With Spooks: The Greater Good being released on DVD and Blu-ray today, I sat down with actor David Harewood to talk all things Spooks, Homeland and Supergirl.
Andrew: Hi, David.
David: Hey there, how are you?
Andrew: I’m very well thanks. How are you?
David: Yeah, good good. Early morning here in LA, just getting on with it.
Andrew: Good. You’ve probably got better weather than we have at home here in London. It’s raining.
David: Yeah, gray skies in here. Gray skies here too, but a lot warmer.
Andrew: Excellent, so thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.
David: No problem.
Andrew: Let me ask you first of all, what made you want to become an actor?
David: I was always messing about at school, guess you could say I was a bit of a classroom clown. The teachers basically called me in to school at the end of the last week, four weeks before I left school, and said what do you want to do with your life when you leave? I really had no idea. I would go to the careers library day in and day out. I just couldn’t find anything that I wanted to do and the teacher looked and me and said, “I think you should be an actor.” Call it my eureka moment, because everything seemed to make sense. Everything just seemed to stop dead and I thought, “That sounds good. I’ll give that a go,” and went off to drama school.
I had a natural talent for it, and they told me to go to drama school. I applied to drama school which to me was like a whole new education, suddenly studying literature again, looking at it for the first time. I suppose as young kids we just go about different ways of learning. I don’t think academically I really felt the full benefits of school but I found that with acting, particularly studying plays and doing the research of history and stuff like that, I found that I… it was like a whole new educational experience. I just loved it. Acting, for me, is an extension of messing about in the back of school.
Andrew: So let’s talk about “Spooks: The Greater Good.” Tell us a little about your character.
David: My character is called Warrender, and he is the joint chief of staff. He liaisons between the government and MI-5 and he is struggling to… I think he’s under pressure from the political wing to close MI-5 down, they’re struggling for funding.
As the film depicts, they’re struggling more than I’ve mentioned, and on the brink of extinction as it were. I’ve helped the government look for cuts, and Warrender is basically trying to keep the organization afloat, trying to keep it operational, but at the same time trying to appease. He’s got to play masters in the government who are trying to shut it down. I think he’s battling on behalf of those characters, probably stopping to see if he’s perfected them. I think they’re all facing pressure from lots of CIA royalty, trumping up to the idol.
David : They also want to take it over and fund the organization themselves, and run the British secret service, which obviously would be scandalous. They’ve tried to prevent that, basically.
Andrew: When you first read the script, were you a bit disappointed to see that your character didn’t make it to the end of the film?
David: No actually, I was delighted because I’ve been really, really busy this year, and I haven’t actually had much time to spend at home with my kids, so I was delighted that I got offed quite early. Also, I was very busy with another project, Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Grimsby,” which couldn’t be further from the kind of… I had picked British secret service. That’s going the opposite end of the scale and has all the knacks of drinking lots of beer and tattoos and stuff, so it was great fun to do, but it was also quite time-consuming. I was juggling two projects, so I was quite happy to sign off.
Andrew: How do you go about preparing for a role when you get it?
David: I’ve played a couple of spies now. David Estes in “Homeland,” and I’ve just been exclusively finished playing another American spy in this AMC/BBC project called “The Night Manager.” What I have picked about them is that they never show you anything. I’ve met a couple of spies, and they’ve got several different faces, depending on who they’re with, and I find that quite captivating, that they never really show you the truth. They show you certain versions of the truth, and I love playing that because it’s about not doing too much and trying to remain ambiguous, basically as ambiguous as you can. I find that an interesting thing to play rather than playing the obvious, playing something completely different. We just have to almost try and not do what’s on the page, not do the obvious thing. Always be thinking about something very different to keep your emotions in check, and I just find those characters quite interesting to play.
Andrew: You obviously mentioned “Homeland.” When you first started, and you first read Homeland, did you know it was going to be as popular as it was, and is?
David: No, I don’t think any of us did. I think it comes as a Hollywood moment. I was at Universal Studios yesterday. I was coming backstage before and the guy essentially started talking about “Homeland,” and sort of said how it’s one of the greatest television shows we’ve got and came up at the end and said, “Sorry about that, I had to drop it in.” It’s become part of the language now, TV show language. I don’t think any of us really could foresee that. I was there, right at the beginning of it, when it was, I think, at it’s peak. It’s great to have been a part of it.
Andrew: You’re working on another show at the moment that’s due to air, “Supergirl.” How did you get involved in that?
David: Well, the beginning of pilot season last year, or earlier this year, I was called in to meet the producers and show runners, Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler and Sarah Schechter and Andrew Kreisberg, and they set me down and explained the show to me and gave a description, kind of went off and asked me to prepared my character, in both British and in American.
It was rather difficult because it’s just two totally different characters and I read the script and it’s just such a great script, a really fantastic re-imagining of Supergirl. I think it’s totally going to be enormously successful. It’s a hugely entertaining family show. Huge show, I mean, production side is just massive. I kind of read the script and I was completely blown away by it and I really didn’t expect it to be so entertaining. I went in and I met the executives and literally, within 48 hours, I was offered the part. Its enormously exciting because these comic book stories, they’re taking over the screen at the moment. I think it’s unusual because it’s the first time we’ve seen a female superhero. Melissa Benoist is just fabulous, they’ve really got down a fantastic cast and it’s just really exciting to be part all of this.
Andrew: The pilot leaked online a few months ago, and obviously it’s not due to start until next month. Was that a bit disappointing for you guys, that people didn’t get to see it properly and it was leaked online?
David: I think we would have been more disappointed if it got terrible reviews. We’re obviously disappointed that the thing did get leaked out, but we’ve got such a fantastic reaction. I think people are quietly happy about that, because people have got a chance to see it, although illegally, and it’s got glowing reviews, so people are very excited about it. It’s such a buzz around the opening of the show that I didn’t really see much damage it’s done to the numbers. Hopefully, you’re going to make quite a splash and we back it up a week later with a fantastic first episode. The script continues to get better and better. I feel we’ve got a really great show.
Andrew: You’ve also done voice-over on a number of games. How much of a different experience for you is doing, say, TV or film or a game?
David: It’s great, I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to segway between film, TV, voice-over, and a little bit of theater there last year. A little bit of trying to keep it interesting. I have no strategy for this business, If the phone rings and I fancy it, I’ll give it a shot. The last couple years have been exceptional, really, very exciting and getting all sorts of different opportunities to apply my trade and I hope that continues, whether it be a voice-over or an advert or a stage appearance. That doesn’t happen to me. If it’s something that I’m doing, that I could bring something to it, I’ll be more than happy.
Andrew: Last question for you. What else have you got coming up over the next few months that we can see you in?
David: I’ve got a couple of movies coming out. One is called “Free Indeed” which will be opening at the Devon Film Festival next weekend. Ive got “Grimsby” coming out. I’ve got Midsummer Nights Dream, that’s doing the festival rounds. I have a project called “The Night Manager,” BBC/AMC, co-production with AMC, American network AMC, and of course as you said, “Supergirl.” Quite a lot coming on my plate, but enjoying the way, they’re exciting times. I’ve got some documentaries coming up too, so lots of stuff coming up.
Andrew: Excellent, well, we look forward to seeing you more soon. Thank you very much for your time today, really appreciate it.
David: Thank you very much.
SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD is available now to download and is also available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Entertainment One.