Like father? Just one of Rory's roles ; Acting is in Rory Kinnear's blood, and as he joins a strong cast for Channel 4''s new drama Southcliffe, CARRIE GREGORY finds out why he'll never stray far from the stage, and why he shied away from comedy for so long
TO say thats Rory Kinnear is versatile is an understatement.
At just 35 (Yes I am, despite the looks, he says with a chuckle), an age when many actors are simply finding their feet, Kinnear has a CV that would impress a thespian of twice his years.
He's trodden the boards with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre, depicted Denis Thatcher in Margaret 1 Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley, played M's long-standing sidekick Bill Tanner in the Bond movies Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall, and portrayed a prime minister who's forced to perform an unspeakable act in Charlie Brooker's outlandish satire Black Mirror.
In fact, the multi-talented Kinnear is in such hot demand he was tipped to play the next Dr Who as recently as last month. He's quashed those rumours though and, frankly, when would he have had time? His latest role is in Channel 4's new four-part drama Southcliffe, penned by the award-winning writer Tony Grisoni, directed by the critically-acclaimed Sean Durkin and boasting the likes of Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur), Shirley Henderson (Anna Karenina) and Sean Harris (Prometheus) among its cast. As well as West Bridgford actor Joe Dempsie.
If the title sounds familiar, that's because much has already been made of the series, about a quiet market town devastated by a spate of shootings after a lone gunman goes on the rampage.
But while it might sound like tough viewing, Kinnear insists the sensitive subject has been dealt with delicately.
It's not a sensationalist look at the Hungerford or Dunblane massacres. It's trying to understand how people respond to traumatic events. It's incredibly distinct I'd say, and unlike anything on TV at the moment, he says.
London-born Kinnear plays David Whitehead. He's a TV reporter who grew up in the town but when he was young his father died in an accident, the actor explains.
He's never really gone back until he's assigned to cover this massacre, and in so doing he's having to reconnect and re-engage himself with memories and tragedies that he probably had long buried and never really dealt with.
Asked what drew him to the series, Kinnear wastes no time in praising those behind it, saying: I've liked Tony's work for a long time and I'd seen Sean's previous film, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Both of them work in a way that is non-sensationalist and both are interested in the mundane and extraordinary of human lives.
The series has a stellar cast, not that Kinnear had many scenes with them.
He explains: Obviously with my part, he's an outsider to the community, so it was mainly me doing interviews with people, or wandering or driving around by myself!
I'd only do one or two days with each character to have that engagement, but it was great working with Eddie, and briefly with Shirley, and Al Weaver, who I did a production of Hamlet with about 10 years ago.
Kinnear speaks fondly of his theatre work, and why wouldn't he? As he so eloquently puts it, it has shaped me as a person.
Performances in Hamlet, The Man Of Mode and Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy won over the very fans who continue to support him now, years down the line.
He admits: I do find, if I don't do a play for over a year, I get a bit angsty and feel like I'm not a proper actor. [TV, film and theatre] all require different muscles, as it were, but with theatre, you can really feel when those muscles are beginning to atrophy a bit, so I try and refresh them now and again.
Before the small screen temporarily loses one of its brightest stars to the stage once more, we'd better make the most of him in Southcliffe. Or catch up with his recent offering, Count Arthur Strong, which, for the first time, saw him tap into the comedy that his late father, Roy, was so famous for.
I'd steered away from doing any out-and-out comedy for a while, just because my dad was so well-known for it, or perhaps it was because other things came along which I ended up doing, I don't know, he says.
But I grew up going to various recordings of sitcoms and what was fun about doing one myself was that I realised how live recordings haven't really changed much in 30 years. I guess there was a romantic part of me that was doing it to see what my dad did, and also to be aware of how difficult it is to get it right and do it well.
And what of Bond - can we expect him to turn up in the next instalment, given that Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have both signed on? I don't know if you can expect to see me, but you can hope for me! he replies, laughing. These things are usually kept pretty under wraps and always fairly changeable, so you just wait and see.
. ? Southcliffe begins on Channel 4 tomorrow at 9pm
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