Digital Spy caught up with Rupert on the set of the chambers to find out what we can expect from Clive this series, what Clive's romantic prospects are, why courtroom scenes can be boring to film, why he doesn't like his costumes and why he's no Don Draper...
At the end of the last series, Clive didn't get QC and Martha did. How do we start this series? Are there differences between them?
"He's being brave! But it really hurts, but he's not showing it. Eventually in the first episode he does come clean to her and says it really hurt that she got silk and he didn't. So his name's being moved on the pecking order of the chambers - being second down, he's now third down and she's gone above him, so things like that. But he's thinking about going for silk again. I don't know what happens later on, but in these first two episodes he's sort of, 'Am I going to go for it or not?'"
Martha lost her baby in the last series - do we hear about that again, or about her sleeping with Clive?
"The fact that we've slept with each other does get referred to!"
We've heard that Clive has a thing with Indira Varma's new character...
"Yep, that's all bubbling away at the moment in the first two episodes. We've met and we're working together and we're flirting together. They're both up for it but they're saying they shouldn't. It's clear it's going to happen!"
What does Billy think?
"Billy's telling me not to sleep with her. He thinks I'll screw it up if I start sleeping with her - she's going to end up hating me. But Clive can't resist!"
He's got a track record with Niamh and Martha...
"He's up for a bit of how's your father, definitely!"
Is there any more unrest in the chambers? They were planning to leave in the last series.
"No, that's all been dealt with now. The solicitor that Nina [Sosanya] played, she's not in it. Alan Cowdrey, who's the head of chambers, who Alex Jennings plays, has cut quite a few people out. The pupils aren't back and Nina's not back which means everything's sort of running a bit more smoothly. But Billy implies that unless I tow the line, I could be next."
How does Clive get on with the new characters, played by Frances Barber and Phil Davis?
"Frances Barber's character, they come up against each other quite early on and he kind of gets one over on her and she quite likes that about him. She basically says to him if he wants to get silk, the best way for him to get silk is to stop defending people and start prosecuting and so he's trying now to start prosecuting. But Billy doesn't want this to be a chambers that does any prosecuting so there's that going on. I'm sort of doing cases behind Billy's back and he obviously catches me. So I'm starting to prosecute which I think suits Clive a bit more to be honest, so I'm glad about that."
Will we see more of Clive's ruthless side?
"Well, I don't know. I'm hoping we'll get to see more of that in court. We didn't get to see much of Clive in court last year. He was there, but not doing much. This year, I know in the third episode I have a big court case - the main court case of the episode is Clive's - so we'll get to see him do his thing."
Barristers are like actors in a way, aren't they?
"They'd like to think they are, some of them!"
Does it feel like a stage, being in court?
"As an actor, it's nice. I like when you've got something to do in the court. The worst thing about this job is filming the court scenes when you don't actually have much to do because it is deathly dull, because they obviously have to shoot from so many different angles. It takes a week to do one court case. If you're not actually doing any of the questioning... A lot of the time I'm there with Maxine's character but all our scenes happen outside the courtroom discussing the case, but I still have to be sitting behind her for a week with nothing to do. So it would be nice to actually have a court case where I'm actually doing something because then the day's filming will go a little quicker!"
And Phil Davies is in the cast this time...
"He's in as one of the biggest criminal solicitors in London. He's representing the mafia - one of the biggest criminal families in London. Billy's trying to get on side with him really, because it means a lot of work for the chambers if that solicitor's bringing us his work."
Does Clive have any moral qualms about that?
"Oh God no! Absolutely not - no, no, no."
Has it lit a fire under Clive, the fact that he didn't get silk?
"Well, it sort of has. At the same time, when you get silk you generally only do the really big cases, and obviously not that many really big cases. So now that Martha's silk and doing that, she can't be seen to be doing the smaller cases, so more stuff should be coming Clive's way. So in a way he's going to be making more money and he's not competing with her anymore. But he finds that he gets given a case at the beginning and he's excited because it's the first he's done and then it's a murder case and stuff and then it becomes very clear that actually he's going to be a junior to a silk and then it becomes clear that silk is Martha. So suddenly he's junior to Martha right from the start, which is hard for him to swallow, but he gets on with it."
Does it help Clive's and Martha's relationship, that they're not competing?
"They are getting on better, yeah, I think they're getting on better. They're winding each other up but they're doing it in a knowing way now. She does like him and he likes her - they're friends."
