Friday, February 29, 2008

Keeley and Philip Interview

From The Stage, February 6, 2008.

As we prepare for the long-awaited premiere of Ashes to Ashes tomorrow night, TV Today caught up with its two principal stars, Philip Glenister (returning as DCI Gene Hunt) and Keeley Hawes, who plays newcomer Alex Drake. (Don’t forget our interview yesterday with supporting actors Marshall Lancaster and Montserrat Lombard as well. [click here])
As with yesterday’s interview, the discussion includes some spoilers…

The first thing we notice about Gene this series are his new snakeskin cowboy boots. How did they come about?

Philip Glenister: When we were going for the look for Gene in this, Rosie our costume designer and I wanted to move away from the camel coat… I remember when I was a drama student and had no money whatsoever, I used to go back to Harrow to Barclays Bank and ask for another £200 to get me through term.

Keeley Hawes: I thought you were going to say 100 grand, I thought you were a bit posh! I thought, hang on!

Philip: That’s now. Back then, as a drama student in 1987 £100 was huge. Obviously being a student you never got to see the bank manager, you got to see a minion. I just remember this guy who used to wear these suits, and he had cowboy boots. And he was big into his Westerns, and he said, ‘if you ever appear in a Western, I’ll give you the money - but you have to appear in a Western’. So I kind of feel I’ve fulfilled his wish by playing Gene. Certainly in Life on Mars, he was the sheriff.

There’s a lot of Western imagery in the first episode of Ashes to Ashes to reinforce that.


Is that reflected throughout the rest of the series?

No, I don’t think so. Overall, it’s got an incredibly different feel about it. It’s got its own identity. It’s incredibly tongue in cheek in many respects, which I think is great. I really think it’s fabulous.

Keeley: Life on Mars was very different. The second you see Alex is in 1981, you realise it’s going to be very different. Purely from being in the Seventies, you know, it was very subdued and tonally very different, visually very different. Suddenly you’re bang! with the red and the leather of the Eighties. So immediately, whether you like it or not, you’re somewhere else. It’s very clever.

I think a little bit has been edited out somewhere along the line, because Alex arrives and is under cover as a hooker, so I spend the whole time [dressed as a prostitute] — I don’t think it’s that clear that that’s what I’m doing. It just looks like that’s what I’m wearing because that’s how they dressed in the Eighties!

Philip: And who put all those clothes in your wardrobe and forgot the skirts?

Keeley: As you do!

Did you enjoy the experience of shooting Ashes to Ashes?

I got mascara down my face because I cried laughing. It’s ridiculous. It sounds like I’m bullshitting, but it’s true, I laughed so much.

On screen, the humour’s contrasted with a very creepy vibe from the clown… Oh, that was horrible!

It seems that there’s a deliberate attempt to treat the disconnect between the present day and the past in a very different way to Life on Mars.

Yeah, there’s a very different connection from Sam’s use of the telephone. All that had to change, really, or…

Philip: Also, Sam’s association with the future was through the TV, which was pretty unique with Life on Mars, with the Test Card girl. And we’ve kind of taken it a little bit further. The image of the clown is much darker and I think the whole thing about clowns is that they’re quite creepy.

Keeley: It’s a very clever idea. And they were so of the era. There was a big Pierrot clown phase. I remember my sister had them lined up, and I used to think ‘Woah!’ (shudders) All those little china heads…

There does seem to be an obvious chemistry between Alex and Gene…
And wasn’t that scooping [of Alex into Gene Hunt’s arms] brilliant, though? It was so quick and clean…

Philip: It’s amazing what a bit of editing can do! It must remind you of your wedding day.

What is it about Gene Hunt that makes women go weak at the knees?

The writing!

Keeley: I think, now that we’ve been through the whole ‘new man’ thing in the Nineties, I think ultimately Gene’s a real man… God, I’m going to get things thrown at me in the street!

Philip: Do, do, please!

Keeley: But he’s a real man like your Dad, in the best possible way. He’s sort of everything you want a man to be. You want a man to scoop you up. You know, all this bullshit about ladies being equal is all well and good, but ultimately it’s sort of a fantasy that she’s having, that Gene is someone to look to, someone who can look after her.

Philip: But also isn’t he a challenge?

Keeley: A challenge for Alex, definitely.

Philip: Just as Sam tried to change him…

Keeley: Stop bringing him into it. There’s an obvious chemistry between you and Sam…

Do you think Ashes to Ashes will appeal to a wider audience than Life on Mars?

Philip: I do hope so!

Keeley: It’ll be because of my boobs in episode 5!

Philip: I just feel very protective towards the whole franchise in many respects, and to the character.

On that subject, did you have any reservations about bringing Gene back?

Philip: Yes. We had a long conversation during [the filming of Life on Mars]… John [Simm] said, understandably I think, “I can’t really do any more with Sam,” so he went off to do other things. And then they said to me, “Well, we’ve got this idea. Can we just finish filming and then talk about it?”

So I didn’t really get involved until Life on Mars had finished. And then we talked about Ashes to Ashes. We had a lunch and Jane Featherstone said, “Keeley Hawes as Alex Drake”. And I said “If you can get Keeley Hawes…” (Keeley shrieks with laughter) It’s true!

Keeley, your character knows the story of Sam Tyler inside out. Did you personally know Life on Mars in the same way?

Keeley: I went out with Jane Featherstone…

Philip: …and she said “If you can get John Simm back!”…

Keeley: No! But I said I’d love to do it, and then I hurried off to HMV and bought the box set.

Philip: You mean they didn’t give it to you? The stingy bastards! Send them the receipts!


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