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24 September 2014
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The State Within
Ben Daniels

The State Within

Ben Daniels plays Nicholas Brocklehurst

Ben Daniels delivers a quite riveting performance as Nicholas Brocklehurst, the British ambassador's right-hand man.


Nicholas is Sir Mark's most trusted aide, and consistently saves him from trouble - for instance, in the wake of the terrorist explosion with which the series starts, he rescues the ambassador from a vehicle that is about to blow up.


But is Nicholas all he seems? And can he really be trusted?


The British official also enjoys a close relationship with the undersecretary at the US Department of Defense, Christopher Styles (Noam Jenkins), but we're never quite sure which side Nicholas is batting for.


As the conspiracy at the heart of the drama unfurls, he becomes a more and more elusive - and fascinating - figure. The more we watch him, the less we are sure of his motivations.


It is this gripping ambiguity which first drew Ben to the role. "I loved the fact that he is so fantastically enigmatic," enthuses the actor, a very familiar face to BBC ONE audiences after his memorable performance as Finn Bevan in three seasons of Debbie Horsfield's hit hairdressing drama, Cutting It.


"The moment I read the part, I was instantly hooked. I kept thinking, 'What's he playing at now? What are his ulterior motives? Who's he really working for?'


"What is so intriguing about Nicholas is that you never know whether he's a goodie or a baddie. Is he Good Nicholas or Bad Nicholas? You play each scene as though he could be either - and that's fantastic to perform.


"I was by myself in a lot of scenes. It's great fun to tell stories by yourself - and a whole different ballgame to what I usually do. Now you just have to shove me in a room with some documents and I'll be happy!"


Ben, who is originally from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, points up the sheer topicality of Lizzie Mickery and Daniel Percival's screenplay.


"Because of the state of the world now, it's absolutely the right time to be making this drama.


"Lizzie and Dan have turned what's happening in the headlines into the most brilliant drama. It's very near the knuckle about why certain countries start wars against other countries, but that will ring bells with a lot of people."


The actor - who has also given stand-out performances in The Virgin Queen, Spooks, Ian Fleming: Bondmaker, Real Men, Conspiracy, Fanny and Elvis, and Marple - continues that: "The State Within takes no prisoners whatsoever. It opens with terrorists blowing up a plane.


"But as the drama unfolds, people will watch it and think, 'This is a world we recognise'."


People are always raving about the superior standard of US TV drama, but Ben believes that The State Within rivals anything produced on the other side of the Atlantic.


"It's about time that we came up with this sort of really intelligent television in the UK. I've seen the first two episodes and found them so exciting. This is something I'm really proud to be part of. I think it's up there with the best American drama."


Ben, who is 42, believes that the two writers brought the best out of each other.


According to the actor: "It's brilliant that there were two such high-quality writers pushing each other. I've never read a British script like this before. All the parts are vital - they haven't wasted a single character - and that's really rare.


"Over six episodes, you get this amazingly complex, detailed plot that one person just wouldn't have been able to come up with. The two writers challenged each other to reach ever greater heights."


The State Within has many profound things to say about the world we live in today.


"It shows us that we should not always believe everything we read in the papers or see in the news," Ben reflects.


"It's such a satisfying plot, as it portrays the wheels within wheels. And it's absolutely believable. In the first episode, you think, 'How on earth are all these disparate elements going to link together?' But, of course, they do. There is no point in the entire six hours where you say to yourself, 'Hold on, that doesn't work'.


"It holds together totally, which is a great testament to the writers."


Above all, Ben thinks that the show has the power to give audiences pause for thought.


"I hope it will disturb viewers because there's a lot to be disturbed about in the world today. The great thing is, The State Within will make people think. That's the point of drama - to make us analyse our lives and learn more about our own situation. That's how drama started, way back with the Ancient Greeks!"


Ben closes with a word of warning for viewers. "Whatever you do, don't nip out to make a cup of tea at any point during The State Within. You're bound to miss an absolutely crucial plot-point!"





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