he small screen rules our lives now, and a queen rules this realm. Brilliant in everything she’s in – and she’s in almost everything – and quietly becoming a production powerhouse, Keeley Hawes runs UK TV.
From Bodyguard to Line of Duty, her resume is essentially a roll call of some of the most watchable British TVs of the 21st century, and she shows no signs of stopping. This Sunday, she stars in her own executive-produced drama Finding Alice about a woman’s grief after losing her husband. This is followed by a central role in the highly anticipated It’s a Sin by Russell T Davies, which traces the AIDS crisis in 1980s London, before starring in the film To Olivia, playing Hollywood actress Patricia. Neal in the midst of a tumultuous marriage with the children’s author. Roald Dahl (Hugh Bonneville).
This wave of upcoming projects reminds us that Hawes is not only one of our most trusted and hardworking actresses, but she is also emerging as one of the most influential. Like her Hollywood counterparts Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, Hawes is embarking on producing shows that she wants to carve out her own roles, rather than waiting to be given them. She seems to accept that the industry no longer expects women to disappear when they turn 40. a meeting in 2019, Hawes, now 44, said: “Historically, you’re not supposed to reach my age and have the best time of your life, but the games are getting a lot more interesting. Until a few years ago, I apologized for being as busy as I was, which is very strange. So I had to talk to myself about myself.
She first took on the role of producer with The Durrells, an adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s memoir about her animal-obsessed childhood in Corfu – and a book she had always loved. Playing the family matriarch for four seasons, it was a premium family viewing – and starred Josh O’Connor, now one of the most sought-after actors on screen. It also made Hawes want to take the reins: Finding Alice is the second show created under his company, Buddy Club. The first, Honor, based on Banaz Mahmod’s so-called “honor killing” in 2006, was a story she was passionate about telling. “If we can open people’s eyes through this drama and if a girl or a woman doesn’t have to go through what Banaz had to go through, then Honor is a success, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
In front of the camera, she’s one of our most versatile actresses – always natural, never showy – and it’s kind of crazy that she’s never won a major actor award. Period dramas she first made her name in – including, notoriously, Tipping the Velvet in 2002 – might have seen her cast, but she transcended the model with leading roles in gripping shows. like Spooks (where she met her husband, Estate star Matthew McFadyen) and Ashes to Ashes.
As DCI Lindsay Denton in Line of Duty, she remains the most unsettling of the curved brass in the series, with a performance that subtly combines a fragile sense of nihilism with eerie vulnerability. Her performance was so good that it was easy to see how she got into the mess, and you could never turn on her completely. His MVP status in any TV show became so strong that viewers simply couldn’t accept that Jed Mercurio would have really killed his character in Bodyguard after just three episodes. The moment Home Secretary Julia Montague was assassinated won Bafta’s ‘Must-See Moment’ award that year – but conspiracy theories that her Julia faked her own death can still be found on Twitter.
But Hawes is as comfortable in smaller character roles as she carries all the drama on her shoulders. The same year she was nominated for Best Bafta Actress for Bodyguard, she also won a supporting actress nod for her performance in Ms. Wilson. She brought cautious dignity to the role of Dorothy Wick, one of the wives of a bigamist, based on the family history of actor Ruth Wilson. Her range is clear, but through all of her characters she manages to create a sense of every woman.
Her TV crown is only reinforced by the fact that, IRL, she’s really pretty cool. She didn’t hesitate to speak openly about her experiences with depression, and when it was suggested that she had lost a stone to Bodyguard with “the alkaline diet,” she tweeted, “Uh, no, I didn’t. haven’t done. #who writes this shit? #whatthefuckisanalkalinediet? ‘
It’s going to be a lackluster January, but at least we can be thankful that Hawes is back on the box, cementing his status as TV royalty. Queen Keeley, we bow down.
Find Alice is on ITV from Sunday January 17th; It’s a Sin is on Channel 4 from January 22; To Olivia releases on Sky Cinema on February 19