Cometh the Hour
These were marvellous, great guys with fantastically awful hairstyles – lots of severe Prince Charleslike partings
WITH its office politics, sexual intrigue and vast quantities of alcohol consumption, new period drama The Hour is being hailed as the British answer to Mad Men, the US advertising drama that took America and the world by storm.
Starring Dominic West ( The Wire ), Ben Wishaw ( Bright Star ) and Romola Garai ( 2011 Golden Globe nominee for Emma), the drama goes behind the scenes of a broadcast newsroom in London during the mid 1950s, following the personal lives and professional ambitions of a rising television news team during a defining time in the UK’S history – the Suez Canal crisis of 1956.
And it’s not surprising comparisons are being drawn to Mad Men: both re- create roughly the same time in history; both feature attractive actors sporting gorgeous period clothes and hairstyles; and both revolve around a significant period of social change.
The storyline follows the ambitious young Bel Rowley ( Garai), producer of The Hour, a groundbreaking current affairs show, her anchorman ( and eventual lover) Hector Madden ( West, pictured), an ex- soldier- turned- sportsreporter whose connections land him the coveted role on the show, and Freddie Lyon ( Wishaw), an aspiring but renegade broadcast journalist who is in love with Bel and resents Hector.
To prepare for her role, Garai studied the life of Grace Wyndham Goldie, one of the pioneers of British news. A TV producer, Goldie was the driving force behind the successful BBC programs Tonight and Panorama.
‘‘ She was absolutely at the forefront of that movement and she was totally alone,’’ Garai says.
‘‘ She was like any woman who had to operate in that climate. She was intimidating, formidable. Definitely a woman with the emphasis on ‘ man’.’’
Another attraction for Garai was the love triangle between Bel, Hector and Freddie that lies at the heart of The Hour.
‘‘ The storyline between Bel and Freddie is very unusual, I think, in that it’s a friendship that has buried within it a love affair, but that’s played out very gradually and tentatively. It’s full of subtlety. To play a story like that with an actor like Ben is just beautiful.’’
The relationship between Hector and Bel, however, is another story.
‘‘ With Hector, it’s a very passionate relationship from the off,’’ Garai says. ‘‘ There’s no reason for their attraction; it’s instant sexual chemistry which is undeniable.
‘‘ It’s a terrible and really difficult thing for me to act with Dominic,’’ she laughs.
‘‘ He’s a gorgeous man, he’s lovely to work with and he’s obviously very, very beautiful. It’s been a real treat to play that love affair.’’
For fans of The Wire, seeing West transform from the boozing, hard- nosed detective Mcnulty to the clipped tones of Hector Madden may come as something of a shock but it’s a character change the actor, who is in fact British and educated at Eton College, is relishing.
‘‘ These were marvellous, great guys with fantastically awful hairstyles – lots of severe Prince Charles- like partings,’’ he laughs.