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Interview: Romola Garai

29th October 2012

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Abi Morgan's acclaimed 1950s newsroom drama The Hour is returning to BBC2. TNS chatted to Romola Garai, who plays Bel Rowley. 

What has changed for The Hour since series one?

It is nine months after the last series. Bel is much more confident and is much more in command of the show, but she’s definitely missing her right hand man - the more sort of risk taking, investigative element of their team, because Freddie has not come back. She’s also pretty gutted about that because, you know, he’s her best friend.

How has Bel coped since Clarence’s departure?

There is a new Head of News, Randall Brown played by Peter Capaldi, and he is a very different force on her life because rather than battling him for the scoops and trying to get the most contentious material on air, he’s very much more part of the team. He comes from an investigative news background; he was a journalist in the Spanish Civil War. He’s a sort of a compadre of Lix’s, of that generation - the sort of Martha Gellhorn generation - so it’s a very different dynamic.

What effect does Randall have on The Hour?

I think he has a very positive effect on the show because it’s more powerful. Everybody involved in it is wanting to make it a cutting edge and independent news programme, free of the government control it was under before.

What made you want to come back and play Bel for a second series?

I love playing Bel, she’s an amazing character - you never get that – and she’s got a job. No women ever have jobs on TV! It is a great part and it is brilliant dialogue, Abi writes really interesting dialogue and I think it’s fantastic to have a show that’s a thriller and also about politics. It’s really fun to do.

Bel was in a bit of a love triangle in the first series - what’s in store for her this series?

Well the relationship she had with Hector is totally over, but at the beginning of the show Freddie comes back, but he has a new love interest, which is quite humiliating for Bel who always thought that whether or not they had a relationship would be slightly dependent on whether or not she wanted to, rather than him meeting someone else. But there’s a new counterpoint to the show, the ITV show Uncovered - and her direct parallel over there is a character called Bill, and she has a relationship with him.

How does The Hour deal with ITV launching rival show Uncovered?

Well they’ve got competition for the first time, but the story line they’re chasing this year is much more a physically dangerous one for them, so their focus is much more about the fact that their lives could be in danger.

Who does Bel rely on in her team for support?

She has a great relationship with Lix. Lix is very much a sort of mentor figure for her, but generally I think it’s a happy team that enjoy working together - it’s good.

And has Bel’s look changed at all?

There’s more colour this series, there’s definitely a very bright and colourful palette going on for Bel. She’s also wearing more suits, and has glasses - which sometimes she wears and sometimes she doesn’t!

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