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'Spooks' Max Brown interview: 'Fans will be blown away'

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Dimitri Levendis from Spooks

© BBC

It's time for another Spooks chat, and today it's with Max Brown, who joined the show in the last series as Dimitri. But what's coming up for him in the tenth and final run? Well, lots of things, according to Max!

Digital Spy recently sat down for a natter with Max, so read on to find out which injury he picked up on set, which moment in the scripts brought a tear to his eye, and why Peter Firth is a bit of a prankster...

Were you excited to get back to Spooks?
"Yeah, I couldn't wait to get back under the skin of Dimitri and see what new challenges he faced this year. He's a bit more senior now because he's been on the Grid for a year. There's two new characters - we've got a new section chief that comes in to replace Lucas in Harry's absence - so he's kind of bonded with them in the first eight weeks we've been working together.

"We pick up the series as Harry returns from his gardening leave and see the new dynamic between the characters. There are some insightful moments for Dimitri this year as he kind of battles his conscience in some of the storylines and asks himself whether morally what they do is right and whether they tackle the situations in the correct manner. It's been a lot of fun."

And for you as an actor, what's it been like not being the new guy anymore?
"Yeah, it's always nice going back to school after going through your first year. There are two new guys who I hoped we welcomed with open arms and made them feel at home, because it is like a big family, Spooks. And it was lovely getting back together with Peter [Firth] and Nicola [Walker] and Shazad [Latif].

"That's the worst thing about being an actor - being the new boy at school for the first few weeks. So it was lovely going back in. And the character is given more respect this year and treated with a different level of respect after saving the day a few times last year. This year he's given more to do and puts his life at risk a bit more, so it was great."

Did you give any tips to the new stars, Lara Pulver and Geoffrey Streatfeild?
"No, I tried to throw them off guard as much as possible to make myself look better! No, they're both obviously seasoned professionals so they came in and threw themselves into it and did a great job. I hope I made them feel at home - no pranks or anything. Peter Firth does enough of those!"

Is he a bit of a prankster?
"He loves to pull a few pranks, yeah!"

Has he ever got one over on you?
"Only when he'll do his side of the scene very seriously, and then when it comes to doing it back to me he'll fill it with sexual innuendo and all sorts so I've got to try and keep a straight face while being very serious about whatever the story of the week is. He's very naughty in that way."

Dimitri Levendis from Spooks
In the first episode of the new series, there seems to be a bit of chemistry between Dimitri and Lara's character Erin.
"I think there's that kind of mutual respect between them and I think they like the look of each other. Maybe Dimitri's just trying to sleep his way to the top, I don't know! But as the series develops you'll have to wait and see what happens between them.

"There's definitely a storyline midway through the season which brings them much closer together, and you see the kind of personal side behind the challenge of being a member of Section D and how they cope with it personally."

We find out a bit about Harry's backstory and see Erin's home life - will we get to see that with Dimitri?
"Not so much his home life but you do see him as a person battling the morals of being a spy and what he has to go through, so there is that element, there is that insight into his character which I don't think we touched on last year because of the frantic pace of what was happening. Again we're back with those kind of storylines and there is a lot of brilliant pulsing intense story, but there are just those lovely touches of personal trauma and life going through this series which I think the fans are going to love."

And how does Dimitri get on with Geoffrey's character Callum?
"They kind of butt heads at first because I think Callum comes knowing that he's got the ear of Erin and they've worked together for however many years, so he's very confident in his role and he's very smart and definitely more computer-savvy than Dimitri is, so I think there's an air of jealousy of that.

"And then Callum the same back with Dimitri's hands-on approach and his skills with the car and being able to protect the team and his actual mission skills are a lot higher than Callum's, so they kind of butt heads slightly about that and wind each other up. It's a fun relationship throughout the series, actually."

Do you like the humorous side of Dimitri?
"I do, yeah. I think he's got a really dark sense of humour, a bit like myself. There's great elements of that. I think if you speak to anyone in the armed forces or anything like that you have to have that because of what you're facing day to day. If you don't have that light relief, however dark the situation is, I think you'd drive yourself insane.

"So it's very real. I think people do make jokes in the weirdest of circumstances, and I think they write that very well. I think whenever you're working in a close team like that you always wind each other up for the fun of it."

Last series we had Albany - is there another overriding threat this time around?
"There is. I don't know how much I can reveal about that but you will find bits and pieces throughout the series. It's all through Harry's eyes so you really learn more than you ever knew about Harry Pearce and what has made him tick and the sacrifices that he's made to become who he is and to manage to harbour all those kind of lies and protect his country over the years. So I think the fans are going to have a field day with the revelations, and the losses, again this season."

