Andrew Marr makes an excellent cameo in BBC1’s new political thriller Bodyguard – but it is Keeley Hawes who really puts on a performance. As Home Secretary Julia Montague, she dodges difficult questions with the skill of a seasoned politician and just keeps on talking.
So how does she do it? Partly it comes from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio’s tightly-written script, of course. But the actress also worked with a coach who had trained politicians on speech-giving to get her delivery completely on point.
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“When a politician talks to you, they don’t really have a conversation, particularly in those instances,” Hawes explains. “They just keep telling you what they want you to hear.
“So: ‘I’m not really interested in the next question because it might be one I don’t want to answer, so I’m going to keep talking and letting you know and speaking in soundbites all the time.’ It’s very, very controlled, and the good ones make it look as though it isn’t controlled at all.”
Hawes also scoured the internet for footage of political speeches and interviews as she prepared to play the Tory Cabinet minister.
“Politicians speak in a very different way,” she says. “I realised that as I was YouTubing the hell out of all of them, from the beginning of time. They don’t have conversations with people, they just tell you what they want you to know. And that is a very, very different thing.
“And I have lots of those sorts of things, I have lots of statements to camera, I have lots of debates, I go on the Andrew Marr Show, and I tell him what I think.”
The drama hinges on the relationship between Montague and her new Personal Protection Officer, a bodyguard called David Budd (Richard Madden). Budd is an army veteran who fought in Afghanistan, and his disillusionment with British foreign policy is completely at odds with everything Montague stands for. Will he keep her safe – or is he actually her biggest threat?
Montague herself is an ambitious woman, and she’s extremely serious about her job. She’s divorced from another MP but still has to work with him, and can be pretty caustic to her staff when they displease her. But there is more humanity hidden behind the “public facade”.
At the time of filming, Amber Rudd was Home Secretary – only the third woman in the job, after Theresa May and Jacqui Smith.
“Obviously at the time Amber Rudd was the Home Secretary, so we were aware that there might be those parallels that were going to be drawn,” Hawes told an audience at the BFI in London. “So very much not playing Amber Rudd, that was not what we were going to do.
“But of course, she’s a very good example. She’s brilliant for me to research, and it’s fascinating actually – it’s changed my ideas of politicians, as silly as that sounds. I ended up listening to a podcast on Radio 4 that Amber Rudd’s sister was giving, and she was talking about Amber Rudd’s upbringing, and being a child with her.
“And it’s sort of like the situation with Bodyguard, you want to scratch the surface and get behind it. We don’t often see that very much when we look at our politicians.”