Foyle's War

Interviews with the Guest Cast - The White Feather - September 2002; Publicity Release


Charles Dance - Guy Spencer
Maggie Steed - Margaret Ellis
Bernard Kay - Robert Woolton
Colin Tierney - Alan Fleming
Paul Brooke - Arthur Ellis

Charles Dance - Guy Spencer

Charles Dance rose to the challenge of playing Hitler-supporter Guy Spencer - a man whom he claims has no redeeming features.

"He's a fascist, racist and deeply unpleasant man. I've played more romantic leading men than I'd care to mention and there is nothing of that in Guy Spencer. I couldn't empathise with him at all.

"To play him, I just had to pretend very well. For those moments, you have to believe what you're saying and get inside the skin of the character to make the words sound as if they are coming from your own heart, otherwise no-one else will believe it. But once you've finished the scene, you walk away."

Guy Spencer is the leader of The Friday Club and persuades injured Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) to attend one of their meetings.

"Milner is curious about it at first, but the sort of bigotry that Spencer demonstrates pretty soon shows Milner that he's not a follower of this man or his kind."

Charles believes the issues raised by the film still have relevance today.

"Nationalism unfortunately raises its ugly head in every generation somewhere in the world and there are a lot of people who still find views of people like Spencer attractive. When the divide between rich and poor gets greater, then people look around for scapegoats and they tend to be Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, blacks or other minorities. It goes on all over the place and it's horrible."

Charles was attracted by the chance to work with Michael Kitchen, who plays Foyle, and by the strength of Anthony Horowitz's writing.

"I was born in 1946, the year after the war ended, but my parents and relatives and their contemporaries were always talking about it - war stories and the Blitz spirit. It provides a great backdrop for Foyle's War. A lot of crime dramas are boring and formulaic but every now and again a couple rise to the top like cream. Hopefully this will be one of them."

Charles' many other screen credits include The Jewel in the Crown, Rebecca, First Born, Nicholas Nickleby and the feature films Hilary and Jackie, Michael Collins, Last Action Hero, Alien III, White Mischief, Plenty and For Your Eyes Only.

He recently shared the stage with Jessica Lange in a production of Eugene O'Neil's Long Days Journey Into Night and has also worked on two new feature films, Black and White, with Robert Carlyle, about a harrowing trial in Australia, and Swimming Pool alongside Charlotte Rampling. Charles has also written a screenplay that he hopes to direct next year.


Maggie Steed - Margaret Ellis

Maggie Steed is reunited with her one-time 'husband' in Foyle's War.

"Paul Brooke plays my husband Arthur and we also played husband and wife in The History Man, an award-winning drama by Malcolm Bradbury in the 1980s. It made it easier to have a shorthand already. Although it was a long time ago, we still seemed to pick up exactly where we left off."

Maggie describes her character Margaret Ellis as a perfectionist who finds it difficult to cope with the changes of wartime.

"She is a woman who was brought up to have higher expectations of life. From her point of view, she sees the world disintegrating around her. She mistakenly thinks that the fascists and the blackshirts are the answer to everything."Margaret runs The White Feather Hotel, and welcomes gatherings of pro-Nazi supporters such as Guy Spencer (Charles Dance). "I didn't want her to be just a monster - you have to give some indication of how people become like that. To make her a perfectionist we gave her perfect hair, clothing and make-up - far more than is needed for her job."

Adds Maggie: "The costumes and hair were terrific and I think it's a good idea to set a series in the war. It's a fantastic backdrop and doesn't have to mean there are murders all the time."

Maggie has enjoyed a long career and considerable acclaim in such roles as Lipstick on Your Collar, Pie in the Sky, Shine on Harvey Moon, Brideshead Revisited, French & Saunders and Martin Chuzzlewit. She has appeared extensively on stage for the RSC, Royal National Theatre and Half Moon Theatre.

"I'm now filming the second series of Born and Bred for the BBC, playing Phyllis who runs the pub. It's another period drama, although set slightly later than Foyle's War. The success of the first series took everyone by surprise and I really enjoy it."


Bernard Kay - Robert Woolton

Veteran actor Bernard Kay was delighted to appear in Foyle's War - which is set in the period he grew up in.

