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David Harewood Q&A

On his character

I play a character called Warrender who is the liaison between the government and MI5 and MI6 so he’s kind of an in between, he’s not quite a spy, he’s more of a civil servant. But for the purposes of this interview, I’m a spy. I love spy movies, I’m a huge fan of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I thought that was fantastic and I’m just glad that the whole genre has come back and I was lucky enough to be in Homeland and that just seemed to have captured the zeitgeist of the whole thing of terrorism, is he a terrorist, isn’t he a terrorist and the whole intrigue of the CIA I just felt blessed to be a part of that, and it seems to have caught on and I’m pleased to be back on home soil, playing a British spook now.

I think the spy genre has moved on and the whole nature of spies and terrorism has moved on and become a lot more blurry, I still think we have the iconic bad guys because so many terrorists these days seem to be freedom fighters for somebody, you know somebody is somewhere supporting them, I don’t think it’s quite as easy to paint the picture of this guy is good and this guy is bad and I think that’s really good for television and for movies as it makes the storytelling more complex. Some people might be supporting the bad guys, I think we’ve gone away from “red fox this is dark cloud” or whatever and meetings on the bridges exchanging of prisoners, I think we’ve gone past that to the idea that spies are everywhere and in our midst. I think the idea that spies are everywhere, I mean we all watch TV we all know the situation around it so we sort of expect spies to be operating everywhere and if you think about it, you can’t walk down the highstreet without getting your picture taken fifty million times and so much of our data and stuff is out there, that to be a spy these days would be incredible difficult because so much information is available. If you say you’re Ted Blocks, all you have to do is go online and find out who Ted Blocks is so I would think the whole arena of spies is completely different but I think that makes it probably better for storytelling.

I don’t think Warrender understands the full workings of MI5 particularly, I think that’s really not his field, I mean his field is more of a civil servant really, not getting his hands dirty, I think he’s forced to make things work as opposed to being out in the field and understanding how operations are taken and executed. He strikes me as someone who sits on the periphery, I wouldn’t expect Warrender to be carrying a gun or something like that, I think he’s more of a pen pusher.

On working with Director Bharat Nalluri

I was very aware of the show and I actually turned down the chance to play the role as I was on the back of a couple of years of doing TV and I was pretty exhausted so I unfortunately turned it down. I didn’t actually watch the show, it sort of passed me by but I know it was very, very successful. Bharat just created a fantastic atmosphere on set, he was very charming and very lovely and there was a lot of fooling around and messing around on set so I was really impressed with Bharat in the way he conducted himself on the set. Particularly, because he set this up and it was his baby, myself not being aware of the show I think on my first day I was trying to be very subtle, taking lots of pauses between the lines and Bharat just came up and whispered “just get on with it” because so much of this is that you just have to rattle through it doesn’t distain too much analysis. A lot of the lines work best when you sort of just throw them away and I’m glad Bharat gave me that note as initially I was trying to sit on them and think too much about them. I eventually got the style and it was very naturalistic and the effect of that created quite a tense atmosphere and you think a lot of it will created in the editing room and with the tension of the story as a whole as opposed to individual nuances.

On the other actors and wardrobe 

It was great fun to be a part of it and working with Tim and Jennifer was just fantastic, particularly Tim he’s just an English legend really. I worked with him many, many years ago on something else but it was great to be a part of Spooks with Peter there and it was a great cast, a real cream of British actors so I kind of came out of my trailer and felt very proud to be part of it, particularly something like this that has an iconic British series, I feel very proud to be part of the Spooks team now. We did our first day on the Isle Of Man and I felt very uncomfortable for the first two hours and I couldn’t work out why, and it hit me after about three hours, because I’d been working in America, it’s the first time I had used my natural English voice in three years. So there was me talking this posh English guy where I had been using an American accent for so long it just felt completely unnatural to me, so it took me a while to get up to speed with my English voice. Tim was coming at me with this very Atonian English and then there was Jennifer who’s actually American speaking in an English accent so it was a very bazaar morning for me. I eventually found my feet and it was great to be a part of it. I’m actually from Birmingham originally so it’s nice to be working back in England so yeah the whole thing has been a good experience. I seem to be the suit guy in all my characters, I tend to play authoritative boss types and again the last show I did Homeland was very much boxy so it was nice to come back here and get some nice tailored looks and get away from the boxy CIA stuff so getting English tailored stuff was fantastic, a little bit more flare a little bit more colour, I am actually keeping one or two of the suits that I was wearing so hopefully they’ll be a nice addition to my wardrobe.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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