AC­TOR’S TAL­ENT HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY - CLARE RIG­DEN TV WRITER

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

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