Being a spook almost as good as being Bond

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Being a spook almost as good as being Bond

Message  Luce le Jeu 5 Nov 2009 - 19:57

Par Fiona Rae (The New Zealand Herald, 10 février 2004).
An MI5 team disguised as gas inspectors prepare to bug a house. They tell a neighbour there's been a gas leak and spray gas in the air to authenticate the story. They go into their target house.

"Shit, I've let the bloody cat out! They never said there was a moggy in there!"

Extensive efforts are made to retrieve said cat and even, as it was raining, blow-dry it.

It's the kind of detail in new super-cool spy drama Spooks (TV One, 8.35pm) that is so absurd it could only be true.

"It couldn't be made up," confirms Matthew Macfadyen, who plays lead character Tom Quinn.

"Everyone laughed it off when we were shooting it, but it's the really silly things that are true."

Another rather more grim detail is a gruesome death in the second episode when an agent has his hand and head thrust into a deep fat fryer and is then shot.

"Apparently that used to happen in Ireland," says Macfadyen.

The scene made headlines in England and the BBC received more than 300 complaints.

But the BBC is not complaining about the ratings for the series, or the publicity generated when Spooks caused a rush of applications to the real MI5.

Macfadyen says when he heard that he laughed his head off.

"We'd consigned all these bright young people into years of drudgery and pencil-pushing.

"I think it's a very weird job and an important job and I'm kind of fascinated by why they do it - why people become spies. We were trying to work it out, because it's certainly not for the money, and it's not for any kind of reflected glory, because no one knows who you are or what you do really.

"I guess it's just a challenge for some people or a case of for Queen and country."

The real job is, of course, not nearly as exciting as the fictional one depicted in Spooks.

"We practically save the world every week and I'm sure we're wearing much nicer clothes than the real people at MI5 are wearing," laughs Macfadyen.

Ironically, filming the show isn't as exciting as it looks - the hours are long and tedious.

However, one nice thing for Macfadyen about Spooks is that he met his girlfriend, Keeley Hawes, on the set.

She was last seen here in Tipping the Velvet - "that disgusting, revolting, evil lesbian romp," he jokes.

Hawes plays fellow agent Zoe Reynolds, who dons nearly as many wigs as Jennifer Garner in Alias to go undercover.

The cast's training included meeting several former MI5 spies, someone from the CIA and a couple of Russians.

It's not as if they divulged a lot of secrets, however.

"They were friendly, you know, but they weren't allowed to sit down and tell us all the filthy secrets they knew," says Macfadyen.

"More than anything it was just meeting them and getting a feeling of how they were and how they carried themselves. For me, that was the most important thing, just to meet them. They could have made up a load of rubbish."

Macfadyen, affable and charming on the phone, is in the midst of filming series three of Spooks (we'll be seeing series one and two together).

He agrees that with its split screens and blue lighting, Spooks is reminiscent of US shows such as 24.

"I'm sure we've borrowed heavily and I think we kind of aspire to that American TV drama which they do so well, like 24 and The West Wing and Six Feet Under, which is just superb.

"I think 24 is fabulous. I can't get enough of it. It's terrible, it's like an addiction, once I start watching it. My girlfriend bought me the DVDs so I just watched one after the other. I couldn't get enough of them."

Spooks was conceived before the September 11 attacks, he says, but started filming afterwards.

"It was kind of prescient, because they had the idea before and the production company took it to another TV station and they said, 'No, it's not really relevant', and then they took it to the BBC."

He thinks they do have to be careful about the way terrorists are portrayed.

"I think it would be irresponsible to start making big, broad brush strokes in this day and age."

The series ranges from tonight's pro-lifer blowing up doctors to a presidential visit to London ("We didn't have an anti-war march," he says, referring to Bush's visit last year) and corruption in MI5.

Macfadyen also has a connection with New Zealand: he is the lead in a film adaptation of Maurice Gee's novel In My Father's Den, which was shooting here last year around Alexandra and Auckland.

He "adored New Zealand" and would like to come back with Keeley sometime. Meanwhile, he's having a great time playing Quinn.

"It's like the ultimate of what you imagine when you when were little. If I'm not a James Bond, then Tom Quinn's pretty good."
David Oyelowo (left), Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes are working for MI5 in Spooks.
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