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The Trick — all you need to know about the 'Climategate Scandal' drama

The Trick with Jason Watkins has arrived on Netflix.
The Trick with Jason Watkins has arrived on Netflix. (Image credit: BBC/Vox Pictures)

The Trick was shown on BBC1 in 2021 and is now available on Netflix worldwide. It tells the real-life story of the "Climategate Scandal" from 2009 by following world-renowned scientist Professor Philip Jones, the director of climate research at the University of East Anglia who found himself at the centre of an international media storm. 

Jason Watkins stars as Professor Philip Jones who was persecuted when some sections of the media picked up on the emails and used them to debunk the idea of global warming. Victoria Hamilton plays his wife Ruth.

"It’s rare that a drama marries the personal and the public in such a compelling way — the urgent need to tackle the effects of the earth’s warming is not going away and the research into this project has been sobering," says Jason Watkins. "It’s a privilege to play the brilliant scientist, Phil Jones, whose own private world was so threatened from outside and whose research and efforts have been so vital globally in combating the effects of climate change. I’m delighted to be performing alongside Victoria Hamilton and the whole exceptional cast."

In terms of the battle against climate change, the film can’t be screened soon enough.  "This is a timely and important piece about a subject which is rarely seen in drama — the climate change crisis. This shocking true story speaks of the complexity of the challenges we face in tackling it," says BBC's director of programming Piers Wenger.  

With time running out to save the planet, The Trick  looks at the devastating consequences some leaked emails from climate change scientists had on those trying to prevent the crisis. Here’s everything you need to know about the one-off drama including its cast, plot and much more….

The Trick release date

The Trick is currently on Netflix for UK, US and worldwide audiences to enjoy on the streaming service. The Trick was first shown on BBC1 on Monday October 18 2021 at 8.30pm, then was available to watch on BBC iPlayer. It is 90 minutes long. 

Is there a trailer for The Trick?

Yes! A trailer for the 90-minute film The Trick has been released giving us a great look at Jason Watkins in action as the unassuming Professor Jones, not to mention the brilliant Victoria Hamilton as his wife. Take a look below...

The Trick — the real story behind the drama

The Trick follows the events of 2009 when Professor Philip Jones headed up the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which several emails were hacked and leaked to the public. Climate change deniers falsely used these as evidence that Professor Jones and his fellow researchers were faking the evidence that the planet was heating up to dangerous levels. 

He faced a barrage of hate, including death threats, and it set back attempts to halt climate change for around a decade. The impact on Professor Jones himself was huge. "Within a day or two reporters were outside my house, knocking on my neighbours’ doors, digging for dirt," he recalls. "I got hundreds of abusive and threatening emails. I knew the accusations were nonsense. But my health deteriorated. 

"I found it difficult to sleep and eat. I was under intense, spiralling pressure and felt I was falling to pieces. Looking back, I suppose I was having some kind of a nervous breakdown."

'The Trick' stars Jason Watkins and Victoria Hamilton as Professor Jones and wife Ruth.

The Trick stars Jason Watkins and Victoria Hamilton as Professor Jones and wife Ruth. (Image credit: BBC)

The Trick cast — Jason Watkins on playing Professor Jones

Jason heads up the cast of The Trick, playing the role of Professor Philip Jones. He says: "It’s an important part to play at the moment as the timing couldn’t be better with the now overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening and it’s happening because of man’s intervention. There have been several reports coming out recently and I think those people who were sceptical of it now realise that it is absolutely real, tangible and needs to be addressed. With the COP [United Nations Climate Change Conference] coming up where world leaders are coming together to see how best to tackle it, it’s wonderful timing for that. 
"I don’t have a strong memory of the scandal at the time, back in 2009. I remember the parliamentary committee hearing and I remember thinking it was a conspiracy theorists dream in that they were discrediting what was, I would consider, hard evidence. It’s not about politics, it’s about addressing what is a very real problem. One of the subtitles of these scripts is the “lost decade” which is the ten years we have lost due to the discrediting of Phil’s work. 
"It’s a brilliant story of an individual and a family being put through the mill by forces beyond their control. They are a loving couple that had known each other since University. They had a whole life together doing good work. Phil was doing world-leading work before he was discredited as a professional and in his personal life which was devastating for him and his family. This man is working selflessly and is then dragged through the mud by dark forces. The discrediting of something that is so vital to the world is not uncommon and has a history. He’s a brilliant and interesting man." 
Last year Jason Watkins starred in the hit drama Des playing Brian Masters, killer Dennis Nilsen’s biographer. You will also recognise him as Britain's Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in The Crown and for his role as Simon Harwood in the TV series W1A. Jason is a hugely prolific actor and has also been in The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies, Trollied, A Very English Scandal and Hold The Sunset

Jason Watkins stars in The Trick On BBC1.

Acclaimed actor Jason Watkins stars as Professor Philip Jones in The Trick. (Image credit: BBC)

Jason Watkins as Brian Masters in ITV drama 'Des'.

The Trick star Jason Watkins as Brian Masters in ITV drama Des. (Image credit: ITV)

The Trick cast — Victoria Hamilton on playing Ruth Jones

Professor Philip Jones’ wife Ruth was fiercely supportive of her husband and fought to exonerate him and the science itself. She’s played by Victoria Hamilton, who’s best known for playing The Queen Mother in the first two series of The Crown. Victoria has also starred in Doctor Foster, Life, Cobra and Larkrise to Candleford. She’s also taken on period dramas, for example the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in which she played Mrs Forster.

