Philip Glenister (‘Ashes To Ashes’) interview

As Ashes To Ashes returns to BBC One next month for a third and final series, the time has come for Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) to take off his snake-skin boots and park up the Quattro.


How would you describe Gene’s reaction to accidentally shooting Alex Drake at the end of Series 2?

“Well, in typical Gene style he blames Bolly for getting in the way of the gun.Gene realises he’s in big trouble and does a runner while Alex is left in a coma in hospital. He doesn’t run for long, though, because he realises he needs her help to clear his name and soon the duo are back working as a team.”

However, things are not quite as clear cut as Gene Hunt hoped. Back in CID, time has moved on and Gene is no longer the only sheriff in town. How does Gene react to this?

“Discipline and Complaints Officer, Jim Keats, is an operative brought in to oversee wrongdoings in the force. He’s also a DCI, which doesn’t thrill Gene, and his modern approach really riles him; Gene quickly realises he’s not going to get on with him! Keats poses a threat to Gene, and they seem to play a cat-and-mouse game throughout the series, trying to outwit each other. There are a lot of different sides to Keats and this causes confusion for all of the characters.”

Pivotal to the Ashes To Ashes plot is the relationship between Gene Hunt and Alex Drake who, until now, have enjoyed a fiery and flirty bond with an underlying mutual respect for one another. How does the arrival of Keats affect the pair?

“Keats subtly points Alex in the direction of Sam Tyler and she starts to investigate his death. She no longer knows who she can trust and whether Gene is actually the person she thought he was. Keats certainly causes a lot of ripples throughout CID and hopefully the audience will have a hard time working out who they can trust.”

Danny Mays is the acclaimed actor playing Keats but, despite the on-screen friction between Gene and Jim, how did you two get on when on set?

“Danny is just a great, great actor. It was very clever casting because when I originally read the script I had a preconceived idea of who would be cast and Danny is an unusual yet brilliant choice. He plays Keats really well and I loved filming the scenes with him where he verbally spars with Gene.”

While this series of Ashes To Ashes may be darker than previous ones, fans need not worry because it still retains moments of its trademark humour and the opening of episode two is a classic example…

“As part of a dream sequence we had to sing Billy Joel’s classic ‘Uptown Girl’ which was kind of crazy. It’s normally Ashley who writes these types of scenes – I’m sure he does it on purpose to embarrass us actors! However, it was good fun to shoot.

“Luckily we were all sent the music video and, while Billy Joel is an amazing singer, songwriter and pianist, he isn’t the best dancer in the world so I got away with copying him. We would have all been in trouble if the song had been Thriller or something like that! Keeley managed to get the best part. She just had to sit in the car looking utterly gorgeous while we boys did all the work!”

What was it like filming Episode 2, which also features your actress wife, Beth Goddard?

“Beth knows Matthew and Ashley really well and over the years they’ve mentioned a few times that they would write a part for her so it was funny when I was read the part of Elaine in episode two because I instinctively thought of Beth. However, I didn’t think anything more of it until I met our new director, David Drury, for a drink in Soho and he took a phone call about casting Beth Goddard. When he got off the phone I said ‘you do realise Beth’s my wife don’t you?’ which he didn’t but he immediately said ‘God, I’d better cast her now!’ It was quite funny and we loved working together.”

Was it sad filming this final series, knowing it marks the last time the whole cast and crew will work together?

“It’s been five years of my life and it’s gone by so quickly. It’s been enormous fun and a great privilege to help create and be this character but I’m going to miss playing Gene a lot, no doubt about it. I’ll miss the giggles and the outtakes – Dean and Keeley were usually the worst offenders!

“The beauty of this series is that we knew it was our last one so we just threw ourselves into it and had fun. The camaraderie between the cast and crew was fantastic and I’m definitely going to miss the familiar faces. When you work that intensely they become your family.”

So, with the set demolished and the Quattro safely in the garage, did you take any mementos to remember the Gene Genie by?

“Well I was the only one who didn’t have a plaque on my office door that could be removed so I couldn’t take it with me. I did debate taking the door off its hinges and put it on my porch but I might have ended up with half of Richmond’s police force on my doorstep asking for a cuppa so I thought better of it.

“I did take Gene’s snake-skin boots though and a firearms certificate which certifies Gene Hunt passed his firearms test in 1980. It wouldn’t be issued now though, not after he accidentally shot Bols! I would have loved to have taken the Quattro too but the reality is it’s a 30-year-old car which isn’t cheap to look after. I think Audi should light it up and display it in their showroom on the M4.”

You’re currently working on to a film project with Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Robert Pattinson…

“I’m playing Uma Thurman’s husband in Bel Ami. I’m sure she’s thrilled she’s got little old me! Filming has fitted in nicely after Ashes To Ashes, though, and it’s a great supporting role. I do have other projects on the horizon but I can’t talk about them yet – watch this space…”