Spooks: Lara Pulver

Lara Pulver as Erin Watts

SHE’S the new woman on The Grid.

Essex-born actress Lara Pulver plays Erin Watts, the MI5 high-flyer who has been sitting in Sir Harry Pearce’s seat during his suspension.

Moving to head Section D when he is temporarily re-instated.

There’s more to Erin than first meets the eye.

As viewers will find out from 9pm this Sunday when Spooks begins its 10th and final series on BBC1.

If you haven’t done so already, you can read new series interviews with Peter Firth and Nicola Walker here.

And the edited highlights of my on set round table Q&A with True Blood and Robin Hood star Lara back in April are below.

Including the email she received from Richard Armitage on her first day of filming:


Erin plus gun in episode one.

Who is Erin?

“Erin comes in to replace Harry. Having gone through the controversy of last season, she’s stepping in as head until he returns. Erin has been poached. She’s been working her way up rather swiftly through the ranks and they’ve poached her, knowing that she’s a young up and coming forthright, headstrong woman.”

What is it like joining Spooks, where you don’t know how long the role is going to last?

“I’ve just done True Blood, so it’s the same kind of thing. Who’s going to die? It’s great. You take it for what it is and you roll with it. It’s wonderful slipping into a product that already has a great fan base, a great following, and also the cast and crew have worked very hard for the last 10 seasons. To come into that ready made product is both daunting and exciting.”

Were you a fan of the show?

“I haven’t been in the country for the last two years so I had to grab DVDs from the library to watch series eight and nine. But Richard Armitage and I played opposite each other in Robin Hood as brother and sister and Richard was going into Spooks at the same time we were finishing Robin Hood. So I kind of saw it through his eyes initially. And it was wonderful because on my first day of shooting here, I got an email from Richard saying, ‘Just heard you got Spooks. I’m so glad they killed me off so you could come and join the show.’ So he’s a firm friend and I got to see a glimpse of the show through his eyes.”

Did Richard share any tips?

“No. He said, ‘You’ll have the best time. Go enjoy.’ The role’s a gift, as well. It’s not often you get to play headstrong women who are also in the action-based stuff as well.”

Action scenes?

“It’s been great. I’ve never worked with a weapon before – a gun. I’ve done swords.”

What was it like holding a gun for the first time?

“It’s hugely empowering in a very weird way. The adrenaline you have from holding that piece of metal is bizarre. But you get such an adrenaline buzz, wrongly, for having it. But the great thing is – Peter Firth (Harry Pearce) said to me that he’s never armed. So whenever I’m in his presence, I’m protecting him. So that was also another reason that it hugely empowered me as well.”

Did a lot of fight training for Robin Hood? Come in handy on Spooks?

“Yeah. It’s slightly different. I’m not being dragged across forest floors like a maiden in distress. It’s more, ‘Put ‘em up’ type thing.”

Shorter run of six eps – shorter than US series like True Blood?

“The one thing I love about the shorter run is that you get a lovely arc where you don’t have the chance for an episode that’s not quite as strong. Because it’s so concise you get a lovely linear feel, a journey for your character and for the show. And there’s something quite gripping about that. When you’re creating 13 or 24 eps like you do on network television in the States, you get the odd dud ep. Because how do you maintain that energy? How do you keep that fire buring for 24 or 13 eps. Luckily Alan Ball (creator and producer) handles True Blood and he’s a genius. So I think it will really serve the show.”

Episode one: Max Brown as Dimitri and Lara Pulver as Erin.

You happy being back in Britain?

“I’ve loved coming back. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I flew in three weeks before we started shooting to meet for this and a couple of other projects. And then I found out on a Wednesday morning that I’d got the job, I flew at nine o’clock on Wednesday night and started the table read at 10 o’clock on the Thursday morning and started shooting on the Sunday. So, yeah.”

Spoken to any real spies?

“I’ve done my own personal research but I haven’t had any direct contact with people. And in a funny way I don’t know if I want to. As an actor there’s so much that you want to play with and we’re surrounded, obviously, because this is the 10th season, by people who know where the parameters are within the nature of the show. So they’re guiding me. But I feel like I still have the freedom to develop her as an individual in this situation.”

