Bodyguard star Richard Madden is on a train to London Euston with his two children when he notices something suspicious as a passenger conceals themselves in an onboard toilet.
- Read on for reasons including what happens next in Jed Mercurio’s new BBC1 Autumn six-parter
So starts episode 1 of the next BBC1 six-part series from the pen of Jed Mercurio who was behind 2 of our TV favourites Line Of Duty and Cardiac Arrest.
He joins us here at BFI Southbank for the screening of that opening episode, to be shown after the summer break, with 2 of its stars Richard Madden (Game Of Thrones), as the titular bodyguard, and Line Of Duty‘s Keeley Hawes as the home secretary.
The dilemma at the show’s heart is that the bodyguard is an Afghanistan veteran hiding his PTSD who disagrees with the home secretary’s views about sending our boys into such conflicts abroad. How safe is she in his hands?
‘I don’t need you to vote for me, just protect me,’ is a key quote from the home secretary to her bodyguard.
‘She started off sounding posher,’ remembers Hawes of her character who is more right wing than the prime minister she is undermining. ‘Jed said he didn’t want that. I had just finished playing Mrs Durrell.’
She studied politicians to perfect how they address the public during TV appearances. Hawes says: ‘They’re not really having conversations. They just keep telling you what they want you to hear and they just keep talking in soundbites. Some of them are brilliant at it.’
She wouldn’t want to make the sacrifices that her character has to. ‘I don’t know whether I’d want a bodyguard. Why would you choose that? I have 3 children , I can’t imagine something like that taking over my life.’
Mercurio explains why his bodyguard is not what you might expect. ‘He’s not an automaton. I talked a lot to Richard about what grounds him as a person. He’s always assessing whether a life is worth saving and that’s the heart of the drama.’
Madden is asked about the use of his own Scottish accent for the character. ‘It’s 1 less thing to think about,’ he says.
He refuses to be drawn when an audience member suggests what a convincing James Bond he would make. Mercurio interjects: ‘I couldn’t think of a better candidate.’
Hawes is especially happy with the freedom that Line Of Duty has granted her. ‘I’m very lucky that after Line Of Duty people in terms of casting me have been more imaginative in terms of the things I’ve been offered.
‘They’ve realised I’m willing to go to lengths that may be they thought I wasn’t.’
Interviewer Kate Adie mentions the similarities between Bodyguard and Line Of Duty which include fearlessness when it comes to including lengthy silences. The start of the 1st episode mentioned in the opening paragraph is not wordless but is some of the most edge-of-seat drama we’ve seen in a long time.
She also talks about the camera’s infatuation with Madden’s face and how, for an inscrutable bodyguard, there are still clues about his illness in that 1st episode.
She also asks what message Mercurio is trying to convey here. ‘There are 2 very different points of view here. I’m not saying 1 is right and 1 is wrong. What I’m trying to present is 2 characters who are plausible.’
Asked what he is currently thinking now the show is about to air, he says: ‘At the moment it’s just all about getting these next Line Of Duty scripts finished.’