Saturday, December 09, 2006

Article: "How we met: Keeley Hawes & Gina Bellman"

Gina Bellman was born in New Zealand in 1965, but came to the UK with her parents at 11. She started her acting career at the National Theatre, aged 14, before appearing in Dennis Potter's `Blackeyes'. She currently stars in the BBC comedy `Coupling'. She is single and lives in London.

Keeley Hawes, 28, is the daughter of a London cab driver. At 16, she was scouted by a model agency, before turning to acting. She currently stars in the BBC drama `Spooks'. She has a son, Myles, and is expecting a child with her fiance and co-star, Matthew MacFadyen.


The first time I met Keeley was when we both got sent to New York on publicity trips - me for Coupling, Keeley for Spooks. I remember getting to the hotel, which was one of those intimidating upscale places with millions of bellboys; Keeley was in front of me at reception and as soon as she got her room key she handed it over to a bellboy and said, "Can you take my bags to my room. I'm going to the bar." And I thought, "Great!" so I did the same. And, basically, by the end of the week, we were sharing a room!

Keeley's one of those people who will eke every little thing out of an experience and I'm a bit like that. There was a sense on that trip that there was no time to waste. We'd start with brunch at the Mercer or SoHo Grand, and then end up at five in the morning in some dive bar in the East Village. And we did all those stupid things people shy away from, like going on a horse and carriage in Central Park - only we did it at two in the morning with champagne.

On the last day, we'd been so debauched, up all night talking and bar- crawling, that we were like, "We've got to do something healthy today," so we bought swimsuits and went to the hotel pool intent on swimming out the toxins. When we arrived, there were a couple of people doing laps so we were like, "We'll just sit on these lounge chairs until it empties out. Shall we just have a little bottle of wine while we wait?" We ended up six hours later lying by the pool having finished two bottles. We never did dip our toes in that water. We just clicked on that playful level, which was great because as you get older you don't expect to find playmates.

Since we've been back, we've set up a production company called Submission Films. It's called that because we're very strong women; actresses who want to play powerful roles. I'd seen Keeley in Tipping the Velvet but I hadn't seen Spooks. She's incredibly soulful and vulnerable in her work and there's definitely that vulnerability in real life, but then there's this tough cookie that's very sardonic with a dry outlook.

Keeley moves to her own drum in terms of time. I'm a really punctual person and I return calls, but if you have something important to discuss with Keeley, leave a message and say it's urgent and she'll get back to you 10 days later. It would drive me mad but it's an element of her I love. Even her flaws are things I find charming. She looks so demure and composed but there's an anarchist there. I accept that the anarchic strain in her personality is going to be part of our business relationship, too.


We first met when we went to New York to publicise the DVDs for our shows. I'd actually never set eyes on Gina before and hadn't seen Coupling but I knew we had both worked with Dennis Potter. While we were there, we had to go out for this horrendous PR lunch on a boat: I can't think what it was called - I'm seven months' pregnant and my mind's going.

We ended up sitting next to each other and got talking and, after the lunch, went out for a wander about New York with one of the actors from Coupling - again, I can't remember a name - and had a scream. It was that kind of afternoon where we just found everything funny.

I was staying an extra couple of days in New York and Gina ended up moving into my room, so by the end of the first week of knowing each other we were sleeping in the same bed! I'm not very good with girls - I don't have many girlfriends - so it was kind of weird for me. It takes me a long time to become friends, but this was such an immediate thing. Admittedly, a lot of it is based on alcohol, but that's not a bad thing. A lot of happy marriages are based on alcohol. It was a bit like a holiday romance, really.

We have completely different lives going on: I've got a little boy whereas she's young, free and single. Anyway, when we got back I had to go off to film Spooks, then we had this idea for a series: it was one of those drunken things when you wake up the next day and think, "What was all that about?" but for once it wasn't just nonsense and we got quite excited about it. The production company is called Submission because of the nature of the project that we're working on.

I don't think there's anything about Gina I don't get. She's a good 10 years older than me but, in a way, because I've been married and divorced and have a son, there's a bit of a crossover going on. I'm envious of her single life - everyone's single life! - but because I did a lot of partying from when I was about 14, I don't really feel envious of friends doing that. My son comes in to see me in the morning, so I have that instead. And I don't miss the hangovers.

(From The Independent on Sunday, October 10, 2004.)

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