Sunday, January 25, 2015

Keeley Hawes: There is life in TV for mature women

By Patrick Sawer and Hannah Furness
8:00AM GMT 25 Jan 2015

Keeley Hawes

Keeley Hawes is a woman whose time has come. Or to put it less dramatically, the actress who starred in Ashes to Ashes, Line of Duty and Upstairs Downstairs has come of age.

This might seem a strange thing to say, given that she has been on our screens since her mid-teens, when she appeared in the likes of Dennis Potter’s Karaoke. But as Hawes herself points out, there has never been a better time to be an actress of certain years.

Hawes, who turns 39 next month, said: “I think that you only have to look at our TV screens at the moment to see maybe there is a change happening, with Olivia Colman in Broadchurch, Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman and Gillian Anderson in The Fall. These aren’t 20-year-olds. These are women with a bit of life experience.”

Her success in roles more suited to mature women than flighty teenagers or sultry twentysomethings – such as the hard-bitten and explosively violent policewoman Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton in BBC2’s Line of Duty – means she is less minded to complain about the parts offered to older actresses.

In an interview in next week’s Stella magazine, she says: “It would be an odd thing for me to bitch about, to be honest. And if that makes me not very feminist…”

But, she adds quickly: “I am a feminist, but I can’t bitch about something that I haven’t directly experienced. Of course, there are a lot of window-dressing roles and you make the best of what you can out of that. You are not going to turn work down when you have a family, when you have bills to pay, and you have to work. It would be all well and good to say, 'I’m not going to work unless it’s some big meaty part,’ but you would sit there for ever. You would be down the dole office.”

Her ability to accept “window-dressing roles” with grace, while excelling in more demanding parts, has made her one of the industry’s most appreciated figures, with fellow actors, directors and producers describing her as friendly, professional and modest.

It also means Hawes has been happy to play parts that do not call for a waif-like physique yet require some dressing down on the part of a naturally striking woman, such as the frumpy DI Denton.

“I’m not a size eight. I never have been,” she says. “In my youth I was somebody who didn’t leave home without a bit of mascara. That’s all out the window now; I am not that person. I’ve got three children and I really don’t care.”

Her ability to immerse herself in the decidedly unglamorous aspect of her roles can take those behind the camera by surprise.

She said: “I was asked to do a role once where I would have had to have worn really bad false teeth. The director literally couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t get there on the day and say, 'No, actually, forget it.’ But I couldn’t wait to not have any make-up. My vanity left me a long time ago.”


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