“Frankly, the less we talk about him, the better,” says The Game’s creator Toby Whithouse of Tom Hughes. “He’s one of those nauseating human beings who looks like a model, is an extraordinary actor, has incredible presence, will be a huge star and is also an absolutely delightful bloke.”
Well, sorry Toby, but we do want to talk about him. After all, this is an actor who was compared to Benedict Cumberbatch when BBC2’s spy thriller The Game aired in the United States. His cover is blown.
From Ricky Gervais to Jenna Coleman, The Lady Vanishes to Dancing on the Edge, we chart the stars and shows that have made Tom Hughes the next big thing in British acting talent.
Like many Brit actors, his first screen break was on Casualty. Unlike all those other actors, he was in period costume, appearing in the soap spin-off Casualty 1909. We should have known he’d be a smooth operator from the moment we saw him in a white coat.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant cast the still little-known Hughes in their coming-of-age film Cemetery Junction. If you saw it, you might remember these dance moves…
Hughes played Bruce Pearson, a free-living, womanising teen growing up in 1970s Reading. Gervais was mightily impressed, saying, “He is a rock star and a film star who embodies the spirit of Liam Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft and James Dean.” Not a bad endorsement.
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (2010)
Remember that rock star heritage? It’s not just Gervais who thinks so.
Hughes featured alongside Andy Serkis in Ian Dury biopic Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, playing musician Chaz Jankel.
Hughes says he took inspiration from Serkis’s method acting: “He blew my mind,” he said. “He never really came out of character. He wouldn’t be the bastard that Ian Dury could be when you weren’t filming, but he did go really deep into it. That level of commitment really inspired me.”
Although, looking at Hughes snapped alongside Serkis and Mick Jagger’s son James in 2010, it’s clear who’s got the best rocker pose.
Tom Hughes. The name itself isn’t particularly memorable, but perhaps it’s a blessing to have a British star with a name shorter than six syllables.
And anyway, he’s more than made up for any nomenclative deficiency by starring alongside some truly fabulous ‘names’: Ophelia Lovibond in Eight Minutes Idle, Chiwetel Ejiofor in Dancing on the Edge, and Tuppence Middleton in Hitchcock remake The Lady Vanishes. It’s safe to say that plain old Tom held his own.
Hughes’s highest-profile TV role to date, starring as the unnervingly debonair Julian in the BBC2 miniseries. Fellow British young star Jenna Coleman was also part of the cast – wonder what happened to her? – but it was Hughes who shone through in this jazzy, peculiar period piece from director Stephen Poliakoff.
The Game (2015)
So here we are, the reason everyone’s talking about Tom. Hughes plays MI5 ‘honeytrapper’ Joe Lambe, a spy who exploits his seductive good looks to extract information through “bedding secretaries and forgotten wives”.
But Lambe has a past of his own that he’d like to keep under wraps. Hughes says in The Game he has found “the first character that I would happily spend multiple years with, because there is so much behind him and yet he gives it away drip by drip. You hardly know a thing, but hopefully – if I’ve done my job right – you just feel this tension, this desperation behind the mask.
“Everything’s a contradiction, everything is a lie, even to himself.”
This isn’t Hughes’s first spy thriller for the BBC – he appeared alongside Bill Nighy in Page Eight – but this is the first time he’s led the line.
The drama is written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, and features Brian Cox as the under-fire MI5 boss known only as “Daddy”.
So, to sum up: the style of a rock star, the elusiveness of a spy, and the louche looks of a model. Maybe Whithouse is right – Tom Hughes is so good it’s “nauseating”.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news