IT’S one of my abiding memories of Ashes To Ashes.
The sound of Keeley Hawes’ laughter in the corridor leading to the set in a former London biscuit factory.
I interviewed Ms Hawes for ITV’s The Blonde Bombshell way back in 1999.
The first of several encounters including, of course, her time as Zoe Reynolds in Spooks.
In my humble opinion she is one of the most talented and accomplished actresses you will ever be lucky enough to see.
Still able to laugh after months of 5:30am alarm calls to transform herself into Detective Inspector Alex Drake.
Leaving behind her husband – some young hopeful called Matthew Macfadyen – and children to create magic on screen.
Fans who have met Keeley tend to use the same words to describe her. Two of which are “delightful” and “gracious”.
Which made the personal media attacks on her during series one of Ashes all the more outrageous.
From critics who somehow forgot that she is an actress asked to play a role a certain way.
And from die-hard Life On Mars fans who should get over the fact that John Simm didn’t want to play Sam Tyler in a full third series.
In some sections of the media, it’s seen as clever and cool to slag someone off and be nasty to them.
Rather than tell the plain and simple truth.
I’ve interviewed thousands of people in my time – the good, the bad and the ugly.
And there’s no doubt that Keeley and the rest of the Ashes cast are class acts, both on and off screen.
She laughed a lot during our latest interview, published yesterday.
I’ve posted it online here with a page impression at the bottom of this blog.
With thanks to everyone who has taken the time in the last 24 hours to comment, tweet or contact me directly.
There wasn’t room to include everything in the full page feature.
So here, for those who are interested, are some of the parts of our chat that couldn’t be squeezed in.
Including a few fuller, expanded quotes to the ones edited down to fit in the feature.
As ever, I hope you’ll find this Ashes blog reasonably spoiler-free, if you have watched the first four episodes in this final series:
Avoiding photographers when filming the scenes for the very start of episode one in this final series, when Alex appears to be back in the modern day. First, in the TV superstore?
“It was Currys in Kingston. We did that at night, so the store was closed, obviously. There were only a couple of people working there who stayed on to look after it. So that was easy. We usually get the ‘paps’ over in east London where they know we’re going to be – a regular exterior location. So that was quite an easy one, really. And it was very quick and at night and there were no exteriors, which is where they usually catch us. And we were going in and out of the back of the car park. So that was all pretty safe.
“And then in Piccadilly Circus, where I’m standing in front of Eros, that was just incredible. It sort of looks like we’ve CGI’d the people out. But they were more than prepared for a bit of guerilla filming. It was very early, eight o’clock on a normal weekday morning and there were just very few people around. So that was a happy accident, really. It all worked quite well. It also looked like I could be shooting Identity (Keeleys’ forthcoming ITV1 drama series) or something else. It’s more when we’ve got all the eighties’ stuff on, they’re the pictures they want.”
The Uptown Girl fantasy sequence which opened episode two?
“That was hilarious. There were lots of rehearsals and it was supposed to be doing the dance through to the end. When it came to it, of course, it’s Ashes – there’s not time to do anything. We had to do it very quickly and something like that really needs a couple of days to get all the shots they want. And, of course, they can’t. So to cut a long story short, I ended up in the car doing that bit. But some of them are quite similar shots to the actual video!”
The script in-jokes when actress Beth Goddard – married to Philip Glenister in real life – guest starred in episode two as dating agency boss Elaine Downing?
(Lots of laughter) “That was great. ‘Is there a Mrs Hunt?’ It was very good. ‘Poor, poor woman.’ She’s fabulous.”
Near the end of the episode, Elaine plants a huge smacker of a kiss on a surprised Gene’s face?
“We all had a laugh that day. I love Beth. And it was nice, because Matthew had been in one of the episodes, it was nice to get Beth in as well and make it one big family affair.”
The extra focus on Ray (Dean Andrews), Chris (Marshall Lancaster) and Shaz (Montserrat Lombard) in this final series?
“It was really so nice for them all to have that opportunity. The rest of the cast are so brilliant and quite often the stories are all about Alex and Gene and they’re just continually brilliant. And so it was really nice for them to have meaty stuff to get their teeth into.”
It’s clear that filming this final series was a particularly emotional and draining final five months?
“In some ways it was a relief, to be perfectly honestly, I think for everybody. The boys have been on it for five years and with Dean coming up from Barnsley and Marshall from Macclesfield and not being with their families and all of that – that was especially difficult. So in some aspects there was a bit of relief.”
The arrival of Daniel Mays as Jim Keats, a character who fitted straight in to the Ashes mix within minutes of him appearing on screen. It seemed as if he’d been there all the time?
(Expanded quote): “Yes, it really did. And it’s not an easy thing to do, to come into the show, especially at this point four series later. He certainly didn’t have an easy job, as well I know. So there was lots of teasing going on with Danny, the new boy.”
Good to see that special relationship / bond between Alex and Shaz continuing?
(Expanded quote): “Yeah, ahhh…with all of them…it’s a bittersweet ending, I would say, without giving too much away. And I’m sure a lot of the people, because they take a lot of time and spend a lot of time thinking about it, people will probably come up with the ending before they see it. And, hopefully, that won’t be too disappointing to people. But, of course, that’s going to happen over a series of eight episodes. The clues are all there to be had. So it will become more and more apparent what’s going to happen.”
Some people forget that, at the end of the day, it’s a piece of television entertainment. It’s a drama..?
“Yes – it’s a drama! Yes. It’s a time-travelling drama! Yes. So I’m sure there’ll be letters from all sorts of people. There’ll be lots of blogging going on. But it’s nice that it fires people up one way or another. Better that than we have no reaction whatsoever.”
Alex probing the apparent 1980 death of Sam Tyler must be interesting to play?
“It is. Alex has been trying all this time…first she thought the riddle was solved through her parents’ murder and that would get her home. And then she thought…and so it’s gone on. So this is the final straw now. Now she’s gathering evidence and thinks. ‘Right, I’m going to solve this and then I’ll get home.’”
Keeley’s next TV drama – ITV1’s Identity – is due on screen this summer, after Ashes finishes – I’ll be attending the press launch next month. At the time of this interview, she was working on her new Boots No 7 campaign with Matthew finishing his West End stage stint in Private Lives tomorrow (Saturday May 1):
“Then he’s going on to do Any Human Heart for Channel 4. So when he’s working I try to stay fairly quiet, so one of us could get home. But I’d love to do a play, if somebody will have me. I’d very much like to do a play. So fingers crossed for that.”
What won’t you miss about Alex?
“Those 5:30am alarm calls! I won’t miss that.
“But almost everything else, I will.”
*Ashes To Ashes continues on BBC1 at 9pm tonight.