Interview with Spooks star Peter Firth:
You’ve seen several characters come and go: as the longest-serving member of the team, to what do you owe your longevity?
Why am I still here? A combination of resilience, dedication and also to give some consistency to the storyline! But, then, the beauty of Spooks is that you never know what – or who – is round the corner. As soon as the scripts arrive I check to see if I’ve made it to the end! I have seen cast members come and go.
Nothing seems to change Harry though. He’s a rock. But bringing in new characters means that the dynamics shift around him.
The series just gets better and better. Not because of the cast changes, but because it has found its style. It has a confidence now which it has earned.
Are you revered and respected on set as much as you are in the series?
There’s a bit of that. I have a bit of seniority by virtue of the fact that I’ve been with the series for longest – and I’m the oldest – but on set I’m just one of the actors.
I’m a bit jealous that I can’t leap around like the younger members of the cast. I asked for more stunts so they gave me a scene in which a car screeches to a halt and I jumped out and ruptured my calf muscle. So that was the last of my stunts – and my self-respect!
The Grid is really your domain, but do you like to get out on location?
Yes, I like being out and about. It can get rather claustrophobic being stuck in my office all the time. But Harry really is a desk man. He’s the brains, rather than the brawn.
The writers are very limited in the action scenes they can script for me – they tend to go to Rupert because he’s younger, fitter and better dressed. Let’s face it: I’m not going to get a look-in, am I? Do I sound bitter?
Which is your favourite episode in this new series?
The two-part opener is a very adventurous piece of television. It revolves around a coup in Westminster. It’s a really unusual, but actually totally plausible plot and a very full-on story.
But the best episode for Harry is episode five. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s the end of the road for one of the regulars. And it is utterly devastating for Harry. Of course, Harry being Harry, we don’t learn a whole lot more about his personal life – but we do discover a bit more about him as a person.
This series sees the relationship between Harry and Ruth develop. How did that come about?
One of the interesting things about Spooks is that quite often there are things that are not actually in the script that seem to emerge and then become part of the actual storyline.
The Harry/Ruth relationship is one of those. It was never originally scripted. We seem to have created that romance. Obviously it has started to be scripted now and, yes, it does develop in this series, but you’ll have to wait to find out if Harry, or Ruth, get their hearts broken.
Spooks thrives on contemporary and sometimes controversial storylines. Has this helped to maintain its popularity?
I think its topicality, combined with the fact that it’s just good old-fashioned fun television, has kept it popular. The audience has to concentrate to keep up with what’s going on – so it’s not the sort of telly that allows you to pop out to make a cup of tea.
Because we deal with every contentious issue that faces society today, there’s always going to be plenty of material to work with!
The writers also seem to have an uncanny ability to predict the future. Real events have a habit of coinciding with our scripts. It’s not luck; it’s judgement and the skill of the writers.
Anything you still want to do as Harry?
Well, I watch 24 and of course we all wish we had the money to do big set pieces, fast cars and huge explosions. I’d love to be in a car chase. Maybe in the next series?