April 11, 2009


Keeley Hawes: ‘There’s a birth and a snog and lots of deaths’: We’re thrilled that Keeley has been busy reprising her role (and that 80s bubble perm) as DI Alex ‘Bolly Knickers’ Drake in the time-travel cop series Ashes to Ashes. And, she reveals, life has been just as frantic off screen (Maureen Paton, 05th April 2009, Daily Mail)

A former child actor, Keeley launched herself into grown-up TV as one of Dennis Potter’s dream-girl sex objects in 1996’s Karaoke, then munched her way through mountains of chips to play a plump young Diana Dors in the ITV drama Blonde Bombshell, followed by a bisexual heart-breaker in the BBC’s sapphic costume shocker Tipping the Velvet.

That role introduced her to a whole new audience, especially after she was misquoted as saying in one lesbian magazine interview that she was bisexual. ‘What I actually said was that everybody is probably perfectly capable of finding somebody of the same sex attractive – but I certainly haven’t had any lesbian relationships,’ she now says. [...]

She returns to our screens this month in Ashes to Ashes, as Detective Inspector Alex Drake, a 21st-century policewoman catapulted back to the sexist 1980s, while barely clad in a tarty off-the-shoulder red top from an undercover job. No wonder she had so many hysterics while trying to maintain her authority, especially with all that crackling sexual tension between Alex and Philip Glenister’s charismatically macho DCI Gene Hunt (who calls her ‘Bolly Knickers’ because he thinks she’s a champagne-quaffing Southerner).

The second series is darker, with a theme of police corruption, and Keeley says that Alex has developed accordingly. ‘There’s a birth and a snog and lots of deaths and a marriage, although I’m not the one giving birth or getting married,’ she grins, and won’t be drawn over who is doing the snogging.

‘Alex is less highly strung and she’s had time to go clothes-shopping, so that off-the-shoulder number has gone. But if I actually appeared in clothes that a woman DI would have worn then, everybody would say, “Where’s the fun in that?” So you have to have some artistic licence.

'Part of the fun of doing a show set in the 80s is the clothes and hair,’ says Keeley, who didn’t escape the Kevin Keegan look of the time because she got her first perm at the age of 11. ‘Back then everyone wanted to look like Chris Cagney from the female cop show Cagney & Lacey,’ says Keeley, who wears a Cagney half-wig on top of her real hair in the new series of Ashes.

She’s filming the CID interiors in the same windowless room in Bermondsey, London, where she shot the MI5 interiors for Spooks, a show that she doesn’t seem to be able to get away from.

Even while she was giving birth to a 10lb 8oz Ralph, the starstruck anaesthetist was saying to Keeley and Matthew: ‘I do miss you both in Spooks.’ ‘I felt like saying, “Shut up! Now is not the time!”’ says Keeley. ‘Ralph is going to be a tall boy – he’s already got his rugby legs.’
‘Botox makes everybody look the same. It’s much cheaper to have a fringe – it takes years off everybody’

Keeley herself is 5ft 10in, which means she often towers over her leading men – though not in the case of six-footers Matthew and Philip.

Before her big break in Karaoke, she had spent 18 months as a model from the age of 16 – albeit a lazy one, by her account, who couldn’t be bothered to go on diets. ‘I’m a size 12 and I’m very happy with it. Matthew likes me however I am, all through my pregnancies and afterwards,’ says Keeley, who told me when we last met nearly four years ago that he even said he would be happier if she were half a stone heavier (what an ideal husband). ‘Life is simply too short to think about everything you put in your mouth, and it’s not good for children to see you picking over bits of salad.’

And despite her awareness of the passing years, she’s firmly against cosmetic surgery. ‘Botox and other fillers make everybody look the same, with the big cheekbones where they fill you up. It’s much cheaper to have a fringe – it takes years off everybody,’ she grins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2009 6:42 AM
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