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Meet Spooks’ new girl Beth Bailey!

from What’s on TV (UK)

Section D has a new recruit. Actress Sophia Myles reveals what it’s like to join the hit BBC1 spy show…

Tell us about Beth Bailey…
“We met her in the first episode, when she was working as an undercover mercenary. She asked Harry for a job and he recruited her. This week she gets her first mission, protecting an oil baron from a suspected assassination attempt.”

Isn’t Beth based on a real woman?
“Yes, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her. She was headhunted by MI6 when she was 18 and at university, and was picked to undergo the very intense fast-track selection process. She did the training and did very well but she was in her youth, she was a rebel, and she decided she didn’t want to work for such a heavily organised bureaucracy. So she decided instead to pursue a career in the private sector of investigation and intelligence, but her morals got the better of her eventually. She’s in this game for good.”

Is that the same with Beth? Is she in it for good or is she self-motivating?
“They’ve definitely added elements to make it darker, I think. It’s revealed that there’s a part of her past that’s shady. But the reason she’s passionate about working for MI5 now is that she really wants to shine light on the skeletons that are in her closet and get clean.

“The other thing that you should probably know is, in our story, when she was 18, Harry Pearce was one of the board members on the MI5 selection committee, so they’ve met years and years ago. So for her it’s a bit like running into an old teacher from school.”

Is that a fair assessment of their relationship now?
“I think there’s a great amount of respect there, both ways. And he always thought that she was very talented. In the early days he was concerned about her rebellious streak. She was expelled from numerous public schools and she always did things her way and wasn’t willing to listen back then. But she is now.”

Is there a romantic spark between Beth and Lucas?
“No, no. He’s actually highly suspicious of her because she’s highly confident. Obviously she’s come from the private sector where she’s probably making 300K a year; he’s at MI5 where he’s on 24. He has no idea of the fact she’s been doing it since she was 18 and she’s massively qualified, but he can’t quite figure her out. She likes him more than he likes her. She tries to take the mickey out of him a bit and he doesn’t like that.”

Had you been a fan of the series before?
“I’d never seen it. I sat down and watched a few and I was absolutely terrified. I can’t watch them late at night, they stress me out too much. I go to bed with heart palpitations!”

What’s it like, joining such an established show?
“I was really nervous being the new kid on the block. It’s like joining the Big Brother house late – when you already know more about them than they do about you!”

What’s it like on set?
“The show is so serious, but it’s like a comedy behind the scenes. Peter Firth, who plays Harry Pearce, is so naughty. He prides himself on making us laugh at inappropriate moments, and I’ve always been a giggler. But I haven’t been fired… Yet!”

Is it a physically demanding role?
“We all try to keep as fit as we can. The real woman this character’s based on told me she runs for 11k every morning before she eats breakfast. That’s one thing I haven’t managed to do! But we keep fit outside of work so we’re less likely to do ourselves an injury on the job. There’s a lot of running around so you want to be as supple as you can, but they’ll always bring in stunt people if there’s something that is dangerous.”

Are you the type of person who likes doing your own stunts?
“No. I always prefer to hand it over to the professionals. The stunt people are much better of it, so I’d rather they’d do it and make it look better. And I don’t want to get hurt!”

Spooks screens on Mondays at 9pm on BBC1

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Corsets off for new Spook

from The Telegraph (UK) / by Vicki Power

Sophia Myles tells Vicki Power why she has moved from period drama to play a spy.

Posing as an Eastern European prostitute on a Somali pirate ship in the first episode of a new series of Spooks, Sophia Myles is clad in a gaudy get-up of stonewashed denim, hot pink Lycra and the sort of cheap bling you might associate with the oldest profession. “It was just the most hideous, most unattractive outfit I’ve ever worn,” chuckles Myles, 30. “And with dirt and mascara running down my face, I look really grimy.”

Of course, the garish outfit is soon replaced with the cool leather gear of an MI5 superspy when Myles joins the slick BBC One drama’s ninth season as Agent Beth Bailey. But Myles’s grubby debut is noteworthy because it’s a leap from the crinolined English roses we’ve seen her play up to now in costume dramas such as Mansfield Park, The Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and Tristan & Isolde.

Spooks is giving Myles the opportunity to break free of corsets. “In my early twenties I was playing the innocent victim of the harsh uncle, and now I’ve moved into playing empowered young women,” she says, in her deep voice.