"So much has happened this last century and World War Two adds its own resonance to the series. I started acting after the war, in 1950. I don't do so much now so I was delighted to be offered a role in The White Feather."

Bernard plays Robert Woolton, a man who goes to the hotel run by Margaret Ellis (Maggie Steed) with a mission - but things do not go according to plan.

"The role requires everything to be bitten back emotionally, yet you have to understand what he is going through. He has great intensity of family feeling but he's extremely well disciplined mentally.

"I enjoyed the challenge of playing him and I thought the script was very intriguing. Jeremy Silberston is one of those directors who likes actors. We are egocentric, but he takes what we give and shapes it to the story very gently."Bernard's first big break came with his second job, when the actor playing MacBeth broke his ankle at the dress rehearsal. "I learned the role in 24 hours and got on the stage. I was young and impetuous."

Since then, his many roles have included Minder, Bomber Harris, A Very British Coup, Rockcliffe's Babies and Jonathan Creek on TV, as well as film roles in Dr Zhivago, A Ghost at Monte Carlo and The Hunting Party.

"I've been very lucky in my career - I have played Galileo and Thomas Moore. And I've just done a Casualty, playing a dirty old man, which is a bit of a change. I've been acting two years longer than the run of The Mousetrap and there have been some wonderful highs. It is all so different and more complicated now so I'm full of admiration for the youngsters going into the business."


Colin Tierney - Alan Fleming

Colin Tierney underwent a change of image to play Alan Fleming in Foyle's War.

"Alan wears very tailored three piece suits - elegant sharp pin-stripes in town and country suits at the country hotel. It's not my normal style at all - I am very casual - but it helped me feel more the part."

Fleming is an aide to Guy Spencer (Charles Dance) and helps organise the meetings of his pro-Hitler organisation, The Friday Club. But Fleming is not everything he appears.

"He is shadowy and ambiguous and you find yourself thinking 'who is this guy?' I think the real him is quite serious - always dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. He is organised, watchful and probably quite resilient. It's only in the final scene with Michael Kitchen that you realise how serious he is about what he does."

Adds Colin: "I've played more bad guys than good, but I don't know why I always get these dark characters - maybe it's the cut of my jib!"

Colin's credits include The Vice, Tough Love, Cracker, Holby City, Mersey Beat, Midsomer Murders and Between The Lines. He appeared in Jack Rosenthal's film Bye, Bye Baby and recently lent his voice to the radio play Anthony and Cleopatra.


Paul Brooke - Arthur Ellis

Paul Brooke enjoyed working with the special effects team in Foyle's War.

"There is a scene in the dining room of the hotel where my character Arthur Ellis works and a gun goes off in the darkness. The only light is from my pipe, which was a special effect. As I put the pipe down, there was a wire up my arm that was lighting the bowl of the pipe.

"It's a crucial part of the storyline and I had to move my arm at the right angle. It's all very technical and takes a long time to set up, but it was really interesting to watch and take part in.

"Arthur Ellis runs a hotel with his wife Margaret and he is quiet and downtrodden. My wife's family run hotels and pubs and I know it is hard work. I felt sympathetic towards him - he has a tough life and Margaret gives him a hard time."Paul enjoyed being reunited with Maggie Steed who plays his wife. "We've been friends for a long time and played husband and wife in 1980 in The History Man. So we settled into our roles quite easily.

"It was also good to work on such an interesting script, set in a particular milieu. The idea of doing the story against the war background, with the Dunkirk landings forming part of the plot, gives it a spice."

Paul's TV credits include Bertie and Elizabeth, The Relic Hunter, The Scold's Bridle, A Dance to the Music of Time, The Moonstone, Ain't Misbehavin' and The Kit Curran Radio Show. For Your Eyes Only, Return of the Jedi, Greystoke, Scandal, Splitting Heirs, Saving Grace and Bridget Jones's Diary are among his films.

"I've had a great career - over the years I have worked with several of my idols, travelled all over the world and kept working. As a character actor that is the most important thing. I have only ever murdered twice - but there is a long list of people I'd love to murder in the friendliest sort of way!"

With thanks to Shelagh for the publicity material.