Ashes To Ashes’ Keeley Hawes Talks About DI Alex Drake

Ashes to Ashes' DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) and DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). Photo copyright of the BBC

As MI5 agent Zoe Reynolds on the hit British TV spy drama series Spooks, Keeley Hawes risked her life in the defense of the realm from international terrorism. For the past three years, the actress has focused more on home-grown threats, specifically involving the sprawling metropolis of London, as DI Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, which is currently airing its third season in the UK.  

When a gunshot wound to the head “transports” Alex Drake back to the early 1980’s, she struggles to separate fact from fiction as she tries to find her way back home to the present day and to her daughter Molly. In the show’s second season, which premiered Tuesday, May 8th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America, audiences continue along with Alex as she fights to get her real life back. The following is the second of two BBC America Ashes to Ashes Q &A’s with actress Keeley Hawes about her work on the series.  

As Ashes to Ashes continues, DI Alex Drake and the rest of the CID team are searching for suspects in an underground sewage system,. Luckily for Keeley Hawes, this scene didn’t set the tone for what her character could expect to get up to throughout the rest of the season.  

KEELEY HAWES – This season we get to see that Alex has calmed down a lot and has begun to settle into the 80’s environment. She now considers the people around her to be friends, and because we’ve moved on a year, things aren’t quite so heightened for her.  

I’ve found Alex really interesting to play this season, 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 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 trying to make contact with her in a mysterious manner.  

KH – A strange man keeps leaving Alex roses which she initially thinks is another puzzle. 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!  

Since Alex first met ber boss, the brass DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), the pair have often clashed and enjoy a tempestuous relationship. Viewers are used to their onscreen bust-ups and fiery exchanges, however, Keeley believes they shar a mutual admiration for each other.  

KH – They do still have their ups and downs, but Gene is beginning to take onboard 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.  

Keeley also reveals that there is a darker edge to this season.  

KH – When DS Mackintosh (Roger Allam) joins CID as Gene’s boss Alex instantly likes him but then she starts to see a darker side to his life. Roger Allam who plays “Supermac” is absolutely fantastic. He’s brought a mysterious side to the character and a darker side to the whole season, which we’re all really pleased with. The script writers have also explored Dean Andrews’ (DS Ray Carling), Marshall Lancaster’s (DC Chris Skelton) and Montserrat Lombard’s (WPC “Shaz” Granger) characters more this season, and we get to see a lot more of Chris’ and Shaz’s relationship.  

The 80’s was a time of flamboyant fashion, bright make-up and glitzy accessories, and Keeley admits that she had far more costume changes this season.  

KH – We haven’t gone down the silly 80’s fashion route because I don’t think Alex would wear those clothes. However, Alex definitely wears a lot more outfits this season and in one episode I think I have eight costume changes. I had one quite brilliant outfit which was a shirt with a giant pussy bow, covered in little anchors, tight jeans with red stripes down the side and anchor earrings which were on chains. It really was quite something. I also had a great Japanese look at one point. The costume department have gone to town with the details this season.  

Alex’s hair has also changed from a poodle perm to a more grown out look with a fringe. Keeley explains the reason behind the change.  

KH – My hair is now much shorter in real life because it had to undergo so much styling for the first season of Ashes followed by Mutual Friends that I had to chop it all off before it fell out. So for this season of Ashes I’ve now got a growing out perm – a bit like Cagney from Cagney and Lacey. Most of it is my own hair but I needed a bit of extra length at the back so I have a hairpiece that clips on easily.  

Although the drama itself is getting darker, Keeley admits that the set was full of laughs and there was good banter between cast and crew.  

KH – We all get on really well, thank goodness, and there was constant laughter on-set. Dean and I would regularly laugh together and, in fact, last season was the first time I’ve ever been asked to leave a set because I couldn’t stop laughing at Dean. I can honestly say we were all a bit better filming this season, but it was still very difficult not to crack up. However, laughing releases a lot of energy, so I think it is a healthy thing on-set.  

A rare treat for Keeley was driving the Quattro; an experience usually reserved for the one and only Gene Hunt.  

KH – I love driving the Quattro; the hand-break turns are particularly fun! However, there was one time when we were all in the car with a very expensive camera attached and Phil was driving. We were heading towards the end of the road, in the rain, and suddenly the brakes didn’t work! It was a hairy moment, but Phil is a very good driver and managed to stop the car; we are all still here, thank God!  

As noted above, photo copyright of the BBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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