But it was a bonnets-and-breeches outing that gave a 16-year-old Myles her big break a decade and a half ago, when Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes spotted her in a play at her Isleworth comprehensive and cast the vicar’s daughter as Lady Jane Grey in his 1996 TV series, The Prince and The Pauper. “He’d come to my school because it was exam time and the private schools wouldn’t let their kids out to film,” explains Myles drily, who still keeps in touch with Fellowes.

The gods were certainly on Myles’s side when a small part in Patricia Rozema’s acclaimed adaptation of Mansfield Park got Myles noticed in the US; roles that followed included playing Johnny Depp’s wife in the Jack the Ripper film From Hell. “At 19 to get paid to snog Johnny? Come on,” she laughs.

Parts followed in period pieces, Colditz, the Thunderbirds remake and the thriller Art School Confidential, which also starred John Malkovich.

“Each film I’ve done has had an impact on some level; there’s nothing there I’m embarrassed about.” Myles continues to earn praise while flying under the radar, which is exactly how she likes it.

“I don’t want to be famous. I like to be able to sit in a café and watch the world go by and observe people. The minute you’re famous, all eyes are on you and people are reacting to you in an unnatural way.”

But she’s discovered that it’s not easy being anonymous when your love life is gossip-worthy. Myles has had relationships with actors David Tennant and (to many raised eyebrows) with Charles Dance, who is 34 years her senior. When asked about it today, Myles becomes endearingly flustered. She says she never talks about her love life, then starts and stops several sentences before putting her head in her hands. “Wait… wait…” she giggles. “I want to give you something good.”

Myles looks up after half a minute. “If you were to do a line-up of past suitors, it’s definitely a very eclectic group, is all I’ll say,” she concludes.

Myles is refreshingly devoid of the ambition that seeps from the pores of many young actors; she even took a gap year alone to Southeast Asia last year. “I had been working solidly for 16 years and wanted to find out a bit about myself outside of anything professional or romantic,” she explains. The highlight of the trip was a rather severe-sounding fast and colon cleanse at a Thai spa.

Another catalyst for the gap year was turning 30 earlier this year. “In my twenties I was getting addicted to the adrenaline rushes of a press junket here and a premiere there,” says Myles. “I think I’m striving now for much more balance on a daily basis.”

Spooks’ continued high ratings (of 6 million or more), alongside the recent headlines surrounding the death of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams, make it clear that the public is still fascinated by the lives of spies, whether real or fictional. Myles is thrilled that her character, Beth Bailey, is based on a real, unnamed, former MI6 spy who then got rich working in private intelligence.

“I’ve met her several times and she’s very grounded, very sexy and very, very cool,” enthuses Myles. “It’s amazing what a woman of a similar age to me has done with her time.” Even better, says Myles, is that Bailey has no love life as yet. “This is the first time I’ve told a story that doesn’t involve romance.”

The only possible drawback is that Spooks tends to catapult its lead actors into the spotlight: think Keeley Hawes, Rupert Penry-Jones and current star Richard Armitage. Given the impact Sophia Myles makes in next week’s first episode, she may just have to resign herself to a little bit of fame.

Spooks returns on Monday 20 September on BBC One at 9.00pm

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From wronged maiden to kickass spy: Spooks star Sophia Myles

from Evening Standard (UK) / by Liz Hoggard

(Online Version of article)

Before I meet actress Sophia Myles, I’ve watched her screen debut in the new series of Spooks, which goes out on Monday. Playing an impoverished Russian prostitute, in her first scene she is bedraggled and half-starved on a Somali pirate ship.

When Myles walks up to me in Brown’s tea room — demure, blonde, very English — she is obviously nothing like her screen character. But then her role in Spooks isn’t quite what it seems either; and by the end of the episode we find out that she is not a prostitute but a spy called Beth Bailey.

With the end of the Cold War, many of us might have assumed that spies are now the stuff of fiction. But with the death of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams and the unmasking of red-haired Russian spy Anna Chapman, spooks are incredibly topical again.

“I’ve thought a lot about what makes the show a success,” says Myles, “and I think it’s because, in the current climate, a lot of people are constantly looking over their shoulder for danger. And the message Spooks gives out is that there is a team of people fighting to keep us all safe.”

A vicar’s daughter born in Notting Hill, Myles was first spotted by writer Julian Fellowes in a school play, age 16, and cast in a TV version of The Prince and the Pauper. Roles followed in Mansfield Park, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Critics quickly dubbed her the new Kate Winslet.

