Keeley Hawes reveals new look in her big new BBC drama – don’t mention the wig!

Keeley Hawes attending the Baftas
(Image credit: Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/REX/Shutter)

The Durells actress says she didn’t like having to a wear a wig for Summer of Rockets, which starts tonight on BBC2. 'It’s like wearing a woolly hat!'

Bodyguard star Keeley Hawes reveals a new look in BBC2’s Summer of Rockets, a semi-autobiographical drama by Stephen Poliakoff - but she wasn't a fan of the wig she has to wear.

Keeley plays Kathleen Shaw, an English aristocrat with a dark family secret in the six-part series, which starts tonight.

“I’ll have to watch what I say,” she laughs when TV Times meets her on set. “I don’t want to spoil things!”

Keeley Hawes in cold war thriller Summer of Rockets

Keeley sports a new look and a wig she didn't like in Summer of Rockets

Set in 1958, during the height of the Cold War, it follows Samuel Petrukhin, a Russian-born inventor and maker of hearing aids, who is blackmailed into becoming a spy for MI5.

Samuel (And Then There Were None star Toby Stephens) is told to report on his new friends, Kathleen, her husband Richard Shaw MP (Bancroft’s Linus Roache) and Lord Arthur Wallington (Timothy Spall, who also stars in Hatton Garden next week), but there’s far more to his new acquaintances than the British Government imagines.

Here Keeley Hawes , 43, who earlier this year starred in C4’s post-World War II spy thriller Traitors, tells us more about Summer of Rockets and that dreaded wig...

How would you describe your character, Kathleen?

Keeley Hawes: “She’s very much a woman of her time. Her life is based around being the wife of an MP, and she lives for her husband and her perfect life in this beautiful country house. Yet she has no idea about her husband’s world, his political beliefs or his associates and she doesn’t know why MI5 would be interested in him.

"The part is very alien to me, which makes it interesting to play, but it’s also quite suffocating. Ultimately that’s how she feels. She’s been in this tiny bubble and, at the end, she realises it’s not enough.

Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens in Summer of Rockets

Keeley with co-star Toby Stephens in Summer of Rockets

But there’s more to Kathleen than meets the eye, isn’t there?

KH: “Parts of their family history have been hushed up. Kathleen and her husband must live with this awful thing hanging over them. I don’t want to say more, but there are dark forces at work…”

More: Keeley talks about the final series of The Durrells

What can you tell us about Samuel?

KH: “He’s a lovely chap who strikes up a friendship with Kathleen after he helps her aunt, who’s quite deaf, but then he’s dragged into this hidden world by MI5.

"I believe Samuel is a conflation of Stephen’s father and grandfather. His father made Winston Churchill’s hearing aids, but was stopped from doing it. Years later they discovered it was because they suspected him of being a Soviet spy.”

Are you a fan of Kathleen’s outfits?

KH:: “I am, but I don’t enjoy wearing this wig – it’s like wearing a woolly hat! I don’t really enjoy being glamorous, because I’ve done so many period dramas recently and it gets tiring. You really look forward to your days off where you can let it all hang out!I find it fascinating what hair and make-up people can do. You walk into their truck as yourself and walk out looking like a completely different person. Rose Ayling-Ellis, who plays Esther, came on to set without her wig the other day and we didn’t recognise her, which was quite embarrassing!”

Summer of Rockets, starring Keeley Hawes, starts on BBC2 tonight at 9pm.

Main picture: Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/REX/Shutterstock

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.