by guestblogger Anne Illsley

Hermione Norris and Richard Armitage

We've often discussed Spooks here on Fly High focusing on  Lucas North (for very well-known reasons). I'm also sure you -  like me -   have missed not only handsome Lucas but also all the other cool "spooks" since our favourite series ended in October 2011. Do you remember Maria Grazia 's farewell to Spooks? Well, her farewell to Lucas was certainly a tiny bit more heartfelt .
Richard Armitage is, without doubt, a superb actor. Spooks is an outstanding BBC Drama that has delivered some world class performances, and showcased some of the greatest actors in the UK. Richard Armitage (Lucas),  Peter Firth (Harry Pearce), Rupert Penry-Jones (Adam) and Matthew MacFadyen (Tom)  are mesmerising male leads. But for me,  it is the women who really lift Spooks into another league as drama. And the best of the best is Ros Myers, played by actress Hermione Norris. It's refreshing to be able to relax on your leather sofa and take in superb performances from an actress who is also a strong female role model. 

Ros Myers

Who could forget Ros? For those who need a memory jog, she arrived on the grid “with the Secret Service in her blood”, having grown up with a father who was deeply involved in dirty dealing in politics and business at a high level. When he was finally brought down Ros was torn between her fury at Harry Pearce for not helping more, and grief about the loss of her father, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Despite these conflicting emotions Ros never lost sight of justice, and did not support her father’s actions, finally betraying him for the greater good of the country. Hermione Norris played these scenes with such emotional intensity she stood out for me as the actress of the series. Just watch this clip from her confrontation with Harry Pearce.

Character Development

There is something about the character of Ros Myers which breaks the mold. The writer, Ben Richardson, has achieved something very special in his portrayal of her, creating a complex and mysterious character who is impossible to know fully, and who can be admired for her strength as well as being sympathetic in her vulnerability. t no point does the writer  allow her to slip into stereotype traits that we commonly associate with female leads in a man’s world. It’s interesting to understand how he writes the part and the extent to which the actress played a part in her character’s development.

Hermione Norris and Rupert Penry-Jones
Richardson, speaking to Guardian journalist Gareth McLean in response to his paean to Myers, explained, “I didn't have a brief but she emerged out of conversations with the production team as most characters do. Spooks has always been an immensely collaborative project and creating new characters is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process” This is tribute indeed to Norris, whose TV career includes the hugely successful Cold Feet (Richard Armitage was in that series with her too - Have a look at this montage by Maria Grazia) and Blood In The Wire. Richardson goes on, “We had a good idea of what kind of character we wanted - strong and independent - but for me the most important thing was that she loved her job. No navel-gazing, no worrying about the ethics of spying, this is what she loves doing… Ros emerged successfully from the two-parter because of Hermione's brilliance at understanding her role and not trying to soften its edges. It made her the perfect foil for Adam.”

Strong Female Roles

Ros is a superb role model for this very reason. Her refusal to compromise, her toughness and single-minded pursuit of the bad guys, often at huge cost to herself, is inspirational, although she is not without a ruthlessness that leaves the viewer wincing at times. But this is a dirty business and Ros is competing on equal terms with some very shady criminal characters. She embodies a thoroughly feminist realm by succeeding in a man’s world but not allowing her femininity to be entirely over-shadowed by the role. Ros is all woman, and her occasional emotional vulnerability, her emotional complexity and her affair with Adam show her feminine side co-exists successfully with her role, without overwhelming her, or compromising her professionalism. Richardson and Norris refuse to draw her as a stereotypical ‘more man than the men’ figure, allowing her her full humanity.
There need to be more female lead roles showing strong women succeeding in an all male environment on merit and with style. Inspector DC Tennison, played by Helen Mirren in the Prime Suspect series springs to mind as another example. The profusion of poor role models for young girls in the mainstream media is a serious concern at present. If more writers embrace the fully grown feminist female lead then a worrying trend could be partially reversed. Richardson notes of Myers, “She's a heroic role model for my thirteen year old niece…” which is extremely encouraging.

What was your favourite female character in Spooks? 

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