The Spooks star reveals what’s in store in the thrilling new eighth series, which premieres on BBC One on Weds, November 4... The atmosphere could be cut with a knife as a trio of MI5’s finest operatives mutter darkly about the CIA during a desperate trawl through corrupted data to trace huge sums of money that have been stashed in secret accounts… We’re right in the thick of the action on the set of Spooks in south London where filming is underway for the explosive eighth series. The last run ended in dramatic style as Section D’s stalwart leader Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) was bundled into a car boot by a Russian secret service agent. This time around, the tension is cranked up to almost unbearable levels as Lucas North (Richard Armitage), Ros Myers (Hermione Norris) and the rest of the team battle to find their kidnapped boss. Is he dead or alive? We subjected Richard Armitage to interrogation during a break in filming the new series… It sounds like there are plenty of twists and turns coming up... "I can’t say too much because then I would have to kill you! The whole of episode one is pretty much a hunt for Harry as the team goes offline to find out exactly who has taken him. A lot of the new series concerns the provoking of two parts of the world into a conflict. It’s an incendiary, financially-based situation." Is there any romance for Lucas? "After returning from Russia in the last series, he’s now galvanised as a spy, but the other side of his life is barren. So when CIA agent Sarah Caulfield (Genevieve O’Reilly) turns up, he can’t help himself. The relationship becomes professionally useful too, and that’s quite tricky for Lucas because he’s in danger of losing himself emotionally." Does the time he spent in prison in Russia still have an impact? "In one episode the rug is pulled from under him when someone comes back and the floodgates open. We pulled out all the stops to turn him inside out and filmed flashbacks of him being tortured. I got into a weird headspace filming that – even just researching it on the internet is troubling, because the footage you can find is really shocking." Are you still surprised how topical the show is? "Definitely. There are episodes this time about energy and how it affects the political landscape, and also one about a hole in the economy. The writers use what’s happening as an imaginative springboard, so although it may feel far-fetched, when you analyse it, it’s incredibly possible. Spooks makes the incredible credible, and that’s scary." Do you worry you’ll be killed off? "There was a high death count last year and some characters are bumped off this time. That’s part of the fun, though. You know when you sign up that at some point you’re going to go. Every character is expendable." Have you had any stunts this series? "We had a fight in a swimming pool and used underwater cameras, which was interesting because I’m not comfortable in water. I wait for the day when they say, ‘Dive into this river’ and I’ll say, ‘Sorry, get the stunt guy in’. Luckily, I was the one beating someone up, so they had to be under the water most of the time." Lucas is covered in tattoos. Is that a problem to film? "You have to be careful of friction because the tattoos rub off. If it’s a love scene and you have white sheets you can get big blue and green stripes down them." Were you sad to say goodbye to Guy in Robin Hood? "Well, it was hard to get out of that wig with all that hair! Sadly, there is no more, but the series ended on a high." How different is it playing Lucas from Guy? "They are at different ends of the spectrum, and that attracted me to Spooks. In Robin Hood I could go and be really loud and nasty on a horse with a sword, while Spooks is very contained."
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.