18/07/2008. Contributed by Jessica Martin
The year is 2013. Thames House is gone and regional MI5 Field Offices have sprung up in its place. Are six young new recruits tough, moral and clever enough to protect Britain's future...? Spooks: Code 9 is a new six-part drama for BBC Three, due to be broadcast in August 2008.
London has been evacuated following a nuclear bomb and the country's power base has shifted north. In the wake of the attack, MI5 must completely restructure and establish field offices across the UK, working to gather intelligence from the very heart of local communities.
They need young, new officers on the ground - and fast. Luckily, Britain's youth is more than up to the challenge and is fighting back from the attack with a new sense of patriotism, combined with the hedonism that comes from being face to face with their own mortality. It is members of this new generation of patriots who help make up MI5's new Field Office 19.
"After the bomb, MI5 needed new officers with ability, dedication and potential on the streets as soon as possible," producer Chris Fry told SFcrowsnest. "The team rallied to this call and joined MI5 in the weeks following the bomb. With the exception of their team leader, none of them have been in the field for more than four months and they will continually find themselves in situations beyond their experience and training - they'll only succeed through grit and determination."
Led by experienced spook Hannah (Joanne Froggatt, Life On Mars) the rookie team is made up of Charlie (Liam Boyle, Drop Dead Gorgeous), a mathematician and genius problem solver, Rachel (Ruta Gedmintas, The Tudors), an ex-police officer with ambitions to be a leader, and Jez (Heshima Thompson, Prime Suspect: The Final Act), a new breed of spook altogether - a former criminal gone straight. Vik (Christopher Simpson, Brick Lane) chose MI5 over a career in his family's business, while Rob (Andrew Knott, The History Boys) was a junior doctor at the time of the bomb and Kylie (Georgia Moffett, Doctor Who) was a psychology student just back from her gap year.
"Nearly one year on from the bomb, Britain is starting to get back to something resembling normality," executive producer Karen Wilson added. "But, under the surface, there have been massive changes: terror warnings and security checkpoints are regular features of everyday life, and there's a flourishing black market in everything from ID cards to anti-radiation drugs. This is the world of Spooks: Code 9 and it holds a whole new set of dangers for MI5's young pretenders."
In line with BBC Three's online ambitions, Spooks: Code 9 will be accompanied by a large online presence produced by Kudos and alternate reality game studio Six to Start.
Chris Fry interviewed by SFcrowsnest
What's the premise behind Spooks: Code 9?
"Spooks: Code 9 is set in 2013; nearly one year on from a devastating nuclear attack on London. The explosion caused major changes to society, as we know it. Manchester has become the new capital and there's definitely an anarchic feel to this 'new' Britain. After the bomb in London, MI5 needs more people on the ground immediately - not only to replace the officers they lost in the bomb, but also to deal with the new challenges that face the nation. They've set up Field Offices in every major town, and the plan is to have younger officers who are completely immersed and attuned to every potential threat. In the new MI5 it doesn't matter where you come from. If you have ability, dedication and potential they'll have you on the streets as a field officer within six months. And that's where our team come in; they're the new Field Office 19."
How familiar will this territory be for Spooks fans?
"Some elements of Code 9 will be familiar to Spooks viewers - MI5 'jargon' if you like - but this is a completely new show. There are no crossover characters or storylines and, most importantly, it is set in a completely new world. We hope that Spooks fans will love it just as much as a whole new set of Code 9 fans."
Who are the new characters that inhabit the world of Field Office 19?
"With the exception of Charlie, who we see join the team in episode one, they all joined MI5 in the weeks following the bomb. They're all in their early twenties and from very from different backgrounds; all of them have done their six months training but none of them have been in the field for more than a few months. They'll continue their training on the job and seeing them continually honing their espionage skills will be a key feature of the series. Together, our rookies combine the aspects of a perfect, experienced spy. They're all heroic but they'll continually find themselves in situations beyond their experience and training."
How did you go about casting the core team?
"We started casting in June 2007 and we always knew we were looking for young talent. We had to make sure that the characters would be appealing to the BBC Three audience but also believable as spies - and had to be fantastic actors of course. We have got a brilliant cast with varying levels of experience and they have bonded really well as a group, whilst all bringing something unique to the show as well."
Meet the new team
Personnel File #1: Hannah (Joanne Froggatt)
Background: experienced spook and team leader Hannah moved to the north following the bomb. As a fan of Spooks, Yorkshire-born Joanne jumped at the chance to be part of Spooks: Code 9.
"Hannah is a great character to play; quite ballsy, very intelligent and very patriotic," said Joanne. "She really cares for her country. Plus I thought it would be fun to get to be the boss for a change!"
In the world of Spooks: Code 9 Britain is struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the London bomb. It was a life-changing event for the whole country and the people of Britain have lost faith in the security services; those very people who were supposed to protect them.
