Digital Spy spoke to Rayner while Hunted was still shooting to discuss the character of Aidan, the shifty agent's true allegiance and his complicated relationship with Sam Hunter (Melissa George).
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How long have you been filming the show here?
"The show has been here quite a long time - a couple of weeks, I think. But I've barely started on this block. It's all new to me."
Tell us about your character and how he fits in - he has an ongoing relationship with Sam, right?
"Aidan is obviously an agent in his own right. He's actually Sam's handler at Byzantium, our fictional private intelligence firm. They have been involved previously, but by the time the action properly gets going they're not really involved anymore because she actually thinks that he might have tried to kill her, which puts a damper on a relationship, it seems."
Is he a good guy? Do we trust him?
"That's a difficult question to answer and I don't entirely know the answer myself. I've only read so many scripts, I've only heard so far into the storyline. But yes, essentially I think he is a good guy. But he is a rather compromised and complex good guy. He is not all that he seems. There are layers going on but he is essentially a good guy, I think it's safe to say."
You're playing an industrial spy.
"Yeah - we're all essentially private spooks for hire, basically. I think it's quite apposite given that and reflects what's actually going on in the real world. We've had a couple of meetings with people who work in the industry and it seems that this is obviously a booming industry, and as the world becomes more globalised and it's more about corporations and global business interests than it is about just government like in the old days, these private companies that basically recruit ex-spies are becoming more and more involved in the frontline of intelligence work, particularly where economic interests are concerned.
"So obviously we're probably a bit more James Bond than the real companies, most of which are just number crunching and going through and analysing data to try and get an advantage, but I think there's certainly more of this going on than there used to be when it was just good old-fashioned CIA and MI6 and government-run stuff. That's all much more blurry now in terms of who actually runs the world. These huge global corporations and all that - it seems to me that what we're doing probably reflects the way the world's working a bit more. So to answer your question a bit more concisely, yes he is an industrial stroke political spy. A private spy, basically."
Is his background in MI5?
"Presumably, yeah - that's where you'd have to get your training, still."
We've heard the show is all about betrayal and deception - can we expect lots of twists and turns?
"Oh boy, yes, you certainly can. Yes, an enormous amount of twists and turns. It's a very clever, very complex plot which hopefully will be exciting and followable at the same time."
Have you been leafing through your scripts quickly then?
"Absolutely. I haven't really done a show like this before, but it's the best thriller I've read for television. It's fantastic. It's very grown up in terms of all of the stuff I was just attempting to talk about, which is all a bit above my head. But the geopolitical conspiracy stuff that is sort of hinted at, but there's lots of action as well and a bit of romance and some sizzling scenes, mostly involving Sam's character and various lovers scattered around the world. But yes, it's pretty exciting - it's good to read and find out what's happening."
Are there lots of action scenes?
"I'm about to film a fight tomorrow. Sam does more fighting than I do, so far. She's just incredible - she'll take on five in one go. I actually make a bit of a meal of one chap on his own who nearly beats me, so I had words, but they don't seem to have changed that! So I do a bit of fighting and I try my hardest, but he's obviously not a natural whereas Sam is super highly trained special forces and all the rest of it."
Do you think you would make a good spy?
"I think I'd be brilliant, yes. Probably not, to be honest! I think I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation of walking around attempting to look like a spy, which I gather is not what you're supposed to do. Very smart suits, dinner suits, hanging around in casinos and things like that. Apparently there's very little of that in the real world of spying, so no, I think I'd probably make a pretty terrible spy."
Is it more interesting when you don't know whether your character is completely trustworthy?
"Obviously it makes it a more exciting read. I do know that he is... I'm not going to suddenly find out that he's the bad guy and everything I've been playing so far [was wrong]. I have to know the basics in order to not be playing completely the wrong stuff. It's exciting to not know what's happening plot-wise and it's exciting to not know exactly what is behind his various conflicts and the extent to which he is deceiving people and the reasons for that I don't know entirely. It's exciting to find that out, yes."
In the first episode, we find out that Sam was set up and you're the only person who knew where she was.
"We'd pretty much started filming before I found out whether it was or it wasn't me, so it was pretty late. It has felt a bit revelatory finding out as we go along. It is good fun but I do try and find out a bit more because you don't want to suddenly go, 'I played that scene like I didn't know what was going on when actually I did'.
"But of course he would normally be pretending that he didn't know what was going on, so actually sometimes it doesn't really make any difference. The worry is that if you tell an actor what's actually going on, they'll be playing, 'Hmm, I know, I know' rather than the cover they'd actually be doing. Hopefully we normally remember to play what the cover is. But yes, it's exciting not knowing the full story."
Who do you think this show will appeal to? What other shows would people who watch this like?
"Spooks is I guess the obvious one, being a former BBC One spy show. That's probably the obvious one, but we're telling a story over an entire series, whereas Spooks was a bit more episodic, so it has a slightly longer arc in that sense - a bit more State of Play. I think it will certainly appeal to people who like explosions and car crashes and that kind of stuff, but people that like to pick apart a long story as well and follow quite intricate twists and turns I think it would appeal to.
"So if you like The Bourne Identity and those kind of movies this will appeal to you, but also if you like long game human interest like The Sopranos or whatever, just to refer to massively iconic hit shows, I think you'll like this as well. And the political conspiracy element, All The President's Men kind of stuff - another Oscar-winning movie I'm going to compare us to. It's got a bit of all of that, so hopefully high and lower-brow expectations will be met."
And a bit of romance?
"And a bit of romance thrown in. Always. I wish I knew [if Sam and Aidan will end up together]. It's clear that they've been involved right at the beginning, and then this incident happens which throws suspicion on Aidan and so far, everything I've read, that's unresolved. So there's this kind of feeling between them bubbling under the surface, but there's a lot of hostility and antagonism going on in the scenes that we've been playing so far. So hopefully we'll go on an interesting journey and maybe they will get back together and there will be some sort of romantic union, but I have no idea."
Do you think they should be together?
"Yes, I think so, from what I've seen so far. Sam's a very complex and troubled character and somehow Aidan is this missing piece that kind of stabilises her, because she's the best secret agent in the world but that comes at a price. You can't be as bad-ass as her and be completely stable. You don't have two kids and a nice husband at home and then go out and wipe out bad guys all over the world. So I think he kind of makes up that missing part of her, but she certainly hasn't discovered that yet and may not for some time. But I hope that she does."
She doesn't trust him, does she?
"No. I think trust is definitely an issue for her, as it probably would be for anyone in this world. But particularly for her and particularly as regards him."
Does he try to prove himself?
"He does, but the problem is in order to do that he would have to reveal more than he's willing to at this stage, because he has got a whole game going on which she doesn't know about. So he's in a terrible muddle. He's playing both ends against the middle and he's getting himself in all sorts of trouble."
Did you get to film in Morocco?
"Yes, it was great. There isn't a huge amount of glamorous foreign shooting in TV shows in England. It was really good fun - it's a fantastic place and incredibly atmospheric to shoot on the streets with this febrile atmosphere around the whole time and obviously great interest in what we're doing and, yes, very much the sort of atmosphere that would be surrounding everyone for real, so it was great."
Hunted continues tonight (October 25) at 9pm on BBC One.