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The Last Enemy - Robert Carlyle interview feature

The Last Enemy

Compiled by Jack Foley

ROBERT Carlyle is anxious not to reveal too much about the man he plays in The Last Enemy – and understandably so…

“My character is Russell and that’s pretty much all I want to say, otherwise I would have to kill you!,” he jokes. “He’s been described as a ‘walking deadly weapon’, yet the director calls him a ‘Ninja’. I like characters that are ambiguous and Russell certainly is. We don’t know what Russell is about, whose side he is on and when he is telling the truth.”

Russell has a Secret Service background and suddenly appears on the trail of Stephen (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Yasim (Anamaria Marinca).

“He is a super-intelligent, ex-army kind of guy,” continues Carlyle. “He does not have an academic background but he can look after himself in that SAS way. He is anonymous, but he is definitely dangerous and hides in the shadows. He would take you out without a moment’s hesitation if that was his job.

“He appears to be quite ordinary but he could be taking your fingerprints and your identity. He’s probably the most filmic character of all and you have to follow the story closely and can only get it to the end.”

It was the mysterious character of Russell and the quality of Peter Berry’s script that persuaded Robert to make a rare appearance in a TV series.

“I was fascinated that the script was a real page-turner,” he recalls. “I just had to find out what was going to happen at the end and I read the five and a half hours straight off. I have worked with Gub Neal before in Gunpowder, Treason and Plot and he’s sent me scripts over the years and this was one that I could not put down.”

And commenting on the surveillance issues the mini-series raises, as well as some of its other contemporary themes, Robert goes on: “The whole idea of surveillance upsets me. I think we are in danger of slipping into a Big Brother society, it’s just a question of when. We are surveyed and tracked all the time. In terms of terrorism, it’s a good thing. But what about when it’s used against you?

“I didn’t know much about the whole ID card situation before reading the script, and what is annoying is that it will come in without people knowing enough about it. Most of us don’t do anything illicit, but any mistake would be on your card forever.

“In the drama, there is TIA, a central database collecting everyone’s information and radio frequency ID which Russell uses to track people. These are almost available now – cars may be tracked through a black box and people can use it to check your speed and where you are travelling to. On the one hand, it’s a good safety factor, but we don’t necessarily want someone telling us that we are exceeding 30mph.

“Everything in the script is accurate and it’s disturbing and frightening. I hope people will take notice of the drama and it may provoke them into worrying whether we live in a free country anymore. Your day-to-day existence is not what you think it is.”

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