If you happened to be a member of the criminal element during the 1980’s in London, then Ashes to Ashes‘ DCI Gene Hunt was the last person you would want to meet in a proverbial dark alley. Not one to suffer fools gladly, he has even less tolerence for those caught breaking the law. A fair and honest cop, and very often a politically incorrect one, Gene does not fool around when it comes to cleaning up the streets of London and fighting crime.
Having broken in the character’s cowboy boots playing him for two seasons on Life on Mars, Philip Glenister brings DCI Hunt’s own brand of policing forward from the 70’s to the 80’s in Ashes to Ashes (season two of which begins airing on Tuesday, May 11th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America). The following is the first of two BBC America Ashes to Ashes Q &A’s with the actor about his work on the series.
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.
PHILIP GLENISTER – In this season 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 unsavory 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 80’s metropolis of London and the bottom line is he is a 70’s copper at heart.
In this second season of Ashes to Ashes the action moves on a year from 1981 to 1982 and the CID team face tough times.
PG – Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) becomes much more part of the team. But there is a police corruption theme running throughout the season, so it does feel darker than season one; the corruption breeds a lack of trust and coherence, which is unsettling for everybody. However, viewers can still expect moments of high campiness and there are some great one-liners.
Central to the police corruption theme is Gene’s new boss, Detective Superintendent “Supermac” Mackintosh (Roger Allam), who arrives in the first episode determined to restore the reputation of the police in the eyes of the media and the public.
PG – Supermac is a highly respected superintendent who has been in the police force for a long time. He trained at Hendon and has come up through the police ranks which gained him a lot of respect from his colleagues on the force. Supermac enters CID and basically says that the police need to regroup and be accountable. I think Gene agrees with him up to a point, but then certain events lead him to question Supermac’s motives.
Gene and Alex’s relationship also continues to be fiery with a hint of simmering sexual tension beneath the surface. Does Philip think they would work as a couple?
PG – 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. 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.
Philip admits that the long hours on set did take their toll, but he clearly enjoyed working with the cast and production team who he shared plenty of laughs with.
PG – Filming eight episodes took six months so it was a long shoot, but a great bunch of people work on the show, which is one of the joys of the job. There were so many funny incidents; we laughed a lot – particularly Keeley and Dean Andrews (DS Ray Carling), who are real gigglers. In fact, they are the troublemakers! Dean’s laugh is like an animal’s and Keeley will just crack up out of nowhere. She’s pretty amazing because she can also cry on cue for scenes; her range of emotion is incredibly impressive.
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.
PG – The stunt guys could just whizz past the cameras and do hand brake 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. 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 season, 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 car actually struck him, he accidently smashed the windscreen. Luckily he was alright.
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