But actually Myles, 30, is not an English rose. “I’m half-Welsh, half-Russian. My maternal grandmother is Russian. I’ve very much a mongrel, which is good in a way because it makes me quite a blank canvas,” she acknowledges.

Along with Iain Glen and Simon Russell Beale, Myles is one of the new characters brought into Spooks after the death of lead character Ros (Hermione Norris). With her blonde good looks and voluptuous curves, she is undeniably the totty in the show but what drew Myles to her character — based on a real-life English spy Myles met through Kudos, the production company behind Spooks — is the fact that she does a grown-up job.

“Hers is an incredible story. She’s now 31 and when she was 18, she was studying English at Edinburgh University, and she got recruited by MI6, so she went through the entire fast-track selection process, and was fully qualified but at the last minute she decided she didn’t want to work for the government.

“She was still fascinated by security and intelligence so she started working in the private sector. It took her to Colombia and then most of her twenties were spent in Iraq. By the age of 26 she was a shareholder in a company worth a couple of million, with 600 ex-SAS soldiers working beneath her.”

It’s the first role Myles has played without a fictional romantic relationship. “And that has been very empowering, actually,” she says.

We haven’t seen Myles on our screens for a while. She spent two years in LA starring in US vampire TV series, Moonlight. But now she’s back based in London, in her flat in Queen’s Park. “Frantically homesick”, she missed corner shops and proper tea and being able to walk everywhere.

“Spooks was the perfect job at the perfect time,” she laughs, over a bite of egg sandwich. Myles is quite a tomboy and had it written into her Spooks contract that Beth doesn’t wear high heels during running scenes. “That was my main stipulation because I’ve done so many shows where I got badly damaged feet running nine hours a day. I said, She’s a sensible woman, she wouldn’t go into crime scenes in stilettos’. I never wear them in real life — they’re like Chinese foot binding, I’d have them abolished if I could.”

She’s an actress not a model, she insists, describing the horror of trying to squeeze into teeny runway samples for magazine shoots. In the States she ended up wearing hair extensions because her role in Moonlight destroyed her very fine hair. “In America they want you to look like you’ve just stepped out of a beauty salon in every frame. Everyone has hair extensions. You know how everyone raved about Jennifer Aniston’s hair in Friends? It’s all fake. No one has their real hair, so it’s such a ridiculous illusion.”

And she has a feminist attitude to beauty. “I’m really a strong advocate of ageing because the messages that the media and advertising give to women infuriate me: ie that it’s a bad thing to get old. So here’s a cream that will help you stay young because young means success or love’, which is just bollocks, really.”

Age became a big issue for Myles when, at the age of 21, she met Charles Dance — 34 years her senior — on the set of Oliver Twist. His marriage ended and they started a relationship. When Dance moved on two years later, Myles was reported to be devastated.

Then in 2006 she played Madame de Pompadour in an episode of Doctor Who (“The Girl in the Fireplace”) and ended up dating David Tennant for two years. She declared herself “crazy in love”, but the relationship broke up because she was based in LA. Did she find the press intrusion distressing? “Do you know what, it all feels like such a long time ago,” she says, in genuine surprise. “It’s not relevant right now.”

Yesterday Myles announced she was engaged to Brent Thomas Funston; a 36 year old entrepreneur from Texas.

“I’m in a very good place personally. I think in my twenties I wanted to be gallivanting around the globe and meeting everyone possible, but now I’m finding the desire to put roots down more permanently,” she added.

She says she realises that when she was younger she was looking for someone else to come along and complete her. Eventually she realised she had to do it for herself. When Moonlight ended after the writers’ strike, she went backpacking across South-East Asia on her own for a year.

“I was always a little bit resentful that I never had a gap year,” she laughs. “It was the only part of university I felt I missed. And it was really interesting to get a perspective on my life without it being about career or relationships or any of the external material things. Taking it back to basics grounds you.”

After all, she’s been a “professional nomad” since she was 16, and acting prompted her to turn down a place to study philosophy at Cambridge. Her Hollywood break came when she was cast as the wife of Johnny Depp in From Hell (“I think God spent a little extra time on him,” she recalls with a grin).

In 2004 she won the role of Lady Penelope in the film version of Thunderbirds (she had lessons in walking in heels and was dressed by Chanel). Vanity Fair dubbed her the next big thing. Ridley Scott gave her the lead in Tristan and Isolde opposite James Franco.

