops has been so supportive, as everyone knows Peter James down here.

“It’s a really lovely project to work on.”

Madelaine studied interior design at Brighton Polytechnic in the early 1990s – now the University of Brighton – and went on to work as a set designer for BBC shows including Absolutely Fabulous and The Generation Game, before moving on to drama series such as Endeavour and Vera.

As a production designer it is her job to get inside characters’ heads and to conjure up the world they would inhabit... right down to the paintings on their walls.

The Argus: Looking Good Dead, Peter James' second book. His first two will be dramatised Looking Good Dead, Peter James' second book. His first two will be dramatised

She said: “It’s the best job.

“You can go into someone’s house and age it and make it look disgusting. It’s so much more exciting than putting up wallpaper and adding some cushions.

“All of the interior spaces are very important and you have to get the environment right for the character, but I still have an overall view of the exterior spaces too.

“My remit is not only building sets, organising and dressing props – it’s anything from vehicles to animals to food.

“If it’s not an actor, it’s down to me.”

For Grace, Madelaine read all the books in preparation and was able to use the lockdown period to gain inspiration.

She has been busy sourcing and crafting props such as a severed finger and plenty of weapons suitable for the police drama.

Madelaine said: “I have to think, what sort of sofa would this person have?

“Everyone sees things in a slightly different way. I find it really interesting nosing around people’s houses and trying to figure out what they do.

“Roy Grace’s house was very important.

“You have to know where the character is coming from and where he is going.

The Argus: John Simm will star as detective Roy GraceJohn Simm will star as detective Roy Grace

“The viewers who have read the first book will know there’s an interesting predicament for one of the characters, which our team had to build. But I don’t want to give the game away.”

Part of the challenge for Madelaine is to get the right balance between making the set look authentic, but not distracting for the viewer.

Although Peter James’ first book was published in 2005, the series will be set in the present day.

The Argus: Author Peter JamesAuthor Peter James

Madelaine said: “As technology has moved on so quickly in 15 years we’ve had to update things a bit.

“We want the sets to be believable, so nothing will be too in your face.

“It’s more subtle but there is a colour palette running through it.

“Although it is all very considered we don’t want it to look that way, so that you really get into the story.”