Five minutes with... Count Arthur Strong actor Rory Kinnear

Rory Kinnear is back as put-upon writer Michael in BBC One comedy Count Arthur Strong, co-written by Father Ted scribe Graham Linehan. Kinnear – son of actor Roy Kinnear – talks about the new series, which starts today

Rory Kinnear as Michael and Derry actress and singer Bronagh Gallagher as Birdie in a scene from Count Arthur Strong
Keeley Bolger

What's coming up for Michael?

The series is primarily focussed on Arthur (star and series creator and co-writer Steve Delaney) and his scrapes, but this time Michael's relationship with Sinem has developed a bit more – it's a bit more serious. Michael has another book on the go, but he seems to be stuck in this world that he can't believe he's in, but equally, doesn't really, at the heart of it, want to leave.

The humour in the show seems to divide people. Why might that be?

The series could have been on at any time in the past 40 years. It's not bogged down in any way by modernity, even though we do broach subjects of the modern world. It's character-led, it's situation-led and has characters that everyone sort of knows. It's not one group of people who love it either; it's kids, parents and grandparents. One of the loveliest things about it is everyone can watch together. I think sometimes people are put off by Arthur – they just don't quite get him. But the more time you spend with him, the more you realise the skill of Steve Delaney's performance and the warmth that comes with him, as well as the fact he's essentially playing someone who is infuriating, mean-spirited, selfish, self-obsessed and will be cruel and neglectful. Those things can put people off a character but there is a sense of heart.

You're also known for playing Bill Tanner in Bond. What can you tell us about the next film?

It's amazing that a film over 50 years old still has such interest and the rumour mill is still going on. I know probably less than most people, but it's the same family basically who are calling the shots on it, which means there is that sense of continuity and the loyalty it inspires in the people who work for it and the people who watch it.

Do you ever have moments filming Bond where you feel like pinching yourself?

Every time! I'd been doing a BBC 4 series called The Curse Of Steptoe about Steptoe And Son and we had to use the same extra that day, and she just had to wear three different outfits and to be in three different places. We were shooting 11 pages a day. Then, about 11 days later, I started my first day on Quantum Of Solace and we were crossing the Barbican with about 350 extras on set and I thought, oh, this is a new domain. For the second scene, just before we went for 'take', I thought, everyone's going to see this. I hadn't thought of that and it made me get a bit fluffy for that take. So it's best not to think about these wider implications to what you're doing.

You played a prime minister who has sex with a pig in the Channel 4 satire Black Mirror. What do you remember of that shoot?

It's always about the juxtaposition of an actor's life. The night before I met Marge the pig in a very peculiar lecture hall in Buckinghamshire, I had been reciting Henry V at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in black tie. The next morning I was there filming Black Mirror with my trousers around my ankles. I do remember having to call 'cut' myself on that scene because it went on further and further, and I said, 'I'm not actually going any further!'

:: Count Arthur Strong returns to BBC One this evening at 8.30.


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