Friday, September 19, 2014

Keeley Hawes: TV's toughest detective

Published: 18 September 2014

One of the downsides to being Keeley Hawes is getting pulled over by the police. At the end of last year, for instance, she was buying a burrito in Covent Garden when a burly squad in full blue serge piled out of a riot-proofed patrol van to confront her.

‘It looked like I was a major terrorist,’ she laughs. ‘But then they said, “Can we get a picture?” They all got out their handcuffs and posed. Eventually one said, “Come on, we’re going to lose our jobs.” ’ She laughs again. ‘Having said that, this was after Ashes to Ashes and before Line of Duty. I wonder what would happen now…’

It’s easy to see why the boys in blue love Keeley — she’s been adding glamour to the force as Zoe Reynolds in Spooks, Alex ‘Bollyknickers’ Drake in Ashes to Ashes and DSI Martha Lawson in ITV’s Identity. However, as the twisted, lonely DI Lindsay Denton in Line of Duty… well, not so much.

Line of Duty is all about dodgy cops — Jed Mercurio’s internal investigations thriller follows a fictional anti-corruption unit. Denton was its target in this year’s second season, suspected of having set up her colleagues in a fatal ambush. As suspicions mounted, Denton was bogwashed and beaten up by fellow officers, thrown in jail where wardens and inmates did the same, all along protesting her innocence and uncovering even bigger scandals. In terms of water-cooler moments, Line of Duty ranks alongside The Honourable Woman and The Fall as part of the new wave of Brit TV that’s finally making US producers jealous again.

And Hawes — like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gillian Anderson in Woman and The Fall — was a revelation. She evoked such energy and raw emotion that even the disparaging TV critic AA Gill has put her among our best actresses, alongside Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

Today, however, she’s just a 38-year-old Londoner. We meet at an outdoor restaurant near Richmond Park on one of the last sunny days of summer. She rummages through the menu, wondering about the healthy options. ‘I’ve got a shoot in a minute,’ she explains, before quickly adding, ‘I don’t feel the pressure any more, though. I honestly don’t give a shit. Two days of dieting isn’t going to happen. I have a ten-year-old daughter and I’ve got far too much responsibility to be seen to be picking around with bits of food.’

Who knew Keeley Hawes was a laugh? Any fears of an ice queen quickly melt away as she riffs on her Marylebone upbringing — riding around her council estate on the back of her brother’s Chopper, playing run-outs, and her mum shouting, ‘Dinner!’ across the blocks. Her dad and her two older brothers are cab drivers and she grew up near the Lisson Grove Estate, in a block that’s since become luxury flats.

If her accent seems a little crisp for a cabbie’s daughter, she points out, ‘I came from Central London, I wasn’t Cockney — my mother made sure we put the Ts on the end of words, and then I went to drama school.’ She pauses. ‘I do sound slightly posher, but listen, I’ve just been working with Tom Hiddleston and I feel very, very London talking to him.’

Next up there’s The Hollow Crown, the second part of the BBC’s ambitious attempt to screen all of Shakespeare’s history plays. She’s playing Queen Elizabeth in Henry VI part 2 and Richard III, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and, terrifyingly, Judi Dench. ‘I haven’t done Shakespeare and I’ve told them I can’t do Shakespeare and they still employed me.’ She seems amazed. ‘We’re rehearsing and I feel like I’m in safe hands, but still… I mean, I’ll be doing it with Judi Dench…’

She trails off, looking genuinely worried, so I leaf through my notes, pull out the AA Gill quote comparing her to Dench and read it to her: ‘Hawes is one of a number of very good female actors we have, from Judi Dench and Maggie Smith down,’ I read. She is momentarily stunned, then her face flushes a deep, deep crimson and she stares at her hands.

‘Well, that’s ridiculous,’ she mumbles. ‘I mean, I don’t even know what to say about that…’ and then she thinks it through. ‘Although he doesn’t say exactly how far down, does he?’ and she looks up, her impish grin returning. ‘I’d say it was fairly far down — but I’d still put that in a frame…’ When it’s time for her to leave, I make a joke about her receiving an honour to match Maggie and Judi and she turns back briefly — ‘Dame Keeley…? I can’t quite hear a copper calling me that.’

Doctor Who is on BBC One Saturday night at 7.30pm


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