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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Thecustard Chats to Neil Stuke ahead of series 2 of Silk on BBC1


Tuesday (15th May) sees the return of Silk on BBC1. The law series starring Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones and Neil Stuke proved hugely popular in 2011. I recently got the chance to speak with actor Neil Stuke (One Night, Reggie Perrin, Game On) about returning to his role as crooked Head of Chambers Billy Lamb. Neil told me about what we can expect from series 2, how he found working with Phil Davies and the possible return of his 90's sitcom Game On.

Were you surprised by the success of the first series or was there a feeling that Silk would be a hit?
It was a pleasant surprise but its such good quality. The writing's so good and people are always desperate for a bit of good writing these days.

At the end of the last series Billy seemed on the verge of loosing everything but at the start of episode 1 of series 2 he appears to have bounced back. Are things any easier for him this series?
It's a tough series for Billy this one he's got all sorts of challenges being thrown at him so I wouldn't say things get easier for Billy by any stretch of the imagination.

Now that Martha has Silk and Clive doesn't how does Billy's attitude toward both characters change?
Well Clive (Rupert Penry-Jones character) was involved in possibly setting up a rival set and Billy doesn't really forgive him for being involved in that and going behind his back so Billy doesn't really give Clive an easy ride in this series.

As an audience member its often difficult to tell when Billy is being genuine. How would you describe his methods and do you ever find it difficult playing those scenes?
Well we often use the word Machiavellian and we talk about Iago from Othello quite a lot but first and foremost he lives and breathes the chambers so he'll do anything to protect his lawyers really and not all of it is above board. 


Was it easier coming back for series 2?
It was very interesting actually. I was first up on the first morning of shooting and it was all completely different crew and completely different producers so it was quite interesting. I stood there thinking how do I do this but after the first few hours you're straight back into it. He's a very contained character.  I like to play him so that you never really know how he's feeling which is quite an interesting thing to do as an actor.

This series sees the arrival of big new characters played by Phil Davies (Whitechapel) and Frances Barber. what were they like to work with?
Well it's slightly terrifying working with Phil and I mean that in the nicest possible way.  I've spent most of life trying to act like Phil Davies so yeah it was interesting choice. Obviously working with Frances Barber was amazing so we're surrounded by the cream of the crop really.  

The scenes between you and Phil are quite tense. Do you watch yourself on screen?
I do watch it. We get sent it and we're asked what our opinions are and I'm very pleased with the scenes between Phil and I. It is hard though because he really is incredibly good 

And a little bit scary?
Yeah! Definitely!

Who is affected most by Martha's promotion to Silk?
It hurts Clive the most. She's obviously getting better work and that's very frustrating for him.

You were quite openly critical about the scheduling of your other recent BBC1 drama One Night but were you happy with the feedback and praised that it did receive?
I think everyone involved in it was disappointed and from what I can gather the audience where disappointed by how late it was on but I think we all knew it was going to get critical acclaim because it was so well written and so beautifully directed and apart from myself very well acted. There were lots of actors who hadn't really acted before who were just extraordinary. I'm not going to harp on about how disappointed I am but certainly it was a mistake. 

When I mentioned I was talking to you a lot of people bought up Game On. Do you have a preference between comedy and drama?
I like mixing the two. Everybody always forgets how much theater I do but I do a hell of a lot of comedy theater. I enjoy comedy because you can make people laugh and there's nothing better than that. I like both I really do and I'm very lucky that I can do both because there's plenty of straight actors out there who want to do comedy so I'm very blessed that I get to do both. It is  extraordinary the reaction I still get from Game On  after all these years. 

Is it odd when you see a repeat or catch clip of YouTube of Game On?
I think it's great! I thought it was an absolutely fantastic programme but it is frustrating when people only talk about Game On. I mean it was soooo long ago and I don't mean to be rude and I don't think people realise that as an actor you put that to bed and move on. Silk is my thing at the moment so the idea of having to talk about Game On is really odd. Having said that, Sam and I are discussing bringing it back. Sam (Samantha Womack) has been in touch with the writer and the original producers.

That might be a bit of a scoop then
Yeah it might be nice to see how enthusiastic people are about that but as I said to another journalist it could be a disaster.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working with Steven Berkoff on his new play. Six actors in search of a director a brand new play from Berkoff working with the man himself.

Do you hope Silk returns for a third series?
I don't think there's any doubt that will be back for a third series

What do you love on television?
Well.. I don't watch much TV (Laughs) I'll be really honest. My favourite programme was Monty Hall's Fisherman's Apprentice I love anything he does and I love cookery shows so the greedy Italians is just fantastic and Grandma's House! I think Simon Amstell is just brilliant in that.

It is brilliant isn't it? But sadly they've decided they don't want to anymore of Grandma's House I think which is a real shame
Insanity reigns at the BBC I can assure you.

Most actors I speak to say they don't watch TV. Why do you think that is?
We're always out! 

Silk Returns Tuesday 15th May 9pm on BBC1

Follow Neil on Twitter
Buy Silk Series One on DVD
Our interview with One Night writer Paul Smith

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