Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spooks(MI5) and Period Drama -A Spooky Link?

Spies always have secrets
The British spy show Spooks (known in North America as MI5) is a very modern, edgy and absolutely gripping television show.  It doesn't seem at first to have anything to do with Period Drama.  However, these spies who run around with guns fighting terrorism and keeping Britain safe from high level criminal activity all have a secret.  They have all (or almost all) been previously seen in some of my favorite Period Dramas. I hear you scoffing in disbelief at this absurd assertion.  Spies in crinolines and top hats? Pshaw!

Richard Armitage as spy Lucas North  in a black T-shirt

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton, in black suit and cravat
The sexiest spy of them all, Lucas North (actor Richard Armitage) not surprisingly stars as the sexy Mr. Thornton in the adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's  North and South.  It doesn't seem to matter whether this man is in a T-shirt and jeans, or a Victorian black suit, he can rock it. He also played Guy of Gisborne in the Robin Hood TV series.

Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Quinn, Spook

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy, gentleman

Fans will also recognize Tom Quinn (actor Matthew Macfadyen) as the very attractive Mr. Darcy from the recent film adaptation of  Pride and Prejudice.  He also played Arthur Clenham in Dickens' Little Dorrit and Sir Felix Carbury in The Way We Live Now (I loved him in this one!).  Actually, he was also in Wuthering Heights, Robin Hood, The Pillars of the Earth, and will soon be seen in Any Human Heart and The Three Musketeers. This man is king of the Period Drama!

Hermione Norris as Ros Myers, scary kick ass spy

Hermione Norris as Victoria St. John, scary Edwardian lady
Ros Myers can run with a gun in tight leather jacket and jeans and then take down a terrorist without even breaking a sweat.  Played by actress Hermione Norris, she is one woman you really don't want to mess with.  Perhaps the casting agents saw her first as Victoria St. John in Berkeley Square, the Edwardian miniseries about three nannys, their employers and their little charges.  Norris plays the scariest of these employers who eventually shows her softer side, but just barely. (Thanks for the photo of Norris in Berkeley Square to Enchanted Serenity of Period Films and Fine Eyes/Nursery Rhymes Gallery).

Rupert Penry Jones as cutie spy Adam Carter in Spooks

Rupert Penry Jones as Captain Wentworth in Persuasion

Rupert Penry Jones plays the serious but adorable Adam Carter in Spooks.  He has a weakness for pretty girls, which gets him into trouble, but we can forgive that face. As Captain Wentworth in the ITV adaptation of Persuasion he puts his seriously cute face to work as one of Jane Austen's best beloved male leads.  He has done a few other Period Dramas (Jane Eyre, Casanova and The Four Feathers) but after perusing his IMDb page, I want to seek out a bit part he had in AbFab as "Boy at Party" The End, 1995.  Anyone seen him with Edina and Patsy?

Keeley Hawes as funny but sharp spy Zoe Reynolds

Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes Holland in BBC's new Upstairs, Downstairs
Keeley Hawes played the adorable and often funny Zoe Reynolds for three seasons of Spooks.  She was wonderful as the flighty but affectionate Cynthia Kirkpatrick in Wives and Daughters, one of my favorites. She was also in Under the Greenwood Tree, Tipping the Velvet, Our Mutual Friend and is now starring as Lady Agnes Holland in the new BBC Upstairs Downstairs which will be airing this spring on PBS/Masterpiece.

Peter Firth as spy boss Harry Pearce

Peter Firth looking pretty goofy as Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey

Head spy Harry Pearse (actor Peter Firth-no relation to Colin!) when he was much younger and apparently had a bad 1980's perm, starred in a particularly campy adaptation of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey 1986. He will also appear in "South Riding", an adaptation by Andrew Davies of Winifred Holtby's novel on PBS/Masterpiece later this year.

I will leave you with a You Tube video of Peter Firth's hilarious portrayal of Henry Tilney, blond perm and all, singing no less (accompanied by flute and harp)!

Click here to see Peter Firth (aka Spooks boss Harry Pearse) sing in Northanger Abbey on You Tube!

P.S. I know I left many actors out so feel free to comment below if  you can remember any others from Spooks who have done Period Drama. Even now I am kicking myself for not including Gemma Jones/Connie James who was the best Mrs. Dashwood imaginable in Sense and Sensibility.  Any others?????


  1. I've been meaning to watch Spooks mainly for those familiar faces but haven't found the time to get round to it!

    btw, did you know that Keeley was also in The Last September and Cater Street Hangman? Both of which are on Youtube and I've not had time to watch them either! I sure have heard about Spooks though from many fans mentioning it! I didn't remember that Macfadyen was in it too!

  2. Yes, apparently set of Spooks is where Matthew Macfadyen met Keeley Hawes. Here is a quote from The Independent:

    ""Matthew just came straight out with it and said, 'I love you,' in the rain one day. I thought, 'Oh dear, here we go'," she later recalled. Hawes left her marriage of eight weeks (her son Myles was only two) to be with Macfadyen. Predictably the tabloids had a field day."

    This was big news in Britain at the time.

    Anna Chancellor, Hugh Laurie, Phillip Glenister, Martine McCutcheon, Lindsay Duncan, Simon Woods, Paloma Baeza, Natasha Little, Jenny Agutter...the list of Spooks alumni is very impressive!

  3. Yes, Anna Chancellor who played the recurring character Juliet, was Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice 1995, Hugh Laurie had a small part in series one and a small part in the Emma Thomson Sense and Sensibility. In Series 5, episode 10, Phoebe Nicholls had a small part as Janet Wheeler. Nicholls is best known to Austen fans as Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion 1995. Julian Wadham had a small part in season one, he also played Sir James Chatham in Middlemarch 1994. I'm only on Series 6, so there may be more that I haven't found yet.

  4. Hi Jenny!

    Yes, spotting actors from period dramas in contemporary shows is fun isn't it? Thanks for adding some that I missed.





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