But Hannah is different. "She really believes in MI5," explains Joanne. "She's got strong beliefs in the system and knows it can work again. She's really proud of the team she's put together and wants them to make a real difference."
Hannah's been conducting an investigation of her own into the London bomb and surprisingly it's new team member Charlie who she trusts to help her: "Hannah sees that Charlie has this amazing brain; he has the ability to look ahead and predict risk and I think she sees the potential in him to be a future leader. That's why she trusts him with her investigation."
The life of a spy seems to be full of excitement, danger and intrigue but portraying it on screen didn't tempt the Joanne into pursuing the career for real: "Although I did really enjoy the running and physical side of Spooks: Code 9, I'm not so sure I could do it in real life," laughs Joanne. "Maybe I could stretch to being a desk officer and sourcing information!"
Joanne's TV career began with her role as scheming single mum Zoe Tattersall in Coronation Street. Her television credits include Danielle Cable: Eyewitness, Joanne Lees: Murder In The Outback, See No Evil: The Moors Murders, Life On Mars, The Street and Missing.
Personnel File #2: Charlie (Liam Boyle)
Background: recruited to MI5 for his mathematical skills, Charlie is good at puzzle solving, code breaking and probability, but not so good with people. The bomb completely changed Charlie's life. He went from being a young man whose aspirations were to receive a Nobel Prize in mathematics, to becoming an MI5 agent in one swift move.
Living through such a life-changing experience altered Charlie's whole outlook. "MI5 recruitment gave Charlie an opportunity to help people and he jumped at it," explains actor Liam Boyle.
But his newfound view of life doesn't impress his colleagues. "No one really has any respect for Charlie when he starts," says Liam. "But throughout the series he shows great leadership skills and the other officers often look at him with disbelief over what he's just come up with."
However, Charlie's leader, Hannah, shows great faith in him and entrusts him with some top secret information on her personal investigation into the London bomb and a potential MI5 mole: "Hannah sees how focused Charlie is and how he handles situations differently to the other team members; he sees things from every possible angle, and fast, which is why she has faith he'll find the MI5 traitor."
The actor isn't so sure he'd be the best man to jump into a pair of MI5 shoes though: "I'd be a ridiculous spy. But then looking at it from a practical point of view if I was living in the Britain of Spooks: Code 9 I don't think I'd be acting either as there'd be no one in London and no work, so I may as well join MI5!"
Charlie is Liam's first lead role on TV, though he has appeared in a string of hit dramas, including The Street, Instinct and Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Personnel File #3: Rachel (Ruta Gedmintas)
Background: a former police constable, Rachel is a leader in the making. She has a lot more experience than most of the team working on the complex cases that face Field Office 19.
"Rachel saw joining MI5 as a step up to a position where she could make more of a difference," explains Ruta. "She's very determined, dedicated, hard-working and she has an air of ruthlessness about her."
Rachel's experience is invaluable to her fellow team members, especially Charlie who turns to her for support when Hannah asks him to help with her London bomb investigation.
"I think Charlie sees that Rachel is very passionate about her job. He trusts that she'll always make the right decision," says Ruta. "To Rachel it's not just a job, she really cares about the effect her work is having."
Charlie isn't the only man in Rachel's life though; her colleague, Rob, is always on her radar. "There is definitely tension between Rachel and Rob, but I think Rachel has always put work as her number one priority," grins Ruta.
But would Ruta be as dedicated a spook in real life? "I think I could give being a spy a good go, but I'd probably fail with the duplicitous side of the job!"
Ruta starred as Henry VIII's mistress, Elizabeth Blount, in drama The Tudors alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers. She played the lead role of Elle opposite Ian Somerhalder (Lost) in the thriller The Lost Samaritan and will soon hit screens alongside Heather Graham and Tom Ellis in the quirky romantic comedy Miss Conception, due for release this summer.
Ruta recently completed the feature The Athlete, about the life of Ethiopian Marathon winner Abebe Bikila.
Personnel File #4: Rob (Andrew Knott)
Background: a former junior doctor, Rob is an everyman with a strong moral compass. Rob is the alpha male of the team but actor Andrew Knott doesn't think that becoming the team leader is necessarily on Rob's agenda.
"He's very hands-on, very protective of the rest of the team and because he has this background in medicine, of being a doctor, he's very level headed as well," says Andrew. "He will always step up, no matter what is asked, he'll be there and try to make a difference. Rob's a leader in the sense that he wants everything to be right and if it means him being overruled, that's fine, he's wide open to opinion."
Although the main focus of Spooks: Code 9 is maintaining peace in Britain, the team members do have time to think about themselves at times and with such a highly charged and intense atmosphere it's no surprise that some get particularly close.
