Niall Leonard grew up in Newry, Northern Ireland. In 1977 he attended the University of York to study English, and from there went on to The UK National Film and Television School where he trained as a screenwriter and director. His first film was Absolution, an old-fashioned revenge thriller with a supernatural twist, filmed on location in Newry in 1983 and starring Derek Halligan. Niall returned to Newry In 1985 to shoot locations for his graduation movie, the black comedy No Man’s Land, starring Patrick Bergin and Des McAleer.
After graduating from the NFTS in 1986 Niall’s first broadcast work as director was the comedy series Phil and Arthur Go Off for Channel Four, followed by stints on ITV’s long-running cop show The Bill. Meanwhile Niall pursued his own projects, writing and directing the one-off black comedy Rotten Apples starring BJ Hogg and Ian McElhinney, and developing Over The Wild Frontier, a six-part comedy drama set on the Irish border, for Channel Four. Rotten Apples was revived for a short run on the Manchester Festival Fringe in 2013 and played to sold-out houses.
Niall’s first TV script to be broadcast on the network was an episode of Jimmy Nail’s cop show Spender, closely followed by Pie In The Sky with Richard Griffiths.
In 1994 Niall took up a year-long contract as a Script Editor at BBC Northern Ireland, where he got to work with his long-time hero Graham Reid on Life After Life and made the acquaintance of Belfast’s Hole In The Wall Gang. His work as script associate on their pilot for Give My Head Peace led to a partnership that continued for ten years, with Niall contributing to every episode of the immensely successful satirical sitcom and its spinoff stage productions.
In 1995 he returned to full-time writing with a script for the groundbreaking Irish comedy drama Ballykissangel and went on to create episodes of Silent Witness, Hornblower, Sea of Souls, Second Sight, and Holby City. Niall adapted the Minette Walters thriller The Dark Room for BBC1, and wrote numerous episodes over several series of Monarch of The Glen, Wire In The Blood and Wild At Heart.
in 2010 Niall completed screenplays for two big-budget feature-length thrillers for US cable TV, loosely adapted from novels by Alastair Maclean, including a radically updated take on Puppet On A Chain.
As part of the 2011 Nanowrimo novel-writing event Niall wrote Crusher, a gritty crime thriller set in London featuring Finn Maguire, a dyslexic young offender investigating the murder of his father. The novel was picked up by Random House for publication in September 2012, it was nominated for several Best First Novel awards, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Its sequels Incinerator and Shredder were published in 2013 and 2014.
Niall has led seminars and workshops on screenwriting and script editing for the BBC, the Northern Ireland Film Council and the Irish Screenwriters’ Guild, and lectured on the creative process at the University of Reading.
He is married with two kids and two rather smelly dogs and lives in West London.