Are you happy to be back in the robe?
"You look a bit of a knob in the gown. It's not exactly flattering."
Do you not feel powerful walking down the halls?
"No! I mean, I can understand as a lawyer how it's good to have a uniform and it makes you feel you can sort of separate yourself from the lawyer that you're hoping in court, but I don't particularly like being on screen being seen by millions of people wearing that wig!"
Was the wig made for you?
"No! Disgraceful! It wasn't. I had a wig last year which they lost, and then I got a choice of three secondhand ones, so I just chose the one that fit me the best. Somebody's taken my wig!"
Do they reuse wigs a lot in the real world?
"No, they go to get a wig. We had it in the first series - you need to make your wig look old, otherwise everyone can tell you're new, so people try to make their wigs look a little bit fusty and old. But no, I think you have your wig and that's the wig you have for pretty much your whole career. Unless you become a silk and then I think it's a different wig if you're a silk. Certainly the outfit you wear for the day you become silk is a big wig. It looks ridiculous! Max is in it in the first episode, and I have to say I'm glad I didn't make silk!"
You said last series you wanted to channel Don Draper in the show - are you still doing that?
"No, no, no. I tried and then I watched the show and saw that I was nowhere near it! So no, I'm just being me trying to be another man. I liked the Don Draper thing but I didn't quite manage to pull it off the way I was hoping!"
You didn't base Clive on Don Draper, but did you have any inspirations for the character?
"No! No, no, no. He's quite like me, apart from he's a lot cleverer. But there's a lot of similarities. I agree with a lot of what Clive says because I think he has a good point. And I think Peter Moffat is in Clive a lot, I've got a feeling. Or Clive is kind of what Peter Moffat saw that he might have been like a bit if he'd stayed and been a barrister. Obviously he'd have been a bit of a nicer guy because he is a lovely guy! But I think the argument that Clive always puts forward, I'm generally more on Clive's side. I think Martha's too goody-goody. I don't think you can be that good."
But are you just saying that because you play Clive?
"Yeah, but she is particularly good! And I like the fact that Clive is not just an out and out good guy or an out and out bad guy. He's got two sides to him and that's realistic, I think, so I embrace that in him. I like that. I like the fact he makes mistakes, he does the wrong thing."
Do you think this is the first time Clive hasn't got what he wants?
"Oh, I don't know. I think in terms of getting silk, he really expected he would, and he would have got it if it hadn't been for Billy. I think he'll get it again. If he does go for it in this series, I think he'll get it. He can't go for it and not get it again."
That would be embarrassing!
"It might be that he leaves it a year and goes for it in the next series. I'm getting the feeling he's not going to go for it this year."
Do you have any problems with the legal jargon?
"Sometimes you don't know what it means. There's normally a note in the script saying what it means. Well, how is the audience going to know? It doesn't matter. It's explained later. We have a thing called RIC which we shot yesterday - I walk in, she says, 'RIC?', and I say 'No'. She goes, 'What, bail in a murder?' It's like, 'What the f**k?' And it means remanded in custody. So there's lots of that sort of chat. But I think that's a good thing. I know personally as a member of the audience when there's stuff that I don't understand but I'm still being entertained, I feel like I'm getting cleverer. Like The West Wing did exactly that - you didn't know what was going on in The West Wing half the time but you still enjoy it."
How have people responded to Clive?
"Most people liked him I think. Well, no, actually... I don't know. I try not to take it on board really. I like him and hate him and feel sorry for him! I think the thing about Clive is he does do things that you think that's out of order, but at the same point he has a reason for it. He doesn't do anything that's just out and out selfish and wrong. He has a good argument for why he does what he does, it's just got a nasty twist to it. And he normally ends up coming out of it, he does alright and everyone else suffers."
Do you think we'll ever see Martha and Clive as a couple?
"Not in this show - not in the show. But one day I could see them getting together."
Maybe when they're 60.
"I think if they got together in the show one of us would have to leave. It's not interesting. We might kind of have another quickie! I wouldn't be averse to that! But I think she would regret it."
Would you like to do another series after this one?
"Never say never, never say yes! Definitely! I don't know - probably. It's a great show, it's good to be in. With the recession the way it is I'm just happy to be working!"
Silk returns Tuesday, May 15 at 9pm on BBC One.