Interview: O-T Fagbenle, The Interceptor

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BBC One’s new eight-part crime thriller series, The Interceptor, starts tonight (Wednesday 10th June). Although I haven’t seen it yet, everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s so bad it’s good and a real guilty pleasure. The Radio Times called it ‘laughable’. Created and written by Tony Saint, The Interceptor is a gripping eight-part series about a state-of-the-art law enforcement team whose unswerving mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals. The Interceptor delves into the adventures of a dedicated surveillance team known as the UNIT (nothing to do with Doctor Who). Keeping their quarries under ultra-tight surveillance, they take us into the real world inhabited by the criminals of today. And it’s easy to recognise because it’s the same world the rest of us inhabit. O-T Fagbenle leads the cast as Ash, whose dream of bringing down the biggest fish in the criminal underworld comes a step closer when he’s recruited to the UNIT. His knowledge of the street could be priceless, but with it comes an uncompromising way of doing things, and it ultimately forces Ash into a life-changing predicament: how far is he prepared to go to keep the streets safe for others at the risk of causing irreparable damage to his own life? Here’s O-T talking about the role…

The Killing Times: What is the UNIT?
O-T Fagbenle:
The UNIT deals with high-level criminal activities. They use cutting-edge technology to intercept criminal calls and emails and use it to climb their way up to the top of the criminal ladder. They have to walk a fine line between using everything at their disposal to stop criminals and preserving the privacy of the public. The action arm of the UNIT goes out and spies on the criminals and if it gets too hairy… takes them down! Ash is taken on into the UNIT as a special agent on the street as someone with more of an intuitive edge.

TKT: Who is Ash and what role does he play in the UNIT?
OTF:
Ash originally worked in Customs but always had ambitions to take down bigger criminals and make more of a difference. He saw the futility of just working small-time criminals. He comes from a low income community and knows where the real problem is – the criminals at the top. He’s a family man, he’s got a wife and two beautiful kids who he loves very much but he’s got an obsessive streak. Sometimes it’s hard for him to separate his private life and his dedication to the job. He has a problem with authority too and prefers to do things the ‘Ash way’ rather than playing by the rulebook.

TKT: Tommy and Ash join the UNIT at the same time – how does that change their relationship?
OTF:
Tommy was Ash’s right-hand man when they worked together in Customs, and they’re very close. Tommy’s so talented that Ash brought him into the UNIT at the first opportunity available. But whereas Ash is living the dream they both shared of being out in the field, Tommy’s stuck inside the UNIT’s base. Ash feels some measure of guilt towards Tommy’s situation and they have to try to find a way of maintaining their tight personal and professional relationship, although it has fundamentally changed.

TKT: What makes him so determined to catch the criminals?
OTF:
Ash came from a pretty rough upbringing and can really see how crime induced by poverty can really cripple a community. He takes crime very personally and for him, taking out criminals is a sort of redemption, perhaps even making up for his own past mistakes. He sees it everywhere, he’s got an intuition and an eye that manages to spot criminal activity wherever he goes – it’s a blessing and a curse.

TKT: Ash is consistently torn between work and his wife, Lorna – what does she mean to him?
OTF:
There’s a Ray Lamontagne song, Trouble, with a line that says, “I’ve been saved by a woman,” and I think in many ways, Ash was saved by Lorna. For him, Lorna is a rock who keeps him from spinning out of control and I think that without her, he would. But, of course, the relationship is put under a lot of tension because when you’ve got this obsession in your life it can play havoc on the family.

TKT: What attracted you to the role?
OTF:
I was really attracted to Ash’s darkness, the mistakes of his past and how he tries to redress that. He has an aggression and a drive which is inexhaustible. He is caught between his vocation and the love in his life. I was really excited about playing a character who ultimately is struggling between these two elements within him. I can relate to that. I think, if anything, Ash’s biggest weakness (and his biggest strength) is that he cares too much. He cares so much about crime prevention and cares so much about his family. Ultimately that just spills out of him with diabolical consequences for his life.

TKT: How do you think The Interceptor is different from other crime shows?
OTF:
The Interceptor has an excitement and grittiness to it but it’s also very entertaining. It lives in this sphere of a slightly heightened reality where although you completely identify and recognise all the characters in it, they’re fun and exciting to watch. You’re very curious about how they will all turn out. The action is great as well. I think people will have a fun time watching it.

TKT: How have you found filming the stunt scenes?
OTF:
The stunts have been exhilarating. Some of the action scenes that we’ve done I’ve not really seen in British crime shows before. I’ve been doing a lot of my own stunt driving, fights in vats of liquid, getting smashed out of windows and smashing other people out of windows – it’s like my 11 year-old dream really!

TKT: What research have you done for the role?
OTF:
I’ve got a couple of friends in the police force – I’d call them up at 7 o’clock in the morning and say “I’m in this situation, I’ve got to take down a bad guy, what do I do?!” But really Tony Saint is an incredible writer; there’s so much on the page that a lot of my development of the character has just been reaping the gold mine of each script and finding out the nuances from that.

The Interceptor: Wednesday 10th June, 9pm, BBC1

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