But for critics, her breakthrough role was in Scottish film Hallam Foe, opposite Jamie Bell, which won her Best Actress at the 2007 British Independent Film Awards. Cast completely against type as a feisty, promiscuous hotel administrator (with a strong Edinburgh accent), it was the antithesis of her usual “corset” roles. “I took Jamie Bell’s screen virginity,” she laughs triumphantly. “I’m very proud of that film but I always say to friends, Just don’t watch it with your parents, please!’”

For years she played virgins and victims. But now she is relishing playing more adult roles. “I was often the wronged young maiden and now I’m the kickass bitch.”

Beth isn’t a bitch, she says quickly, but she’s bloody tough. We’re all fascinated by the actor chemistry on Spooks, where so many stars end up having relationships (Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen, Miranda Raison and Raza Jaffrey). Myles lights up talking about her co-stars. She reveals that Peter Firth (Harry) is a champion tease. “He’s so naughty. His on-set hobby is making me corpse. On Spooks you have to stand there looking as serious and cool as possible and suddenly out of the corner of your eye, you catch Firth flicking a camp wrist at you,” she dissolves.

Meanwhile Richard Armitage is coaching her in how to answer journalists’ dumb questions about her beauty routine. “We joked I ought to say I frequently piss in my own bathwater, and that seems to be the secret for great skin.”

Myles would love to do some theatre. “I’ve just worked again with Ed Hall who directed the last two episodes of Spooks, and he now runs the Hampstead Theatre.”

She describes acting as almost a meditative state. “You’re constantly in the present, it’s very freeing — I live for that moment. I couldn’t care less about walking down the red carpet in a pair of heels and a posh frock. I’d rather be in my pyjamas at home.”

Series 9 of Spooks starts on BBC1 at 9pm on Monday.

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‘Spooks’ – Meet The Newbies: Sophia Myles

from Digital / by Catriona Wightman

Yesterday we brought you a chat with new Spooks cast member Laila Rouass, and today it’s the turn of Sophia Myles! She’s joining the show as Beth, a new spy in the team. We caught up with Sophia to find out more about her character and working on Spooks.

Were you a fan of Spooks before you joined the show?
“I’d never seen an episode! I’ve seen a few now. I went back right to the start and watched the first series, and then the series just before this so I knew where I was coming in.”

Can you tell us a bit about Beth?
“She was head-hunted by MI6 when she was 18 as a student in Edinburgh University studying English. So she went through all the training at MI6 when she was 18. She passed everything with flying colours, and actually Harry Pearce met her back then. She’s actually based on a real-life woman, who I’ve met. She was very rebellious so she decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to go and work for the government. But she was passionate about security and intelligence so she went into the private sector instead. First she went off to Columbia but most of her 20s was spent in the Middle East – she owned a private company and had like 600 SAS soldiers working beneath her by the age of 26. She’s come back to London and I think looking for a bit more stability, so she applies for a job.”

You said Beth’s based on a real person. What was it like meeting her?
“Amazing. I’ve got a crush on her!”

It’s been said that the theme of this series is deception. Does Beth trust people?
“I think in this particular field of work, no-one reveals their true nature on the surface. So I think anyone working in this industry would be wise to not believe what they hear or what they see is true. I think she has a pretty good instinct. Probably her closest ally is [her fellow new spy] Dimitri [played by Max Brown], just because they’re the same age. I think from day one because they join at the same time, they’re both like the new kids at school together. And I probably think of everyone he’s the most likely person she would want to go out with and have a dinner with or something out of work. I think they’re most likely to be friends in real life.”

How does Beth get on with the rest of the team?
“I think from Beth’s perspective, because she’s known Harry for 12 years previously, she feels very, very comfortable already with him. And she instantly finds it very easy in Dimitri’s presence. It’s like joining a school three years late. Of course everyone’s going to be a bit wary of you to start with. But I think both Dimitri and Beth prove themselves pretty quickly to be good eggs.”

Did you get to film a lot of action scenes?
“Yeah, loads! We never stop running! We’re all runners, we get quite competitive. I thought I was doing well getting three times round my local park once or twice a week! The boys get adrenaline rushes from guns and cars, and I feel nothing. Give me a horse and I’ll be happy!”

Spooks isn’t concerned about killing its main characters off. Does that worry you at all?
“You know from day one that’s part of the deal. So you’d be an idiot not to expect your death at some point because that’s the way they roll on this show.”

The new series of Spooks begins on Monday at 9pm on BBC One.