Long before TV shows become hits, there are those like Gayani Wanigaratne who help to create, develop, and deliver the concept into a completed form. As a commissioning executive for many hits on Britain’s ITV and ITV2, Ms. Wanigaratne has overseen shows which served to cement the reputation of these networks as premier throughout the county and as an innovator within the industry. Her work as a producer on such massive hits such as This Morning (ITV’s flagship award winning Daytime show), X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and Love Island vet her as a professional who steers productions towards international notoriety. Most essential to bringing new ideas to ITV is understanding the brand and what the audience yearns to see, even if they don’t know it yet. Still, within the ITV realm, Gayani has been able to bring fresh and innovative concepts to fruition and increase the recognition of the ITV name.
Many of the programs worked on during her time at ITV are so immensely popular both within the country and beyond its borders that it’s possible to forget there are those like Gayani who are shaping the stories into a form which captivates massive audiences. The skill and foresight necessary to achieve this is truly the most valuable element. As an edit producer on Britain’s Got Talent, Ms. Wanigaratne ran multiple edits with her team to craft heart-warming, funny, and surprising stories to entertain the 9.1 million viewers the series averaged. BGT was awarded the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Program during her tenure on the show. During her time as a producer on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, the show garnered two National TV Awards while Gayani’s contributions as a producer on the first two seasons of the incredibly popular Love Island made her an essential part of kicking of the first season of the American version of this show. Ms. Wanigaratne credits the skills she honed during her seven-year long stint on the UK television institution that is This Morning (winner of four National TV Awards), where she worked as an AP and series editor, as preparing her for the professional challenges that lay ahead.
One cannot simply repeat a genre or type of program if the hope is to continually engage viewers. Gayani has always embraced this concept and it has led to her involvement as the commissioning executive for programs which explore new areas and audiences. Sometimes these are momentous events which only air once, as with her pitch of 2018’s Good Evening Britain which captured the mood of the nation after England’s final World Cup group match. A one-off late-night version of ITV’s established breakfast show, Good Evening Britain saw Ms. Wanigaratne working closely with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid while managing a large team to ensure that the show was sticking to brand and ideas were executed with the excellence for which ITV is known. Good Evening Britain was awarded TV Moment of the Year at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Gayani followed this later the same year with a live Halloween event featuring reality star Joey Essex and magician Ben Hanlin on ITV2. Ben Hanlin’s Liveand Deadly: Drowned pushed the envelope for live TV to the limits with a potentially fatal outcome that was displayed in real time, which of course attracted a riveted audience. Wanigaratne confesses, “I was more on set on this show than I would have been for others due to the dangerous nature. The production team was used to events like this so I had full trust in them and their health and safety officials. There is a lot of training involved, some of which I tried myself- in particularly learning to hold your breath for extended periods of time! It was an exciting albeit nerve wracking experience working with the team and the Talent, in particular Joey Essex and Ben Hanlin. Seeing the stunt actually work during the live show, everyone was so happy once it was over…especially me! There’s a lot of pressure when you commission a show to see it do well and this one certainly did.” Television continues to expand in popularity as it becomes more diverse. Those like Gayani Wanigaratne who take audiences to these new places are keeping the medium alive and strong.