ACTOR’S TALENT HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
He’s been lauded as one of the finest British actors of his generation. Yet, weirdly, if Adrian Lester walked past you in the street, you’d probably not even bat an eyelid, such is his ability to move seamlessly between roles.
He’s starred in everything from musicals to Shakespeare and gritty political thrillers, yet it’s hard to recognise the 47year-old thespian — and that’s the way he likes it.
“I really admire people who are chameleons,” says the actor, who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2013 for services to drama.
Lester’s most recent work — for which he and co-star Sophie Okonedo are being universally praised — is Undercover, a BBC production about a man who first meets his wife when he’s hired to investigate her as an undercover officer.
Twenty years later she’s unaware he’s been lying to her all this time, and their happy family life is rocked when events unfold that threaten to blow his cover.
“I knew straight away that it was the kind of thing I really wanted to be a part of,” Lester says. “And I jumped at the chance to meet the producers and read for it.”
Undercover is loosely based on recent revelations that Scotland Yard had used undercover officers to infiltrate protest movements.
Lester admits he knew very little about any of this before signing up.
“I started to do my research, and I was kind of gobsmacked,” he says. “It’s asking you to be concerned about the whole undercover thing, where some of these women were married to [undercover officers], and mentally caused great heartache and pain — for no reason.”
Lester has a black belt in taekwondo but has never been an action hero. “One day maybe I’ll do that.” The next James Bond perhaps? Watch this space.
UNDERCOVER, BBC FIRST, SUNDAY, 8.30PM