Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 08:25 UK

Talking Shop: Rupert Penry-Jones

Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones talks about his latest BBC drama Burn Up, a two-part thriller centred around climate change.

Rupert Penry-Jones in Burn Up
Penry-Jones plays oil executive Tom McConnell in the BBC's Burn Up

Fans of BBC One's spy drama Spooks are used to seeing Rupert Penry-Jones risking life and limb for queen and country.

But in two-part thriller Burn Up the 37-year-old actor takes on a more cerebral role as an oil executive caught up in a global conspiracy.

Written by Simon Beaufoy, who was Oscar-nominated for his work on hit comedy The Full Monty, the drama takes a topical look at the dangers of climate change.

The son of To the Manor Born star Angela Thorne, Penry-Jones - who has two young children with actress wife Dervla Kirwan - will also be seen soon in ITV crime drama Whitechapel.


Did you have any ethical concerns about playing the role of oil company executive Tom McConnell?

No, because he swings to the other side. The way I saw him was that he was kind of like the audience's point of view. A lot of people who watch this won't be aware of the facts and they'll learn them through the piece. He's the same; he's been putting his head in the sand and not taking in what's been going on, which is what most of us have been doing.

Rupert Penry-Jones talks about the new drama he's starring in called Burn up, about global warming. Tonight, BBC2, 9pm.

>The series does rather bombard the viewer with global warming data. Was there ever a worry the stats might detract from the drama?

I'm sure there was a danger of that. The main concern was we wouldn't be too preachy, and I think we've managed to strike a nice balance. But yes, there's a lot of information to take in.

As far as I know, everything that's said in the programme is either true or probable or possible. Nobody can say exactly, but it's very possible that in five to 10 years it will be too late to do anything about global warming. It's scary, and depressing.

How environmentally conscious are you off-screen?

I turn all the lights off and don't heat rooms that aren't being used. But I haven't put solar panels all over my roof yet, though my wife quite wants me to!

How did you find the experience of filming part of the series in Calgary, Canada?

It was very cold, and very unpleasant - harsh, harsh conditions. I wouldn't want to film somewhere like that again; it was minus 25, with 75km per hour winds. The ice was coming off like sand; it was like sand being blown in your face. We were there for two-and-a-half months and it got colder and colder and colder.

The next series of Spooks will be your last. Was it hard to leave?

Rupert Penry-Jones in Spooks
Penry-Jones is best known for playing Adam Carter in spy drama Spooks
It was sad; it was like leaving a school you've had a good time at. The producer gave me a lovely photo album with all these behind-the-scenes photographs. But I didn't become an actor to have a nine-to-five job and it was starting to feel like that.

I think acting becomes a very tough game when you're not being fired up by it anymore. I was still fired up when I left but it was definitely time to move on. I was in danger of getting lazy I think, and you can't afford to get lazy in this game.

What can you tell us about your next project, Whitechapel?

It's a three-parter for ITV: a serial killer drama along the lines of Prime Suspect and Messiah. I play a young policeman who finds himself amongst this bunch of hard-core coppers in Whitechapel, run by Phil Davis. We have this murder which looks like an ordinary domestic but turns out to be a serial killer copying the Jack the Ripper murders. It's pretty gruesome, but entertaining; hopefully it's got some laughs in it too.

So what are you up to this summer?

I'm not working at the moment and I have no plans to start in the near future. It was hard to do; I've worked for years to get the career I have now, so to find I need a break is quite disappointing! At the same time I don't want to be in something that could be detrimental to my career. Spooks for me set the bar very high and I don't want to come in underneath that.

Rupert Penry-Jones was speaking to BBC news entertainment reporter Neil Smith. Burn Up starts 23 July on BBC Two at 2100 BST.


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