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Philip Glenister - Hidden interview

Philip Glenister and Thekla Reuten in Hidden

Interview by Tim Carson

Philip Glenister speaks to us about his new four-part BBC drama Hidden, why he’d never play Dr Who, the latest on Mad Dogs and his chat with Harvey Keitel about playing Gene Hunt…

What can you tell us about Hidden and your character Harry?
Philip Glenister:
It’s a four-part conspiracy thriller, written by Ronan Bennett and I play a character called Harry Venn who’s a seemingly ordinary High Street solicitor. However, as the story progresses we find out he has a bit of a shady past which catches up with him via a character called Gina played by Thekla Reuten. She comes into his life to impart some information which embroils them in this rather heavy conspiratorial thriller.

So what’s his shady past then?
Philip Glenister:
Well, he was involved in this botched house raid with his brother and his brother’s mate when he was about 18. There are some flashbacks to that in the show – obviously not with me in a dodgy wig! I think that’s always a bad idea. I can’t really play the younger me – not anymore! Anyway in the process of this house raid his brother was shot and killed and he’s lived with that for 20 years. It’s created a very tense relationship with his own father who blames him for his brother’s death. He’s also in a marriage that’s broken up and he’s not been a very good father to his own son. So he has a few issues going on in his own life.

What appealed to you about Harry?
Philip Glenister:
The whole piece appealed really. I have this sort of thing that I do when I get a script, if I read it and it’s not to my liking I tend to pass it over to the kids as drawing paper. If I like it, it stays as daddy’s drawing paper and this was very much daddy’s drawing paper. When I read the first one I immediately wanted the second one and that’s always a good sign.

What type of scripts have you been getting? Are they all in the same mould as Ashes To Ashes and Life On Mars?
Philip Glenister:
No actually, funnily enough most of the stuff I got sent after those shows was comedy, which was fine but just wasn’t right for me. It just didn’t feel the right sort of thing or the route I wanted to go. I didn’t feel they were playing to my strengths. Not that I’m against comedy, I love comedy and I’d love to do it, but I think it needs to be more comedy-drama.

And are you a fan of conspiracy thrillers?
Philip Glenister:
Oh yeah and I think we’ve had a slew of them recently that have been good. I think what it boils down to is I like a good story. I like something that engages you and is a little bit grown-up. I loved Shadow Line that was fantastic really, really bold and brave. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea I’m sure, but I thought it was brilliant. And I thought John Simm in Exile was very, very good too. I suppose they’re slow burners if you like, where you have to do a bit of work as a viewer. And I think Hidden is in the same vein.

Do you get your share of action hero moments in Hidden?
Philip Glenister:
Not that many actually. I’m the wrong side of the interrogation table in this one! It’s confusing being thrown around a room. I do the throwing around!

Was it a difficult role?
Philip Glenister:
Well, none of them are easy. For example, the very first day of filming on this was the penultimate scene in the entire thing, which is a massive leap. You haven’t shot anything yet so you have to rely purely on instinct. The director can’t really help either as it’s the first thing he’s shot.

So in that respect nothing’s easy, especially when the story is very layered and you’re having to think: “Where would I have got to at this point?” This was a phone conversation I was supposed to be having with Thekla who wasn’t starting till the following week. So I have a producer running along side me shouting Thekla’s lines – he’s lovely but he’s no Thekla, so it’s tough. But if it was easy you’d stop doing it probably!

So what’s next for you after Hidden?
Philip Glenister:
We’ve just finished the second series of Mad Dogs and I did Treasure Island for Sky earlier this year so I’ve been away a lot so I’m planning to have little break and then there’s talk of more Mad Dogs in the New Year. So I’ll be doing that if it happens.

You said you were involved in getting Mad Dogs off the ground and producing on the first series is that something you’d like to do more of?
Philip Glenister:
Yes actually, it’s quite nice to have an input into storylines and the concept rather than being just a hired hand. It’s good to have a say in where the story goes and be part of the whole process.

Often it’s useful to get all that in before your start shooting so you know where you stand and can all agree on storylines. The trouble is sometimes you accept something on the basis of seeing one script and then the other scripts come in and you go: “That’s ridiculous, that just wouldn’t happen.” Then it’s too late. That didn’t happen on Hidden I saw all four scripts. Obviously, we tweaked but not much.

Do you ever do anything you kids can watch?
Philip Glenister:
Well, I thought Treasure Island but I’ve just seen that and it’s quite dark! What is it with me!

Would you like to play Gene Hunt again?
Philip Glenister:
It’s a tough one because it was a great part and I loved playing him. Part of you thinks yes I’d love to play him again but in the real scheme of things I think it’s been done and we’ve left it and if we went back to it the impact wouldn’t be anywhere near what it was.

How did it feel to have Gene played by Harvey Keitel in the US version?
Philip Glenister:
Interesting. I didn’t really see much of the American version if I’m honest but I did speak to him on the phone. I had no idea he was playing the part. Originally Colm Meaney had played Gene when they did the pilot in LA and then it all changed. I was on holiday and Stephen Garrett who’s the Managing Director of Kudos (the company behind Life on Mars) rang me and said: “We’re here for the read-through of Life on Mars USAand Harvey just wanted to say hi to you.” I went: “Harvey who?” He said: “Harvey Keitel.” And I’m like: “I’m sorry Stephen I’m on holiday here – what are you talking about?!” He said: “Harvey Keitel is playing Gene Hunt in the American version.” And I’m like: “Well, no one f***in told me!” That was my first reaction.

So there I am in the Channel Islands having a G&T with some friends and the phone rings and go: “Sorry I’ve got to take this it’s Harvey Keitel.” And Harvey comes on the line and goes: “Hey Phil you b*****d this is Harvey Keitel, you played this f***in part far too good, how am I going to play this you f***in’ b*****d.” I said: “You’re Harvey Keitel, you’ll be fine!” The other good thing about the US version was they named a bar after me in one of the episodes – Glenister’s. I was chuffed to bits, although they blew it up the b*****ds!

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read about yourself?
Philip Glenister:
Oh, that I’m going to play Dr Who. That it was between me and John Simm to play the new Doctor. And, no, I wouldn’t like to play Dr Who because I’m too old, it’s been done and it’s not my bag?

Is there any role you do really covet?
Philip Glenister:
No, not really. I’d like to have played James Bond, but wouldn’t we all. I’d like to be a Bond baddy actually. Maybe! I’d just like to say “Good morning 007” in a little bit of a camp evil villain voice.

Hidden starts on BBC1 on Thursday, 6 October at 9pm.

Read our exclusive interview with Thekla Reuten

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