"There is a bit of a love triangle with Rob, Rachel and Charlie, and for Rob it's really a case of unrequited love," explains Andrew. "Rob's not desperate; he's just very attracted to Rachel. They work together, it happens in offices all over the world! But unfortunately her attention often falls more on Charlie."
If faced with Rob's situation himself, Andrew's not so sure he would be able to step up to the challenge in quite the same way. He says: "I don't feel I'd make a very good spook. You don't know how you'd think or act if something that devastating happened in real life. I don't think I'd be the person to answer the MI5 advert."
Andrew is best known as one of the original History Boys, having starred in both the stage and screen versions of Alan Bennett's hit comedy drama alongside Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour and James Corden. He has since appeared in hit TV series Life on Mars, Drop Dead Gorgeous and award-winning comedy Gavin And Stacey.
Personnel File #5: Kylie (Georgia Moffett)
Background: a former psychology student who has just returned from her gap year, Kylie is suffering from radiation sickness.
Kylie brings some attitude to the team and is a bit of a loose cannon, but given what she's been through it's hardly surprising, explains actor Georgia Moffett, who recently starred as Doctor Who's daughter. "When the bomb went off Kylie was close enough to witness the devastation. However, by being so close to the bomb she got radiation sickness, so she has a real sense that any day could be her last; she likes the idea of going out in a blaze of glory."
It's the need to make every second count that motivated Kylie to join MI5 in the first place. "Before the bomb she couldn't decide what she wanted to do in life," says Georgia. "In joining MI5 she finally found her calling and reason to live - to protect her country."
Playing such a reckless character meant Georgia had plenty of action scenes and got to do many of her own stunts: "If the team have to go on a mission, Kylie is the first one there, with gun in hand. I got to do loads of running on roofs, jumping on cars and shooting; it was amazing."
Georgia has carved a successful TV career, notching up lead roles in The Bill, in which she played Abigail Nixon, Where The Heart Is and Bonkers. She also guest starred in My Family.
Personnel File #6: Vik (Christopher Simpson)
Background: Vik had a privileged upbringing, but left the family business to join MI5. He retains focus and humour when others are falling apart.
Like all his colleagues in Field Office 19, Vik's life changed dramatically when the London bomb exploded. With family expectations on his shoulders, Vik rebelled and put the needs of his country above those closest to him when he joined MI5.
"Vik joined MI5 to get away from the expectations of his family," explains actor Christopher Simpson. "He's from a rather affluent and cultured background and his family had expectations that he would take over the family business. But Vik was struck by what happened when the bomb went off in London. He was motivated to do something; to help the dire situation that the country was in and he feels he could be an agent for change."
It's quite clear that actor who last year starred in the hit British film Brick Lane sees Vik as the rock of the group. "Vik is the one that looks after everyone," says the star of Brick Lane and Second Generation.
"He's quite self assured, urbane, witty and I think at times he's a point of stability. He's also the one that will try and lighten the mood if the situation gets a little too serious."
However, Christopher himself is not so sure that if he survived the bomb in the world of Spooks: Code 9, he'd follow Vik's lead: "I don't think joining MI5 would be the way I'd choose to engage with such events, but I think I could survive in Spooks: Code 9 Britain. I like to think I can play a good spy, but whether I'd make a good spy in real life… it's never going to happen!"
As well as starring in Brick Lane, Christopher played lead roles in Channel 4's White Teeth opposite Naomi Harris and Second Generation alongside ER's Parminder Nagra. He also appeared in the drama series State Of Play.
Personnel File #7: Jez (Heshima Thompson)
Background: a new breed of spy - an ex-criminal - Jez brings his 'street' knowledge to the team.
Jez lost his whole family in the London bomb, so his reasons for joining MI5 are a lot more personal than some of the other members of the team. "The fact he's lost his whole family has a massive effect on him," explains actor Heshima Thompson. "He loved his family and he feels guilt over not being there for them when the bomb went off. Jez really doesn't want to admit to himself they're dead; he still lives in the hope that they're alive."
Jez also differs from the other members of the team in that he used to be on the other side of the law. "Jez's criminal past gives him a real advantage in the team," explains the actor and musician who is also one of Amy Winehouse's backing vocalists. He understands how the criminal mind works. Jez also understands how to intimidate people when necessary; he understands when to stay quiet and when to go into action."
One of the highs of filming Spooks: Code 9 for Heshima was a chance to tackle the stunts. "I got all the good stunts!" laughs Heshima. "I had some real 'Jason Bourne' moments. I think I'd be a loud spy; I certainly wouldn't be sneaking up on anyone. But my aim is to be the best at anything I commit to, so I would plan not just to be a good spy, but to be the best there's ever been!"
Heshima's acting credits include Spooks, Prime Suspect: The Final Act and Judge John Deed.
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