Spy vs all: Nighy returns as MI5 agent Worricker
Nov. 06, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bill Nighy and David Hare have created stage and screen magic together for most of their professional lives, with Nighy bringing to impeccable life the words that have earned Hare a clutch of honors.
The actor and writer-director prove just as impressive when managing to banter in separate phone calls about the concluding episodes of "The Worricker Trilogy," airing the next two weekends on PBS.
Nighy, introduced as British intelligence officer Johnny Worricker in 2011's "Page Eight," returns as a spy on the run from powerful forces in Sunday's "Turks & Caicos" and "Salting the Battlefield," airing Nov. 16 (check local listings for times).
Told that Hare had described him as playing a man of intrigue who is "incredibly charming and devastatingly attractive to women — big stretch for Bill Nighy," the actor had a droll response.
"He doesn't say such stuff when I'm around, because we'd have to kill ourselves shortly afterward," Nighy said. "We are Englishmen, after all."
They are also welcome visitors to U.S. television, via the BBC series that mixes espionage, abuses of political and corporate power, and Hare's astringent views on what nations are willing to sacrifice to fight terrorism.
In "Turks & Caicos," Worricker has tucked himself away on one of the Caribbean islands, in retirement — or rather escape — after being mired in such sticky business as fictional British Prime Minister Alec Beasley's (Ralph Fiennes) undisclosed knowledge of U.S. torture of terror suspects.
But Worricker is pulled back into the fray, this time involving a CIA agent (Christopher Walken), brittle publicist (Winona Ryder) and a former lover and colleague, Margot (Helena Bonham Carter).
The machinations continue in "Salting the Battlefield," as Margot joins Worricker on a globe-trotting effort to escape their former employer and he attempts once more to hold the mighty, including Beasley, to account.
The gap between Worricker's introduction in "Page Eight" and the new chapters falls to Hare.
"It's sort of a terrible bastard form I've ended up making, and I didn't mean to," Hare said. He decided belatedly he had the energy and interest to continue the project, so "the three films really make up one film."
"They do make sense one by one, but they're better if you watch all three," he said. It's sensible advice to viewers who may want to find or revisit "Page Eight" before tackling the new episodes.
Nighy, the elegantly rangy actor known for such varied projects as "Love Actually" and "State of Play," is delighted with Worricker's return.
"If this went on for the rest of my working life I'd be very, very happy," the actor said in phone call from London. "I've worked with David for most of my life, since we were young, and I admire him as much as I admire anyone in the world."
There's Hare the writer, whose acclaimed plays include "Pravda," ''Plenty" and "Skylight," and who received Oscar nominations for "The Reader" and "The Hours." Then there's Hare the director, mostly on stage but a rare turn behind the camera for the Worricker series.
Nighy offers proof that he's not a one-actor fan club: The cast for the new episodes includes Judy Davis and Rupert Graves.
"Because it's David, all the people we asked said 'Yes,' and they all said yes real quick," said Nighy.
For Hare, the trilogy's larger satisfactions include the chance to influence public dialogue. He's brought the Worricker saga full circle and stop, he said, but the debate on the West's war on terror must continue.
"The balance between freedom and terror seems badly out of kilter, and there are people exploiting the situation to their own benefit, and that's what I'm drawing attention to," he said. "Maybe that is what the majority of the citizens of your country and mine want, but at least they should be aware that it's happening."
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber .