Keeley Hawes can be found on the Emmy ballot in three categories: for her leading role in the period piece “The Durrells in Corfu” and her scene-stealing supporting turns in the crime drama “Bodyguard” and the compelling true story “Mrs. Wilson.” She reaped BAFTA bids for the latter two and featured in the Must-See-Moment winner for the shocking scene in which her character on “Bodyguard” is assassinated.
That moment came halfway through the six episodes and was akin to Janet Leigh being killed off in “Psycho.” Like Leigh who was a star in Hollywood’s golden era, Hawes has ruled British TV for the better part of two decades. She was one of the reasons that “Bodyguard” attracted record ratings in the UK (20% of the country watched the finale) and some viewers still refuse to believe that her character is not coming back.
But as Keeley confirms in our interview (watch above), we won’t be seeing Home Secretary Julia Montague again when “Bodyguard” returns to Netflix, even if she did pop up in a short film made for Comic Relief. “She’s definitely gone even if I have fun with that on Twitter.” The actress readily admits that keeping this secret turned out to be relatively easy as “I was in Corfu shooting ‘The Durrells.’ I wasn’t able to go on any of the morning shows. But even there, people wanted to know.”
For Keeley, working with Richard Madden was a highlight of making “Bodyguard.” As she recalls, “I didn’t know him at all and we met at the table read. Over the weeks of filming, we built up a friendship and trust.” Their chemistry was electric, which was a relief to the actress. “We didn’t have a lot of time for rehearsal. We had an intense week of exteriors, with the car being shot at. And then we had an intense week in a hotel with those scenes.”
This crackling thriller was created by Jed Mercurio, who gave the actress one of the best roles of her career, the corrupt copper Lindsay Denton in “Line of Duty.” That change-of-pace part earned Keeley her first BAFTA bid back in 2015. She followed that up with an heartbreaking turn as a mother trying to reconnect with her daughter who had been kidnapped in “The Missing.”
That emotionally wrenching role made the offer to play matriarch Louisa Durrell even more attractive. This widowed mother of four moved her family to Corfu in the mid 1930s and their misadventures were chronicled by youngest son Gerald, who grew up to be a renowned naturalist. Another brother, Lawrence, was a finalist for the Nobel prize in literature for “The Alexandria Quartet.” Keeley eventually took on the added job of executive producer. “It was the perfect place to start. After three seasons, I knew the show inside out and I really enjoyed it.”
In between filming seasons 3 and 4 of “The Durrells in Corfu” for PBS, Keeley played the supporting part of Dorothy Wick in “Mrs. Wilson.” This production, also for “Masterpiece,” recounts the shocking but true story of star Ruth Wilson‘s grandmother Allison who was married to a polygamist. Allison was wife number three, preceded by Gladys and then Dorothy. For Keeley, playing opposite Ruth was surreal. “Our one big scene was about 15 pages long and we shot over two days. It was like doing a mini play, a two-hander with us exploring these amazing women and their stories.”
Up next for this busy actress is another BBC period drama, “Summer of Rockets,” which gives her a long-awaited chance to work with acclaimed writer/director Stephen Poliakoff. In the fall, Keeley has a key part in the feature film “Misbehaviour,” portraying beauty pageant organizer Julia Morley who faced down feminists at the 1970 Miss World contest.
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