Neil Stuke stars as Head of Chambers Billy Lamb, in the returning series of Silk for BBC One.
So Silk is returning to our screens for a second series - tell us a bit about it.
Nobody could’ve known how Silk was going to be received, but it went down really well. I’ve had a lot of barristers coming up to me saying, my God you’re just like my clerk. This second series is incredible and so beautifully written - especially episodes three and four, just exquisite. We’re lucky and I’m constantly texting our writer Peter (Moffat) when I’m reading cases. There was this one case about a vicar who got bullied out of his parish. It’s all just really interesting…
What do you think it is about legal dramas that really appeals to people?
Any drama that involves the audience as the jury is gripping to watch, as you see it from your own view and form your own opinions. One of my favourite writers is Arthur Miller – all his plays are like a court drama, so you’re like the jury. I remember when we did A View from the Bridge in the Royal Exchange, we were in the round theatre and it was almost like being in a court room. I think with these kind of dramas, they almost seem part of our lives.
Are we going to see any more dodgy dealings this series?
There might be some more wheelings and dealings going on! In the first series we used the 'm' word a lot - Machiavellian. Billy, first and foremost, lives and breathes the chambers - it’s the most important part of his life and that’s where he comes from. He really cares about his barristers and his QCs and he would do anything to make sure they are treated how he feels they should be treated, especially Martha. But I’m not going to lie and say he does everything by the book or straight down the line.
Silk often showcases some brilliant guest stars and talent - who can we expect to see this time round?
I worship Phil Davis, along with just about everybody else. We’ve got Frances Barber, Indira Varma, Alex Jennings - it’s kind of the Premier Division, it’s lovely. I have to say that Indi’s a very good friend of mine, and if you know Indi you’ll know she’s absolutely stunning…Clive realises this the moment he meets her in episode one! Obviously for a solicitor and a barrister to get together is not good news, so Billy is frowning upon it.
How would you say the barristers and clerks differ from each other?
Traditionally clerking has been passed down through generations from Dickens’ time. The educational background between barristers and clerks is completely different. These guys are secondary educated wide-boys really! The money they used to earn was incredible – clerks would make a lot more than barristers. They use to be on about 30% - that’s gone down now and they’re not on a percentage any more but they still can earn a lot of money, if not as much as barristers.
And what’s it like behind the scenes in Chambers?
When we all get together in the clerk’s room, it’s all very ‘mate, mate’. Young Theo (Barklem-Biggs) is a lot of fun, and so is John MacMillan - we do a lot of rapping. We all do a drum beat box and sing. We’ve even got a chambers rap! By the end of the day, we were getting on everyone’s nerves and they are like, Ok come on! Quieten down! It all gets a little bit out of hand in the chambers!
How have Clive and Billy been getting on this time round?
There’s much more tension between Clive and Billy this series. But they’ve been together for 17 years and they’ve got a lot of respect for each other. There’s also still a question mark over why Clive didn’t get silk which adds to the tension between them.
Will Billy be facing a lot of changes or challenges in Chambers?
With Billy, you’re seeing a man who’s very set in his ways who is being asked to change. He’s coming up against the Head of Chambers, which is Alex Jennings’ character, and because he’s Head of Chambers there’s nothing Billy can do about it. In the words of Peter Moffat, Billy’s gonna have a hard time this series.
Do you think people trust Billy?
Well there’s always a suspicion that comes with people not trusting Billy. He basically can’t stand the pain! Pain of losing! Or rather not winning - so he’ll do what he can for the Chambers.