The BAFTA Award Winning series Love Island first appeared on UK’s ITV but has made the successful trek to the United States. This is yet another indicator of the special relationship these two countries share and how close they are culturally. As both a producer on the UK version of Love Island and a Supervising Producer of its American iteration (available on CBS), Gayani Wanigaratne has helped mold the stories that delight viewers of both. Crediting her work on the National TV Award Winning Series I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, Gayani is trusted by the production companies and networks behind this series to unearth the compelling plots and cast interactions which attract and transfix viewers. There are many aspects of storytelling; Ms. Wanigaratne’s adept assembling of the essential pieces delivers a most satisfying outcome.
Love Island infers the promise of a perfect summer, full of love with that exciting someone. As a producer on seasons one and two of the UK version of Love Island, Gayani was key in establishing the storylines on the show. Without a compelling story arc, the program would simply be a series of beautiful people running around; perhaps visually appealing but quickly shifting into the mundane. Liaising with directors and cast producers to be aware of shifting events and feelings, Gayani would massage components of this amorous puzzle. She relates, “Communication is so important in finding and nurturing the most interesting stories. I’d let the directors know what stories we wanted to follow as well as what to be on the lookout for. I would make sure producers knew what was coming up that day, so that they could also be on the lookout. For example, if X wanted to talk to Y about their feelings, we made sure everyone was aware and on the lookout for it. Cast Producers who would update me on what each cast member was thinking and we would make sure that they were happy and looked after. I had a team of Directors, robot cam operators, producers and Loggers all inside a control room, with multiple monitors following the cast 24/7.” She adds, “On the UK seasons I would also work in Post, putting the story together with an editor, choosing music to enhance the moment and the relevant sound bites to really get inside the cast’s heads.” When Love Island was brought to the US (though filmed in Fiji), Gayani’s influence was essential and recognized with her inclusion as a supervising producer for the American iteration of the show. She points out that there are some significant differences in approach for the ITV2 (UK) and CBS (US) versions in terms of audience reception. Ms. Wangiaratne comments, “They both have a slightly different audience and the tone is a little different. You can’t be as cheeky on CBS. On ITV2, it’s naturally a much younger audience who views the show later and therefore you can be a little more risquè. CBS usually airs the show around 8pm so you need to be a little more careful with what you are presenting.”
Love Island can’t be written off as eye candy viewing. It is the modern version of a soap opera but based in reality. It even includes a gut wrenching cliff hanger that results in and enthusiastic audience ravenous with anticipation of the next installment. Love Island might be considered romance anthropology for the present day; the way these people live and interact while making a journey based on the strongest of human emotions. It’s highly addictive television across a generational spectrum. Even as someone who has been such a key part of Love Island’s UK and US productions, Gayani Wanigaratne finds that she is also captivated by the show and proclaims, “It hard being on location for a long period of time and working long hours. You can’t help but immerse yourself in the storylines and with the people involved. It’s aimed at a younger audience and to do so, there is a younger cast. But I know my Mum loves to watch it just as much!”
Writer: Coleman Haan