Rory Kinnear stars in the first episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, a new three-part Channel 4 mini-series of suspenseful, satirical stand-alone dramas with a techno-paranoia bent.
Also starring Lindsay Duncan (Doctor Who) Donald Sumpter (Being Human), The National Anthem will air at 9pm on Sunday 4th December and is a political thriller in which the fictional Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) faces a huge and shocking dilemma when Princess Susannah, a much-loved member of the Royal Family, is kidnapped.
CultBox caught up with Rory to find out more…
Can you tell us what attracted you to Black Mirror?
“I was a fan of Charlie’s writing and by page five I was on the edge of my chair thinking ‘you can’t write this’, then from what is a fairly outlandish premise comes a very well-constructed, sensitive and thought-through comment and satire on the modern age.
“It doesn’t let up and rather than trying to tell a story over 15 to 20 episodes, he’s doing it an hour with three different stories. With this one in particular you go up and down with all sort of emotions. By the end you should be run ragged by it!”
Had you seen Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set series?
“I hadn’t no, my partner had no and absolutely loved it. My partner had said it was one of the best TV events she’d ever seen, so it got a thumbs up from her.”
Can you tell us a bit about your character, Prime Minister Michael Callow, in The National Anthem?
“Yeah, it wasn’t trying to be any Prime Minister that you necessarily recognise. I guess as I’m playing it then he’s a younger Prime Minister and you sort of have to imagine what sort of Prime Minister he is before the drama starts.
“He’s married with a young child and he’s obviously gone up the ladder of the political world very quickly. But within this eight hour period that the story takes places over, his world before him seems to come crumbling down.”
Were there any character traits that you took from previous Prime Ministers?
“Well, at one point he gets quite lairy and physically assaults one of his staff. Obviously I’d read about Gordon Brown’s temperament… Equally, when you see him with the public there’s that easy-going charm and ease with them that Tony Blair had.
“But none of it was modeled on anyone particularly, it was an idea about how anyone becomes Prime Minister so I just thought how I would do it.”
The first episode has a great cast; what were they like to work with?
“They were great. The whole shoot was only ten days. I’d worked with Lindsay earlier in the year doing a TV version of Richard II, so we’d been down in Pembrokeshire together.
“We’d had a car journey together eating sandwiches from Cardiff to Pembrokeshire so I knew her. I knew Patrick Kennedy who plays the Head of Security and Tom Goodman-Hill who plays the Andy Coulson or Alistair Campbell type figure. He was also in Richard II, so it was a reconvening of old friends!”
Channel 4 have described the show as a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected. Are you a fan of those shows?
“Yeah, I certainly remember Tales of the Unexpected, less so on the Twilight Zone front.
“I’d never really been interested in sci-fi and I thought that’s what The Twilight Zone was, but I always used to enjoy and be terrified by Tales of the Unexpected. I was a huge Roald Dahl fan.”
Do you think Black Mirror could return as an ongoing anthology show?
“There’s seemingly no end to Charlie’s imagination so yeah, if he’s got the time and energy and enthusiasm to see more episodes being committed to paper then I’m sure they’d be made.”
The series examines how technology his infiltrated our lives, with sites like Facebook and Twitter. What are you like with technology and have you been tempted to join Twitter?
“No, I’m absent from both Twitter and Facebook actually and I don’t feel any loss. I understand the advantages but I’ve just not really dipped my toe into it.
“I recently bought a laptop and that’s about as exciting as it gets! But then Words with Friends on my iPhone does take up approximately 18 hours of my day anyway, so there’d be very little time for Facebook or Twitter.”
You’re currently filming the new James Bond film, Skyfall, returning as M’s Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner. How’s that going so far?
“Great, we’ve just been at Pinewood and around Waterloo and Smithfields doing some scenes with myself and Daniel [Craig] and Judi [Dench]. I go through to the beginning of February filming and I think they’re on until about April or May.”
That sounds like a fairly long shoot for you, does this mean that we see a bit more of Tanner this time around?
“Yes, Tanner gets a bit more facetime this time, [the part] is a bit more beefed-up. He’s basically performing the same role but there’s a bit more of him.”
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the film with the 50th anniversary coming up; is that excitement present on set as well?
“I think everyone’s generally just really excited about the script and how good it is – and we’ve got Sam [Mendes] directing.
“Obviously this is now my second one so I know how Daniel and Judi work. We all seem to get on very well so it feels like I’m becoming slightly more part of the family.”
Did you expect to return to the role of Tanner after Quantum of Solace?
“No, I wasn’t contracted to do any more so I guess I knew there was a possibility, but I didn’t expect it, no.”
In the books, Tanner is Bond’s best friend – would you like to see that dynamic develop onscreen?
“I don’t know, the Tanner of Quantum of Solace wasn’t really the Tanner of the books, so I guess it’s a new kind of role. He’s not the same age as Bond, as I think he is in the books, but I think in this film their relationship does develop, yes.”
What else have you got coming up?
“Let’s see, a few things I’ve done this year are coming out. I did a Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which is on at New Year. And the Richard II that we filmed is coming out in the summer as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
“I’ve just done a British film with Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy called Broken which is directed by Rufus Norris and that’s out next year as well.”
Are you looking forward to Black Mirror and Skyfall? Let us know below…