THE con is back on tonight as Hustle returns for a fifth series.
Robert Glenister stars again as Ash Morgan – and I interviewed him yesterday for today’s MEN TV feature.
You can see what he had to say – and view a pic gallery – here.
But I know fans of Robert, as well as Hustle and Spooks, will want to read more.
So here’s some of the content of our chat that could not be squeezed into the hard copy feature:
Episode one of Hustle sees Robert’s character Ash posing as Simon Porter-Jones, a City misogynist with a 19-year-old mistress.
He has coffee and brandy for breakfast as he bids to reel in his mark.
Robert told me: “I just thought that rather than make him an obvious semi-caricature of the obnoxious City bloke, it would be better to try and make him unpleasant as opposed to funny and a bit cartoonish.
“I think that gives the whole thing an edge, the fact that he’s as leery and surrounded by women who are considerably younger than he is. I thought that was important, just to give it that slight darkness.
“What we tried to do this time was to make the characters that we were portraying believable and give the whole thing a darker and slightly more dangerous edge than I think we had towards the end of the last couple of series.
“Ash is a bit of an enigma and I think that was always the case. He’s basically a backroom boy that’s forced to come forward sometimes. But he’s more comfortable being anonymous. That’s his forte. But when push comes to shove, he’s actually quite good at it where he’s put into a situation where he has to pull something out of a bag.”
Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) is in prison when the new series starts, with Mickey Stone (Adrian Lester) newly arrived back from Australia.
“Initially there was a thought that we were all going to be inside and Adrian was going to come back and spring us all out. But I think that would have taken too long to get going and taken up one or two episodes with that one storyline.
“Inevitably it was a shame that we lost Marc Warren and Jaime Murray on the one hand. But on the other, we got Adrian back.”
Two new members of the team are revealed at the end of tonight’s episode. Check back then for Robert’s comments on the new cast additions.
Post episode one update: See the bottom of this blog for more.
Bill Bailey is impressive in a guest role this evening and returns later in the series.
“Those guest parts are always quite good in Hustle, they’re quite meaty. They’ve always attracted good actors because they’re good parts.”
The cast of Hustle are optioned for two more series after this one but the decision is, as ever, ratings-based.
“What with the recession and things financial, I know the BBC are not commissioning a lot of new stuff. But one hopes that because it’s a show that’s up and running and it’s popular and, hopefully, people will watch it…it’s come back in a slightly re-designed, re-packaged way, and it hasn’t been on for a year. You can’t take it as read but just talking to people in the street – they’re looking forward to it coming back.”
Robert also plays Home Secretary Nicholas Blake in Spooks and I remarked that he has quite a female following.
“Has he? It’s a great part. It’s nice to be able to do because I was doing it this time, the same time as I was doing Hustle and I was doing a play at the National. If there had been a lot more to do in Spooks, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because I wouldn’t have had the time. It’s quite nice that it was able to be compacted into the time that it was.”
Is there any reason why the Home Secretary can’t come back in the new series of Spooks, being filmed this spring?
“As far as I know, no. There’s no logical reason. There isn’t going to be an election between then and now, although I don’t know if they pay too much attention to that sort of thing anyway. But, no, there’s absolutely no reason. And given how the last series ended with Harry being bundled away, in a sense there is every reason for the Home Secretary to try and sort things out, given the fact that he shafted him very badly when Harry was being interrogated. It’s great.
“The whole shift in Spooks now is the fact that they are maintaining a sort of single storyline throughout eight episodes, albeit with diversions here and there. It’s hugely skillful and a great way of taking the series forward. It’s pretty damn good after seven series to have something of that quality. It’s an extraordinary achievement.”
More on plans to work together with younger brother Philip Glenister: They haven’t managed it yet. Is that simply because they’ve yet to find the right project?
“It’s partly that. It’s also partly because we’ve just been busy doing our own sort of things and there’s that time element. So I think when those sort of things die down a bit and things quieten down, then I that’ll be the opportunity to look around and see what’s what.”
Did his early urge to act come from the fact that his TV director father John was involved in the business?
“It was sort of always there, really. Ever since I was a kid. From the age of eight or nine I was doing local am drams and stuff at school, so it was always sort of there. My dad didn’t often bring his work home with him. He’d go to work and come home and forget it. So we weren’t surrounded by actors and all that sort of business.
“I remember going to the BBC when I was a kid and walking into the studios and watching Dixon of Dock Green being made and stuff like that. But it wasn’t telly that really attracted me, it was the theatre. That was the appeal for me. That was always my passion, if you like, That is what kick-started me and I suppose because I was familiar with television because of my dad, it ceased to be the mysterious medium that maybe it is to some other people. It was the theatre that really got me going.”
He starts rehearsals next week for a production called Wrecks at The Bush theatre in Shepherd’s Bush. Previously staged in Ireland and New York, it consists of a 75 minute monologue.
“There’s a clever twist at the end, which I won’t reveal. But he’s basically a guy who’s lost his wife and he’s talking to an audience about her and reminiscing about her and her previous life, and his. It’s a challenge and something that I haven’t done before.
“I haven’t worked at The Bush for years. But it’s 75 minutes of me, so let’s hope people don’t get too bored. If they do, I can always go and buy them a drink in the bar downstairs and shut them up.
“It opens on Feb 11, I think. That goes through until March and if Spooks comes my way again, I think Spooks is due to start in March. And then if Hustle goes again, that would start probably, June, July time. So we’ll have to wait and see. Fingers crossed and all that.”
Robert acted alongside new Doctor Who Matt Smith in The Ruby In The Smoke.
“Matt was my office boy. He was great. I tell you what I did see him in, which I thought he was wonderful in, was a Simon Stephens play at the National, called On The Shore Of The Wide World. That was the first time I’d seen him and he was playing a very strong Manchester character. I was absolutely convinced that he was from Manchester, but he’s not.
“He was extraordinary. It’s interesting that they’ve stuck their neck out because it wasn’t obvious. But I think it’s quite inspiring, really, to have somebody who is a terrific actor not known by the public. So there’s an element of unpredictability about it and a sense of the unknown. It’s very exciting.”
Hustle returns to BBC1 at 9pm tonight.
Post episode one update:
It’s a shame that some newspapers, magazines and websites – whether through ignorance or design – spoiled the twist in episode one for their readers.
Several published photos, like the one above, which were strictly embargoed until after tonight’s episode.
Also revealing in advance that Kelly Adams and Matt Di Angelo were joining the regular Hustle team as Emma Kennedy and her baby brother Sean.
Anyway, now the episode has been screened, I can add Robert’s comments to this blog on what the two newcomers bring to the series.
“They’ve got an enthusiasm and an energy…and a youth,” he laughed.
“Both Kelly and Matt are very enthusiastic about the whole project. They’ve got a great sense of humour between the two of them. And you believe that they’re brother and sister, which I think is quite an achievement, because they didn’t know each other before.
“You know what telly’s like now, you get thrown in at the deep end and there’s no time to rehearse. You just turn up and you do it. So it was a great achievement on behalf of both of them that they absolutely make you believe that he is her little brother.”
If you want to see more and larger photos of the new team, click on the link to today’s MEN TV feature immediately below – I’ve now added them to the pic gallery.
Hustle: Robert Glenister TV Feature
Wrecks: Cork 2005 review
Wrecks: New York 2006 review