Actor Ciaran Hinds Takes On Crime

Ciaran Hinds seems to show up in every other movie you may have seen over the past decade, including There Will Be Blood, The Road to Perdition, Harry Potter and The Debt. He's currently starring in the hit television series Above Suspicion, based on the Lynda La Plante novels. Host Scott Simon speaks with Hinds about his career.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ciaran Hinds is an actor who seems to show up in every other movie you may have seen over the past decade, including "There Will Be Blood," "The Road to Perdition," "Harry Potter," and "The Debt." Critics raved over his Richard III onstage in London, and his Julius Caesar in the HBO BBC production of "Rome." And now Ciaran Hinds is playing a murder detective in a TV series, "Above Suspicion."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ABOVE SUSPICION")

CIARAN HINDS: (as DCI Langton) Have you ever been to a postmortem, Travis?

KELLY REILLY: (as DC Anna Travis) Yes, I have. Sorry about this morning, sir.

HINDS: You'll be even sorrier if you throw up in the mortuary.

SIMON: That's Ciaran Hinds playing DCI Langton with his costar Kelly Reilly, who plays a rookie detective and his mentee. "Above Suspicion's" based on the popular Lynda La Plante novel. And she's known as the bard of police procedurals for writing "Prime Suspect" and "Trial and Retribution." Ciaran Hinds joins us from London. Thanks so much for being with us.

HINDS: It's a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: After all these imperious roles, what drew you to play a crime scene rat like DCI Langton?

HINDS: Well, it was the name of Lynda La Plante who kind of had a huge track record in the crime genre, both in novel form and on television. But the lead actress who they've chosen is a woman called Kelly Reilly, who I had the great fortune to work with about six years previous when we started this in 2001. Now, I heard that Kelly was going to star in this new Lynda La Plante series and she'd be very pleased if I'd jump in and join her. So that's what I did.

SIMON: Mr. Hinds, how would you summarize Lynda La Plante, what seems to be her great talent for writing so many successful police procedurals?

HINDS: Well, I think she has a touch on the pulse of what people like to see. People like to be - the violence that she has is kind of gothic. They don't use guns much. It's sort of strange cuttings up and it's rather gruesome, to be quite honest. And I don't know if you could say some people like a bit of voyeurism or not. But the stuff that she writes after it is about this relentless hunt to try and track down these people who are doing terrible things. And I think she really has her finger on the popular taste or the popular culture at the time.

SIMON: You were born in Belfast.

HINDS: Yeah, that's right.

SIMON: What was it like to come to London in the early 1970s from Belfast? What was it like to be an Irish actor in London?

HINDS: It was quite extraordinary because at the same time I wasn't running away from what was going on the north of Ireland, but it was insane in 1973. Civil rights had kicked off '68, '69 and the army had moved in; we have internment introduced. There were tit-for-tat killings. And it was sort of something that you began to accept just part of the life that went on there. But there was nowhere, as I decided that maybe I would try and change to be an actor, there was nowhere Ireland at that time that you could do that. So, the only place is to head over to England and see if you could get a placement in one of the theater schools there, which is what I did. So, I have to say I arrived over, I suppose, in '73 to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. And I had very long hair, and I was going around in skinny denims and bare feet. And I probably had a chip on both shoulders. But what I did understand was how fortunate I was to come over at a proper age and meet young English people who were as inquisitive of what was going on there, what was it all about, and it wasn't about just one nation against another. There was a whole people who wanted to know, to understand, what was the way out, what we could do. So, for me, I was quite lucky.

SIMON: Once you play Julius Caesar, is it a little hard to play someone without an empire?

HINDS: Yeah, well, I had to hang up my toga when I went home anyway and get on the apron. It was hardly a fact of going back and ordering the two women who suffer me in their lives to obey my every whim.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ROME")

HINDS: (as Julius Caesar) I demand only this: That you join with me in building a new Rome, a Rome that offers justice, peace and land to all its citizens, not just the privileged few.

At one stage in my career, I was asked to play the president of Russia as well in a regular film, "The Sum of All Fears." And I have no particular idea why I'm asked to do these things, 'cause I don't consider myself driven by desire to rule the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE SUM OF ALL FEARS")

HINDS: (as President Nemerov) Chechnya is a nation of criminals. Every day brings another cowardly attack on innocent Russian citizens. It is none of your concern.

MORGAN FREEMAN: (as DCI William Cabot) Stability is our concern. Peace in Chechnya is our concern.

SIMON: Do you have any idea how many accents you can act in?

HINDS: I know how many bad accents I've come up with.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HINDS: You know, and people say, so, what accent was that? And I think for one film I said, well, it's kind of Swiss but somebody who was educated in England and probably took holidays in Ireland. And because you want to give people a definition of that. I also feel that what we did "Munich" with Steven Spielberg, the characters was one Israeli, on South African, one German and then there was me, and I say an accent that I finally called Austrian just to throw into the mix. You do get help with accents but our own color is what it is.

SIMON: I'm not proud of this question but...

HINDS: But you're going to ask it.

SIMON: Can we hear one?

HINDS: Yeah, sure. I mean, what is it exactly you want me to talk about?

SIMON: Oh, that's pretty good, this is pretty good.

HINDS: This could actually be from anywhere, as far as I'm concerned. You know, it doesn't actually define it where it is. Now, I'm going to go into my deep South, which is terrible, let me tell ya.

SIMON: That's more like "There Will Be Blood," right?

HINDS: That was my Scottish. That's all right. I can take a hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I beg your pardon. What's up next for you?

HINDS: Until two days ago, it was nothing. There was possibilities, but there were nothing. I think I'm going to get involved in a conspiracy thriller here in England involving barristers.

SIMON: What's it feel like when nothing's penciled in?

HINDS: A few things I suppose. One of like, well, you - A, you've finally been rumbled, and, B, well, it lets the pressure off for a bit. Because when every time you come to work, you think you have to kid yourself that you can do it and it doesn't get any easier the older you get. You've just got more doubts.

SIMON: Ciaran Hinds plays DCI James Langton in the TV series "Above Suspicion," now available on DVD from Acorn Video here in the United States. Ciaran Hinds joined us from London. Thanks so much, sir.

HINDS: It's a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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