With appetites whetted by the glossy trailer currently airing on BBC One, fans of the channel’s Ashes To Ashes are eagerly anticipating the return of DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes).
Glenister, recently seen as demon slayer Rupert Galvin in Demons and donning breeches as Mr Carter in Cranford, explains why he still relishes playing the politically incorrect Mancunian.
“We wouldn’t have a series if Gene Hunt suddenly became politically correct!” laughs Philip,”we’d have to wrap it up.”
It’s true that over the last four years the public have taken the character of Gene Hunt to their hearts and Philip attributes this to Hunt’s ideals.
“In this series of Ashes To Ashes Gene is still out there being a maverick, but what I always say about him is that, while he bends the rules, he never breaks them. He merely manipulates and stretches them a bit! If anything he is a decent and honest copper and he’ll usually only collar unsavoury characters. I love the western connotation with Hunt; he is exactly like a Sheriff and sees himself very much in that guise. However, the problem is that he is out of his depth in the Eighties metropolis of London and the bottom line is he is a Seventies copper at heart.”
In this second series the action moves on a year from 1981 to 1982. With the passage of time Drake, who found herself back in time after being shot at in the series openers, is slightly more relaxed with her surroundings.
“This series we get to see that Alex has calmed down a lot and has begun to settle into the 1980s environment. She now considers the people around her to be friends and, because we have moved on a year, things aren’t quite so heightened for her,” explains Hawes.
“I’ve found Alex really interesting to play this series,” continues Keeley, “because the lines are blurring between what she thinks is real and what isn’t. She is now beginning to wonder whether the 2008 part of her life, including her daughter Molly, only ever existed in her head. It’s definitely been an interesting angle to explore rather than the story simply concentrating on her trying to get back to the present.”
Viewers are also introduced to an enigmatic stranger who is watching the DI and is trying to make contact with her in a mysterious manner.
“A strange man keeps leaving Alex roses which she initially thinks is another puzzle,” Hawes explains. “She starts to investigate further, believing that if she solves the puzzle she may be able to go home. There are certainly lots of twists but I can’t give the game away!”
What about the relationship between the two coppers? “They do still have their ups and downs,” reveals Keeley, “but Gene is beginning to take on board different ways of policing and is starting to understand forensics and the importance of collecting evidence. Occasionally he and Alex are quite in tune and they definitely admire each other to a certain extent.”
“If you just had a show based on ‘will they won’t they’ it wouldn’t be that interesting; hopefully their relationship is a bit more complex than that,” adds Glenister.
“It’s the moment things spill over from a professional capacity to a personal one when complications set in and you start to question whether they would work as a couple. I think Gene is an enigma and I play him with ambiguity rather than having a preconceived idea of whether Gene fancies Alex or not. There are moments when he teases her and she teases him but Gene will never give anything away!”
Of course an interview about Gene Hunt wouldn’t be complete without asking about the love of his life, the Quattro. Philip chuckles as he recounts his experiences of driving what many people consider an antique.
“The stunt guys could just whizz past the cameras and do handbrake turns. I then had to get in the car for the interior shots and there would be two cameras stuck to the front and one on the side. I’d have to make sure I didn’t drive too close to the curb otherwise I would have taken one out on a lamppost.
“The camera stuck to the windshield also meant I couldn’t see anything out the front and the heavy equipment combined with actors, who had spent five-and-a-half months eating location food and syrup sponge, left the poor old Quattro scratching along the floor!
“I always enjoy the driving stuff, though, especially throwing around a car which isn’t my own,” adds Philip. “We had two Quattros this time round so we weren’t stuck if one broke down. In fact we did have a couple of instances with the Quattro while filming this series, both involving the stunt men and not the cast I hasten to add! First a stunt guy smashed one of the car’s front lights when we were filming a chase scene and the two cars clipped each other. The second incident involved a scare when the Quattro had to hit one of the stuntmen. Unfortunately when the Quattro actually struck him he accidentally smashed the windscreen. Luckily he was alright.”
Ashes to Ashes returns to BBC One soon…