There's a bit of a twist at the end of the first episode - can we expect more of that throughout the series?
"There's definitely more of that, yeah! I think the fans are going to be blown away. There's another brilliant kind of exit throughout the series. I think the twist at the end of episode one and the exit that I read brought a tear to my eye when I read them. I think they're done so beautifully. You really don't know if they're going to survive or not so you get involved in the story, and then when you do lose a member of the team it's like losing a member of the family."

Obviously I don't know to whom you are referring when you say there's an exit, but did the possibility of getting killed off worry you?
"'Is it me?' Yeah, I think there's always an element of that. Whenever you join up to Spooks you know there's a risk. Lisa Faulkner, who got the deep fat fryer, she was in one episode! She signed up to Spooks and was established as a new member of MI5 and then gets killed later that episode. That's why this show is brilliant. You can never trust who's going to make it out of a situation.

"And I think that keeps it very real and also means that the stakes are always high. I was always reading that first script and checking the producer walking through after I knew a new script was about to come out to make sure he didn't have my P45 in an envelope."

You mentioned that Dimitri gets into the action a bit more - do you enjoy the action scenes?
"I love them, yeah. I think the adrenaline of doing the scenes in Spooks - no-one wouldn't enjoy it. It's so cool to be able to turn up to work and drive a car very fast and spin it into a handbrake turn and jump out of a balcony window. I did lots of stunts this year again which were always enthralling and a lot of fun."

Dimitri Levendis from Spooks
Did you have any accidents?
"I did, actually. I managed to pull my back doing something quite innocuous, really. I was pulling someone backwards out of the way of something about to blow up, and just the twist and pull, I managed to trap a nerve in my back. So you curl up and go, 'Sorry, have to cut there'. One of the third assistant directors had to put on my costume to dive out of the way of an explosion in the end, so spot that, fans!"

Do you think you have any qualities that would make you a good spy?
"I can definitely go under the radar - I'm quite good at that. I'm constantly changing my appearance with moustaches and growing my hair in different styles and things. I think I'd be good at being able to get in a scenario and not getting noticed that way.

"But as far as telling lies, I'm not great at that - surprisingly so for an actor! I'm great when it's on the page convincing people that it's real, but actually making them up myself, I'm not great at that. So I don't think MI5 will come knocking any time soon."

What's the fan response to Dimitri been like?
"It's been great. It's all been really positive. I think they've really enjoyed the lighter element to his character that he had last year. Although there is a lightness to him this year, he is more serious about his role in the team, so you definitely see a more determined, serious side to him. There's still a bit of jokey behaviour with Callum and he tells the wrong joke in the wrong situation, as always. But I think he's been well-received and it's been lovely. The Spooks fans are very kind."

Why do you think Spooks is still popular after all these years?
"I just think it's a very original show. I don't think there's anything out there like it. And hats off to the producers and writers - they've managed to keep it so current and fresh over ten years. The current affairs that we deal with are always so close to the reality of what actually happens and they're six months ahead of real happenings, which is amazing.

"They produce a very slick, very watchable, intense show so I think even a new fan to the show can sit down and is immediately enthralled and pulled into it. I think that's its secret."

What's your favourite part about being in Spooks?
"Who wouldn't want to play a spy? As an actor, it's the closest thing to being James Bond, I guess. I love every element of it. I love the espionage and the clever spy stuff of knowing that there's traps that people leave so you can't uncover clues. I love those kind of elements.

"I love the action sequences - I love taking part in those. They're brilliantly written and always your heart is pumping. They cut the take and you're not really aware of what you've just done because you've just been so in the scene. There's nothing better than when you lose yourself in the scene. It's fantastic."

Give us one tease about Dimitri this series.
"There's a brilliant episode for Dimitri - episode three - which is a honey trap episode where you really see a human side to Dimitri and realise where his moral stance is on whether what he does is correct or not."

Why should we be tuning in?
"I think just anybody that's been a fan of the show or even if you're just about to watch it for the first time, I think Peter Firth's portrayal of Harry over the last ten years - to watch the ins and outs of some really complex leader like him, it's almost like being able to watch a dramatisation of a president or a prime minister. It's that kind of scale of insight into someone's life and what makes them tick, so it's just very exciting. And again just the weekly kind of stories are so current and fresh. It's going to be another great series, I think."

More edge of the seat stuff?
"Yeah, definitely!'

Spooks returns for its tenth and final series on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

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