Life on Mars was quite simply one of the best series we have seen for years and like any show that is much loved you certainly don’t want it to finish. Luckily for us though the BBC very quickly commissioned a sequel, minus Sam Tyler (John Simm), who of course is in 1973 forever but featuring the now legendary Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and the gorgeous Keeley Hawes who plays DI Alex Drake, who like Sam, is transported into the past, this time the eighties, following a shooting. We recently caught up with Keeley to talk about the show.
What is Alex like?
She’s ballsy, confident and bright and is more than a match for Gene. Alex was a psychologist to Sam Tyler and, when she gets shot, she realises she has been propelled into the past; into the new world of Gene Hunt and the boys. She realises she is re-imagining somebody else’s creations. She doesn’t believe that they’re real; she believes they’re creations.
What is Alex’s main focus for getting home?
Alex has a daughter, Molly, to get back to in 2008 and obviously, as anyone would, she wants to get back as fast as she can. However, she does have moments that she really enjoys, like the different ways of policing, but ultimately, she wants to get back to her daughter. She enjoys her relationship with Gene Hunt – it’s sexy and fun, so there’s an emotional pull both ways, but she does want to get back to Molly and modern times.
Alex is haunted by an eerie-looking clown. What is his significance to Alex’s journey?
He’s an expression of her fears about death and Molly. He’s the very darkest, deepest parts of her brain that she doesn’t really want to go to. He is such a genius creation; lots of people don’t like clowns, especially the Pierrot clown which was very Eighties.
What do you think makes the clown so sinister?
I think it’s probably his unpredictability. I never know what he’s going to do from one minute to the next and it’s things that horror stories are made of. A clown should make you laugh, but this one actually just makes the hairs on your arm go up!
Alex is a really ballsy woman. Do you think she is brave to try to take on Gene or should she embrace his help?
It’s in her nature to take Gene on and she usually knows that she’s right, but occasionally she is prepared to back down and deals with Gene via a good sense of humour. Her knowledge of the future makes dealing with Gene easier for her. She doesn’t have the awe and respect for Gene like the others, because she finds him a bit of a dinosaur. Instead, she finds the way he carries on quite amusing, I don’t think she’s truly offended by him.
Gene and Alex have a real love-hate relationship. Do you think Alex could ever give in to Gene’s charms or will her pride always stop her?
I think their love-hate relationship is great. Quite often, when people fancy each other, they dress it up as love-hate because it’s easier to deal with. Gene and Alex go out for dinner and they have a nice time, so I think she’s actually quite surprised to learn that underneath everything, it’s possible for them to really enjoy each other’s company – which is what everyone will want to see, but it quickly goes horribly wrong.
What has been your favourite scene to film?
I love the scenes in Luigi’s since it’s great to be able to see people on screen have a drink and a smoke; it’s real and, quite often these days, you don’t see that. Generally, those scenes are at the end of the day so we’re all quite relaxed. We’re usually all in them and everybody gets on really well.
We shot some scenes with a DeLorean, which was fab – it felt really Eighties. There is nothing more Eighties than that car. It’s just like the car in Back To The Future.
Alex has some fabulous outfits. Did you wear anything similar in the Eighties?
I remember my sister wearing a denim boiler suit and I had an all-in-one – mine was more Grace Jones. I remember a mass of different colour denims all being worn at the same time. I recall having a perm quite young and wearing terrible electric blue leather, it was so bad. There was nothing classy about me or the Eighties in general. However, it was great fun and it’s always a pleasure to dress as Alex in the morning!
Is Alex’s style anything like your own?
I get to wear some Agent Provocateur underwear, that’s not too bad. It’s a kind of red basque-type thing, but that’s not in vision for very long. There is a bright, bright blue shirt that’s actually quite fun, but there’s nothing that I’d wear personally.
The series features the iconic Blitz Club. Was it fun to recreate and even have Steve Strange in to provide the music?
It was amazing. I used to go clubbing in the Nineties a fair bit and I remember Steve being on the door of a club [The Emporium, Kingly Street], but not really knowing who he was or how brilliant he was. It was great to have Steve in; it all works really well, it looks really great.
HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding provides the backdrop for episode two. What are your memories of the “Big Day”?
I remember people talking about the dress and the train and, being a girl, I was interested in a [future] Princess getting married. I seem to remember it was all about her, rather than it being about the Royals or someone marrying the future King. It was about a Princess and her dress!
What are your most vivid memories of the early Eighties?
I was five or six, so I don’t really have an enormous amount of memories of that time. Lace being worn in your hair and Madonna was much more my Eighties, which was slightly later down the line. I had a pair of awful, huge, hi-tech trainers; that wasn’t a good look so I don’t miss any of it, I have to say.