Ashes To Ashes: Keeley Hawes Extras

Keeley Hawes as Alex Drake

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.

Cop solidarity

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.”

Keeley as Alex in tonight's episode

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.”

Jim Keats and Gene Hunt in tonight's episode

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.

Mars Meets Ashes: Keeley Hawes

Ashes To Ashes: Daniel Mays

Farewell Gene

Ashes To Ashes: Philip Glenister Extras

Ashes To Ashes Blogs

Philip Glenister Official Site

The Railway Arms Ashes and Mars Fansite

Luigi’s Ashes Fansite

BBC TV Blog: Matthew Graham

Follow Keeley Hawes on Twitter

Follow Dean Andrews on Twitter

Follow Matthew Graham on Twitter

Follow Ian Wylie on Twitter


Filed under Ashes To Ashes

11 responses to “Ashes To Ashes: Keeley Hawes Extras

  1. Angela Myers

    Thanks for the extras Ian. Its been a pleasure reading your stuff over the last 18 months since I discovered LOM and A2A. I dont know why I never got to see LOM when it was first broadcast but caught up when S1 was shown again on bbc3 in August 2008. I then bought the dvd set of s2 and became a fan, I just looked on the web one day to see if there was anything there about LOM and wow I could not believe the stuff that was out there!! one thing I did discover was your blog and it was great to read back over all your comments and views which were really useful. This also led me to A2A to once again spend some cash on S1 which had already been broadcast, and again I loved it. I liked the differences rather than resented them and I have loved Keeley as Alex from the beginning. I am now a committed supporter of all things LOM and A2A and will be sad to see the end but can rejoice in all that has been excellent throughout. Although I have to say I perhaps took the empathy thing for Sam and Alex a bit far last September when to quote Gene I developed an “orrible awful eadache” went into a coma and needed brain surgery!! however the last few months recovering have given me far too much time to spend on the web reading and contributing to all the speculation and hopes and fears for what is to come in the next few weeks.
    Thanks again Ian, cant wait for your post final analysis.

  2. Agreed on what a genuinely lovely person Keeley is!

    When members of the Luigi’s fangroup have met her she has always had plenty of time for us (as have the entire cast) and seems perfactly down to earth, warm, funny and very very chatty!

    She even went out of her way to get one of my cars (I have a collection of 70’s/80’s cars) into two episodes of Ashes 3rd series. So when you see a gold Vauxhall Cavalier – it belongs to Luigis.

    Just all goes to show what a very kind person she is.

    Hope to see her plenty more things in the future!

  3. I’ve just found this because for some reason WordPress relates this to my blog (which is totally unrelated, actually).
    However, I am so pleased because have so enjoyed reading your blog!
    I have been a fan of all the Ashes-to-Ashes series, and think Keeley Hawes has been brilliant.
    One thing you have not mentioned is the costume design (you might guess I would be interested from the name of my blog). The costume designer really deserves praise because the little details have added so much to shifts in time.

    • Thank you, as ever, for your comments. Makes all the work worthwhile.

      And dressingmyself – you might be interested in my interview with Rosie at:

      • Thanks for steering me to this interview! Now I’ve put the name ‘Rosie Hackett’ in my list of ideas. I sometimes do websearches to come up with things to write about on my website. I really like the idea of comparing how we remember an era (and how it is recreated for a fashion revival) and how clothes really were in that era. That detail about the wide sleeves is a good example – I can remember how my sleeves were always in the way.

  4. Carmen

    Thanks for this addition to the original interview. I’m always looking for new excuses to go to London so I hope Keeley goes on stage.

    I’ll never forget the first time I watched the first episode of “Ashes to Ashes”. Since then “Same Old Scene” has become one of my favourite songs and that end of that episode in one of the best scenes I remember having watched on TV for a long time. Any moment has told me so much about a group of characters like that scene in Luigi’s. I think that in that precise second, A2A stole my heart.
    That’s the reason why I never understood all the criticism towards Keeley It’s like people were watching a completely different show.

    I just wish she would get more recognition for her work internationally. She has hundreds of fans in Spain but we are forced to download almost everything. There’s no way I can wait until the release of the dvds to watch the episodes! (A2A isn’t aired here).

    Well in moments like this, I wish I knew more English to be able to put into words everything I want to say. Since I don’t, I think I can sum up my whole post with a: Thank you Ian for an amazing interview, and thank you Keeley for being an inspiration for a lot of people around the world🙂

  5. n&m

    Thanks again for another fantastic article and insight. I’m going to miss the blogs almost as much as I’m going to miss the show!

    I couldn’t agree more with Carmen: that first episode of series 1 is still in my head and I was hooked from the off (likewise, I also got hooked on Roxy Music). I loved Alex, I loved Gene…and I loved Galex!! I loved all of them. There was never any doubt it would be every bit as brilliant as it has turned out to be.

    Here’s hoping someone notes Keeley’s desire to do a play. They’d be daft not to, and it would be wonderful to see her live on stage.

    Thanks, Ian!
    n&m x

    ps: Anni…congrats on the car!!

  6. I never really understood all the criticism toward Keeley’s performance as Alex, either. To me, she’s been a brilliant character (and very well-portrayed) since day one. It seems to me that some people were just looking for something or someone to criticise because they didn’t get LOM S3 (aka “The Further Adventures of Sam and Gene”), which they wanted, and Keeley became their whipping girl.

    I watched S1 when it aired on BBC America last year, then acquired S2* when they didn’t follow through and continue on with the show like they originally planned (instead, after airing A2A S1, they fast-tracked Primeval). I’m also having to watch S3 through other means. ‘Tis hard sometimes, living on the wrong side of the pond.

    Anyway, a huge thanks for the extras, and kudos for keeping things relatively spoiler-free.🙂

    * A2A S2 will be airing on BBC America on May 11, cut to bits for commercials and, quite possibly, with bits of dialogue captioned. Lord knows if they’ll air S3 directly after that.

  7. Pingback: Just Another TV Series Stumbled Upon: “Demons” — Who’s Cooking Monsters in the Kitchen? « The Devil's agony aunt now has a blog.

  8. Harri83

    Thank you so so much for this and the interview itself! Since getting into Ashes I have just been increasingly amazed at Keeley’s acting ability and so happy to hear from all sides that she is such a lovely person in real life. Your interview and these extras were a joy to read and I look forward to reading your blog into the future!

  9. Pingback: Just Another TV Series Stumbled Upon: “Demons” | Crime and Relative Dimension in Space

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