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The SS-GB Interviews: James Cosmo

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The SS-GB Interviews: James Cosmo

The always excellent James Cosmo (who has been something of an underrated TV gem since the early 1970s) plays Harry Woods in the upcoming BBC alternate history thriller SS-GB.

Harry is a safe pair of hands to accompany Archer on his investigations. He resents the Occupation tremendously but unlike Archer, he’s making his own secret active stand.

Here he tells all about the five parter.

What drew you to SS-GB?
It’s just a really interesting idea: what would have happened if we had lost the Battle of Britain. What would this country have been like? That hypothesis is fascinating. It’s very easy to say that we would have fought the Nazis on the beaches. But if it had happened, there is no doubt that we could have been like the French. I think many people would have said: “Listen, we just want to keep our families alive and eat.”

Can you please outline your character for us?
Harry is Archer’s partner at Scotland Yard. Archer has been university educated and fast-tracked through The Met. Harry is a safe pair of hands to accompany him on his investigations. He resents the Occupation tremendously but unlike Archer, he’s making his own secret active stand.

Did it enhance the production to have a German director?
Definitely. Nobody springs to mind who would have done a better job than Philipp. He’s an incredibly talented director. He is extraordinarily good with actors. From his perspective, it helps that he’s German, but as far as we’re concerned, you soon forget his nationality.

Philipp has given so much to this drama. The crew adore him because he has really empowered them. He demands the best from them and encourages them to give of their best. You feel very secure with him. He has great vision and knows exactly what every scene will be like.

What impact do you think this drama will have?
Some people still remember the Second World War. I remember sweetie rations – which I have been making up for ever since! But SS-GB will play an important role and have a big impact because it will remind people about the vital struggle of the war. It depicts a Nazi Occupation of Britain that could so easily have happened.

It’s a terrific thriller that is beautifully written and directed. There is piles to enjoy in that, and in imagining what Britain could have been like. It’s quite salutary to think: “It wasn’t as cut and dried as we like to think.” SS-GB will also look amazing. It will appear polished and smooth, but it’s still a very meaningful piece of work. It will really ask questions of people.

Have you enjoyed your time on SS-GB?
Totally. I don’t usually look forward to working, but I’ve loved this, and I’ll be very sad when it’s over. It has been an absolute joy from start to finish.

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