Comoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are back, as J.K. Rowling’s ‘Strike’ series returns to BBC One.
The detective pairing are thrown into a brand new case in the third two-parter, ‘Career Of Evil’, which is based on the novels written by the Harry Potter author, under her pen name Robert Galbraith.
Ahead of its debut on Sunday (24 February), we caught up with lead star Tom Burke (aka Comran Strike), to discuss why the stakes are higher than ever in the latest instalment and what the future holds for the TV series beyond the last book in the current trilogy.
This is the third instalment of the ‘Strike’ series, but how would you describe it to those who haven’t seen the first two?
The BBC have put it all back on iPlayer if they want to watch it! I’d like to think it doesn’t need too much explanation. The relationship between Robin and Strike is such a non-verbal, emotional thing, that maybe they get the jist of it straight away.
They’re quite an unconventional pairing, aren’t they?
Yes, but then look around, I know some pretty unconventional pairings. There’s a million and one reasons why they’re together, and some people feel there’s something palpable going on between them, but they might not work.
Would you like to see them get together romantically?
I don’t really have an opinion on that because it’s up to whatever Jo Rowling thinks would be the best possible narrative. I’m pretty confident with her view on that, and she’s the author and it’s her world and her characters.
What can you tell us about the case they investigate in ‘Career Of Evil’?
It’s literally on their doorstep and they find themselves at the centre of it, more so than they have in the previous two, so it’s very different in that respect. The stakes are much higher because they are involved in it in a very personal way.
How did you come to get cast in the series?
I did audition at least three times in the end. Initially, I auditioned, funnily enough, in Denmark Street because that’s where the office used to be, which is obviously where Strike’s office also is. But there was also a lot of building work going on, so I had to go in again, then a more formalised screen-test in a studio setting. I don’t really know what goes on at the other end of it, but I knew I had to very much fight my cause. It seemed to be a bit of a slow process, but some of these things are because there’s a lot riding on them. Fortunately, Jo had seen me in ‘War And Peace’ and scrutinised Fedor Dolokhov because he’s one of her favourite characters. So from there on it wasn’t too much of a struggle.
Is it daunting as an actor going into something based on a book that is written by someone so celebrated?
It’s probably like skydiving - it was so daunting that I couldn’t really think about it. That’s my memory of it. I remember taking a gulp and the start of it all but then I didn’t really think about it again until we finished filming.
Do you remember your first meeting with Jo?
Funnily enough, I had met her very, very briefly before, but she didn’t remember. So I then met her when she came to see me in ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ at the National Theatre. There was a bit of a panic my end because I knew she was in and I was waiting at the bar after and she sort of got a bit lost. I had to text someone saying, ‘I’ve lost Jo Rowling’, which isn’t the bomb you want to drop on anyone. But she turned up later on and we had a lovely chat.
She’s an executive producer on the series, but how involved was she on set?
She was only on set on one day because we were finishing the first block and then doing the read-throughs of the second on the same day in the same studio. She was always there for the read-throughs, so that day it made sense for her to come to set. Other than that, she was never on set, because she’s so busy writing screenplays, but also it may have been a case that she didn’t want to be intimidating and wanted us to be able to make these characters our own.
That said, the morning she came in, me and Holly we absolutely made sure we knew every scene backwards and were on our A-game.
Is having the novels to refer to useful, or can it be more of a challenge to live up to what people have in their heads of the characters?
Some people might see a character in a certain way, but you can overthink it and there’s no point in doing that. You just need to go with your own interpretation of it.
So did you read the books beforehand?
I did. I had to stop myself half-way through the second one, which was when I was finding out if I’d been cast or not. I was enjoying them so much that I thought if I didn’t get it, I was going to be really annoyed, so the less I knew about it the better.
Could you see the TV series jumping ahead of where the books are, like ‘Game Of Thrones’?
The only way I can imagine that happening - and this is just my instinct, I could be completely wrong - given Jo is now writing screenplays, that she might just write a script instead of writing a book for one. Or she could write one in parallel to a book and they could feed into one another?
We’re assuming you’d be up for coming back then?
I would happily play this part until I’m grey. I really love this character and I knew there could be the possibility it would go on and on. I think there’s a six-book plan, but I keep hearing different figures. It’s a pleasure to work on and all the people are lovely.
What makes ‘Strike’ stand out against other crime dramas?
I just feel like we put the relationship right at the front, and that’s what the heart of it is and it works. They both have blind spots, but it’s where they draw their strength from. And above all of that, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
‘Strike: Career Of Evil’ airs on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.