Victoria says of filming The Trick: "I was lucky enough to have several long Zoom calls with Ruth herself during preparations for the role where she was incredibly generous with her time and her explanations of what she and Philip endured were invaluable. This is absolutely the right time for this story to be told. It is a warning of the price we will pay for allowing ourselves to doubt the word of climate change scientists. 
"I had a dim memory of the events depicted in this film, as I'm sure many will, but I had no idea of the far-reaching consequences of this series of events. The seeds of doubt concerning climate change research were sown here and the result has been a huge loss of preparation time for the crisis we now find ourselves in."

In 'The Trick' Victoria Hamilton plays Professor Jones' wife Ruth.

In The Trick Victoria Hamilton plays Professor Jones' wife Ruth. (Image credit: BBC)

The Trick star Victoria Hamilton played the Queen Mother in the first two series of The Crown.

The Trick star Victoria Hamilton played the Queen Mother in the first two series of The Crown. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Trick cast — George MacKay on playing Sam Bowen

George MacKay also stars in The Trick, playing Sam Bowen, who worked in PR and helped Professor Jones reveal the truth to the world. 

George says: "Sam is young man who worked in PR and whose job it was to help Phil Jones get his truth out there. I was drawn to the role of Sam because of his involvement in the piece as a whole. I love the story of The Trick and feel this real-life happening explores both vital, well documented, science about climate change, as well as exploring the importance of truth. The story is an exploration of truth as much as anything; how it can be manipulated, by media, by ourselves, and how a commitment to true truths are vital to us.
 
"It's important to be telling this story because, with legislative action and a reinvigorated commitment to protecting our planet being an essential circumstance of the now, as well as new learnings coming from the way in which we communicate and form our beliefs; as a story that deals with all of this, and the real-life ramifications of the confusion of all of the above, I think this is a very pertinent time to tell this story. That said, any stories about communication and commitment, I think are inspiring subjects to make stories about and learn from. I hope it inspires action and perspective. 

"I was not aware of any of the events in the piece before being a part of the project; and when I read Owen’s script for the first time, I was completely taken in, as I hope viewers who were not aware of the events of the story will be too." 

George MacKay previously played Lewis Aldridge in the series The Outcast, about a young boy struggling to fit into post-war English life after witnessing the death of his mother. He also starred in the 2014 film Pride and the Stephen King inspired show 11/22/63 you’ll see him in the upcoming Steven Spielberg pre-war film Munich — The Edge of War, released on Netflix in early 2022. He's currently filming another BBC1 drama The Gallows Pole.

George MacKay and Jerome Flynn in 'The Trick'.

George MacKay as Sam Bowen and Jerome Flynn as Neil Wallis in The Trick. (Image credit: BBC)

George MacKay in Pride from 2015.

George MacKay in Pride from 2015. (Image credit: Alamy)

The Trick cast — Jerome Flynn

Jerome Flynn plays Neil Wallis in The Trick, but the actor is best known for his role as Paddy Garvey in the much loved 1990s series Soldier Soldier. Jerome also appeared as Bronn in Game of Thrones and has had roles in Ripper Street, Black Mirror and Badger.

Jerome Flynn plays Neil Wallis in 'The Trick'.

Jerome Flynn plays Neil Wallis in The Trick. (Image credit: BBC)

Jerome Flynn in Game Of Thrones.

Jerome Flynn as Bronn in Game Of Thrones. (Image credit: HBO)

Who else is starring in The Trick?

The Trick boasts a stellar cast in supporting roles, including Adrian Edmondson, who shot to fame in 1980s series The Young Ones, playing Edward Acton. More recently Ade Edmondson starred in EastEnders as Jean's beau Daniel Cook, The Pact and Save Me. And look out for another former EastEnders star Pooky Quesnel (also The A Word, The Victim) as Edward's wife Stella Acton.

Keeping Faith’s Aneirin Hughes and Rhashan Stone (Keeping Faith, Finding Alice) also appear as Trevor Davies and Gareth Ellman, alongside Line of Duty star Tara Divina playing DS Anita Gupta and David Calder (Time, The Hatton Garden Job) as Sir David King . Richard Elfyn (The Pact) and Justin Salinger (Hanna) are playing DSI Julian Gregory and Richard Girling.

'Time' stars Sue Johnston and David Calder.

The Trick star David Calder (who plays Sir David King) in another BBC1 drama 'Time' with Sue Johnston.  (Image credit: BBC)

The Trick locations

Filming took place for this one-off drama on location in London, Cardiff and Norfolk and finished early in 2021.

'The Trick writer Owen Sheers

The Trick screenplay was written by BAFTA-nominated Owen Sheers who was behind Aberfan, The Snow Spider and The Green Hollow. Talking about the movie’s importance he says, "The Trick is both a story of a particular moment in time, and a story for our times. The events that came to be known as Climategate were a powerful coalescence of forces that have since shaped much of our last decade. 

"At its heart, however, this is also a story about the people caught at the eye of a new kind of storm, and how in the end despite attack from all sides, the integrity and truth of their important work won through."

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.