Hidden – Thekla Reuten interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
THEKLA Reuten talks exclusively to IndieLondon about playing the role of a mysterious lawyer in new BBC four-part drama Hidden and working alongside Philip Glenister.
She also discusses her career to date, including her experience of working with George Clooney on The American.
Q. So, tell us a little bit about Gina Hawkes, the mysterious lawyer you play?
Thekla Reuten: Well, she’s trying to lead a normal life but it’s almost like a bit of a facade. It [her life] all looks really beautiful and great but it’s hard for her to commit to anything. She doesn’t have a relationship and she’s obsessed about something in the past that she can’t let go of because the truth never came to light. As much as she tries to bury it and move on she can’t… everywhere and every day she keeps looking for clues and sources.
So, at the beginning of Hidden, when we first meet her, she’s found another clue that’s so convincing that she looks into it and that’s how she gets to meet Harry, Philip Glenister’s character. And that’s what fascinated me when I first read the script. It’s the one thing she has in common with Harry. They’re very different people otherwise, in that they both lead different lives and have been brought up in different circumstances, but they have something in common concerning what happened in the past – it’s something they can’t let go of, that’s haunting them through various images and the fact that it’s never been cleared up.
Q. A good conspiracy then?
Thekla Reuten: I thought about that a lot… how we as human beings somehow need to find closure on things even though we know maybe someone’s died and that they’re never coming back. We want to know how it happened or we want to see a body and need to clear everything up, even though we know some things can never be explained. But it is hard for some people to let go, even though finding out won’t necessarily help them in their lives – it won’t bring that person back. But sometimes dramas or happenings from 10 or 20 years ago are kept alive by people on a daily basis, whether it’s personal issues or bigger things such as what happened with Princess Diana in your country. Some people are still obsessed by that… or JFK and can’t let it go. Films and newspaper articles keep being born out of those events.
So, for these two characters in Hidden, and for Gina especially, it’s impossible for her to let go. This thing in her past is so alive for her that she’s willing to take a few risks to find out the truth. She blindly throws herself into some situations. As a lawyer, she has kept working on it and studying the case and now that she’s found a new clue, she’s quite fierce in pursuing it. It means that she goes into a situation that most people wouldn’t… she walks into the darkness. Literally, finding out the truth is almost worth more than her life because she’s so obsessed by it. But then she and Harry are drawn into a situation they can’t really foresee how big it is and which touches into the heart of British politics.
Q. You’ve said in the past that you enjoy slowly building the characters you play and then borrowing emotions from your own life. What did you borrow for Gina?
Thekla Reuten: In this case, it was more a fascination that I have. When I was growing up things like the news on TV, or newspapers, before the Internet boom, I always thought they were telling the truth, which was maybe quite naive. But more and more, and especially over the last two decades, we’ve found out how many conspiracies there actually are. We really don’t know the exact truth about a lot of things. We know there are big things going on involving huge companies and industries, whether it’s money involved or oil or things in their own country, but there are personal interests at play and it’s a very well woven network that’s hard to break down. Sometimes it is hard, for us, to know who is telling the truth.
Right now, for instance, I’m fascinated by how little we know about the food we eat. There are some rules and regulations that may not be so good for us and things that are being allowed in food that we shouldn’t be happy with, but for economic reasons, things are being kept undercover in that sense. I’m fascinated by them and sometimes feel not so well governed. I always thought when I was younger that the people who lead us try to take care of us for the best, but there can be very different motives at play and that’s clearly the case with Hidden.
Q. How was working with Philip Glenister?
Thekla Reuten: Wonderful! It was really exciting to be working with both him and the director, Niall MacCormick [ex of Wallander fame]. The first read we had was Phil, me and Niall and that was a great experience. To me, he [Phil]’s such a heavyweight as an actor. When I put him and the role I’d read together I was very thrilled because you could almost feel the synergy of what you’d read on the page combine with the knowledge that he was going to make that come to life. So, I’ve tried to watch him and learn from him. But we basically had a lot of fun. He’s such a down to Earth person and really great to work with. He’s so relaxed… always on set and very easy to get along with. We laughed a lot.
