Keeley Hawes interview

Keeley Hawes on her latest role in Eighties cop show Ashes to Ashes

Former Spooks star Keeley Hawes returns to the small screen this week in time-travel drama Ashes to Ashes, BBC1’s follow-up series to the award-winning Life On Mars. She talks about playing police shrink Alex Drake and resurrecting her dreaded ‘80s perm.

Were you worried about joining a cast who’d already worked together for Life On Mars?

Yes, it was terrifying! But the boys have made me feel so welcome and we had a really good laugh making it. Life On Mars was really quite blokey but they tell me they’ve been giggling much more this time round.

We hear your character, Alex, gives them a bit of a run for their money.

She does, and I think they sort of enjoy the challenge, like men do! A lot of this series is set in 1981 and in those scenes Phil Glenister’s character Gene, is very sexist towards Alex. He calls her Mrs Woman all day long, but there’s a certain chemistry between them too.

Did you have fun choosing Alex’s costumes?

I think I’ve done quite well out of it, really. We tried all sort of looks, like the Dynasty thing, but in the end we went for tight jeans, suede boots and a white leather biker jacket. It’s very Anita Dobson in EastEnders.

What were you doing in the ‘80s?

I was only five or six so I don’t remember much apart from the clothes and my Girls World-style perm, which is another look we’ve re-created for Alex!

We bet your husband, Matthew MacFadyen [who Keeley met while filming Spooks] loved that.

Well, actually, Matthew has been given his own ‘80s look. He’s playing a Jimmy Saville-type character in episode seven, which is very funny. He just sits in the bath and eats a lot so it’s a bit of a departure for him.

It all sounds very tongue-in-cheek.

It’s quite serious too, not a comedy, but I don’t think I’ve ever been chucked off a set for laughing so much. Dean [Andrews] and I aren’t supposed to like each other at all so it’s sort of like, ‘Oh, you f*cker,’ when actually we’re killing ourselves.

Ashes to Ashes starts Thursday 7 February, 9pm, on BBC1.

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