Erin is headstrong. Is she going to be a loose cannon?

“I think she’s more someone that is extremely organised, extremely efficient and has got to where she is for a reason. And uses someone like Peter’s character Harry as a mentor. I think she’s someone that on the front cover of her folder would probably have a picture of Harry Pearce – when she was at university. It was like – that’s what I want. She was determined, she was confident and she was fortunate that things fell into place for her.”

Her relationship with Harry?

“It’s a bit of cat and mouse. In the sense that – when you’ve idolised someone for so long, which I think Erin truly has, with him in that position, you have an expectation of someone. And then you meet them and work with them and you’re trying to prove yourself worth to someone that you have admiration for. At the same time, you want to bring yourself to that role. And then when you see cracks in someone that your thought was flawless, it opens your mind also to who this person is and what it actually means to be a spy. There’s a wonderful line in one of the episodes that says, ‘The hardest thing about being a spy is that you never truly know who anyone is and it’s a very lonely job.’ And that, for me, encapsulated what you’re constantly doing. You’re working with people and you truly don’t know everything about them. You can’t. And so you have that lovely amount of greyness and ambiguity to play with and to be fearful of.”

Walking on to The Grid for the first time?

“I think that was the first time nerves kicked in for me. For the first two weeks I was doing more location and stunt-based stuff. It was the first time we were sitting down and I felt the weight of the reality of what we’re playing as well. Of the responsibility I guess we have to be as accurate and professional as possible. It was the first time I felt a little bit of butterflies.”

Stunt with gun?

“There was a big chase going on with Max’s character, Dimitri and I. A lot of running through kitchens and up and downstairs, gardens…in a gorgeous ball gown. And all of a sudden a gun gets produced. We didn’t go too LA with it. That was cool. That’s from the first block. Episode one, I believe. The location was a beautiful golf club out towards Rickmansworth, a beautiful building. Moor Park Golf Club.

“We’ve filmed outside in and around London. We’ve been down on the South Bank. We had a great location, this old house that was right on the Thames, that this guy had bought and renovated about 15 years ago, with 360 degree views along the river, which was a really cool location. Completely falling apart but just a fabulous location to look out over the whole of London.”

Spooks has very active fan base. Do you notice fans watching location filming?

“The only time I was really aware of it, I think they were a Spanish tourist group who gathered around the Mayor’s building when we were out on the South Bank. The kids couldn’t understand most of what we were saying but they would applaud after the director said ‘cut’. And all of a sudden iPhones were in your face with people taking pictures. That was very cute. But I guess people in London are used to it. Camera crews are nothing new. Actually, they’re like, ‘Get out of my way!’”

How does Erin develop?

“To be honest we’re getting information all the time. We’ve just got episode three. We don’t even have episode four yet and we start shooting it in a week’s time. So I probably know no more than you, in some senses. Which is great in some respects because you get your first ep and you can colour in around the premise that they’ve given you and bring whatever you want to. Then I kind of like when you suddenly go, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, have I? We’re going down that road?’ It gives you this wonderful playing area, this grey area to go, ‘OK, now I can make this bold choice with this. Great.’ It just gives you a little bit of ammunition.

“I like where she’s blooming right now, in aspects of her life, her job. I think the main thing that I’m finding with this character is that four-way pull of your professionalism, your morals, as a person within your family, within your work environment. That constant, conflicting pull. It’s really interesting to play that. What you would morally want to do and what you have to do by the book. Just that part of your job and your life, I think, is the most interesting for me right now.”

Having worked in America and been on stage there, do you still feel Britain is your home?

“I guess wherever you grew up feels like home. My husband is American…there’s something about going back to where you grew up. You just refuel. You refuel from an aesthetic place. Obviously the architecture here is just beautiful in comparison to LA and I miss that more than anything. And you just refuel. It also gives you a time of reflection. You go back and you suddenly realise what you’ve achieved or where you’ve gone in your journey.”

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