Q. How does he compare to George Clooney? Does he play any pranks like George?
Thekla Reuten: No, no! He’s not a prank player. He’s equally funny but in a very different way. He’s very much his own man and he has some very good stories. He’s quite a comedian and a real gentleman. I mean, he’s known for playing these Gene Hunts of the world but he’s so hilarious and so funny. I’d love to see him in a camp musical [laughs] – although he’d probably kill me for saying that! We danced…
Q. In between takes?
Thekla Reuten: Well, we sang musical songs and things… it’s the way you have to be when you’re waiting for whatever technical stuff to happen. But I think people who associate him with that Gene Hunt kind of persona may be surprised to find out just how charming he really is… and funny. He could play a romantic lead. I’d like to see him do that. He’s only just begun really.
Q. Will we get some closure from the series? And will there be more series in the future?
Thekla Reuten: Well, there have been some whisperings. But there’s definitely potential. The case will have closure but there’s definitely an intimate relationship that grows between them that could be expanded. I mean, it doesn’t get romantic because Gina has too much of a headache with what’s going on. But it’s an intimate relationship and she’s definitely a character who could also remain in his life in that sense. And Harry Zen is definitely a character to see more.
Q. What do you look for when choosing a role because you have a very diverse career, from Oscar nominated films such as The Twins to appearing on the West End stage or in films such as The American alongside George Clooney?
Thekla Reuten: The script and the people… the story and the people. I get that question a lot and I really try to focus on that. I guess that’s what brings me from Germany to sometimes America, the UK, my home country or Italy, which is half home to me as well. So, the story… it could be a very big exciting piece or something like Lost, which was very exciting in another way because it was entering a world you had already got to know as an audience. So, it was weird in some ways to walk into that and walk onto the set with characters you’d come to know as an audience. I also did a film called Ceasfire, for example, in Germany with a first time director [Lancelot von Naso] that was set in Iraq, When I read the script, it was very interesting to see that part of the world from a German point of view and how they perceive that war because people from Germany and Holland have been involved there.
Even in this case, it really was the script that grabbed me first. Ronan Bennett’s script was so well written that I immediately became intrigued and wanted to do it. Then, once I heard that Phil would be playing the lead, I was even more convinced. But even though I’ve mostly done movies, TV has developed in such a wonderful way over the past few years in the sense that film directors are being involved and some fantastic actors are committing to seasons of series. There are some fantastic writers working in that medium right now.
Q. How was working with George Clooney on The American? And how much did you take away from that experience, especially given that George is also a director and you have Anton Corbijn as well?
Thekla Reuten: It was definitely noticeable how all the partners on that set were so experienced and certainly you could see that George Clooney is an actor, director and producer at the same time. You just sensed that he has all three radars running in his head at the same time. But once you’ve had that experience and you’ve proven yourself that way, it’s probably a very natural thing. So, it was great to see George and Anton working so closely together and they were very open to ideas and very calm and very relaxed on set, as well as being very focused. I don’t think we ever didn’t make our schedule! So, it was of course a great learning experience for me to work with all of them.
I’ve also said before that it’s lovely to work with George because he is the way we perceive him as an audience – that’s what he is: kind hearted and very funny and making jokes all the time and very relaxed. And he’s always on set. He was never in his trailer. And that was very surprising to me. I mean, I didn’t have the weight on my shoulders that he had of being recognised and followed all the time, even in a tiny Italian village. I could have imagined him wanting to be alone for a bit and taking time out in his trailer. But he was on set all the time with his people and having fun. He was very friendly and very professional.
Q. You drew widespread critical acclaim when you appeared alongside Gael Garcia Bernal in Blood Wedding at The Almeida Theatre a few years ago. Would you consider returning to the West End?
Thekla Reuten: Definitely. I’d love to! It’s a privilege to do theatre. I did theatre at school and in Holland. I did a lot of theatre in the beginning and although I’ve been very lucky to do a lot of film it’s always wonderful to go back to theatre like what happened at the Almeida. I think it’s very valuable as an actor to throw yourself back into having that direct connection with an audience on-stage and work that muscle. It is a very different type of work and equally fascinating. I mean, I’ve very much in love with filmmaking because I really love the way you can tell stories with a camera and how music and everything contributes to the story in a very direct way. But I also think it’s very valuable to come back to theatre, so if the right script came along I would love to come back to London and do some more.