Robin Hood arrows in for a second series
Keith Allen is the Sheriff of Nottingham
Keith Allen was simply born to play the Sheriff of Nottingham. The actor revels in the sheer wickedness of one of best baddies ever to grace the small screen. And the funny thing is, despite his unashamed vileness, viewers lap up the Sheriff.
So, how has the Sheriff developed since the first series? "He has become even more evil," says Keith with a wry grin. "In one episode, he employs a poisoner... He wants that power at his disposal and will stop at nothing to get it."
But, in cahoots with his evil sidekick, Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff is also plotting an even greater crime – the murder of King Richard and his replacement with Prince John. "In the last two episodes," Keith reveals, "the Sheriff and Guy travel to the Holy Land to try to carry out their fiendish plan.
"But, the feeling is that the Sheriff has ambitions way beyond that," chuckles the 54-year-old actor, who has, over the years, starred in such diverse projects as The Comic Strip, Bodies, Shallow Grave, Roger Roger and Martin Chuzzlewit. "He wants to bump off John and grab the throne for himself."
This series also further explores one of the most fascinating relationships at the heart of the drama – that between the Sheriff and Robin. "It's like a father-son relationship gone wrong," observes Keith, whose recently published autobiography has become a bestseller. "How much would the Sheriff miss Robin if he killed him? A lot!
"In this series, Prince John has issued a decree that if the Sheriff were to die of unnatural causes, he would send his shock troops to raze Nottingham to the ground. This marks a big shift in the relationship between the Sheriff and Robin. The Sheriff starts to act with impunity because he realises Robin cannot kill him. For his part, Robin has to find ever more clever ways of combating the villainous Sheriff. It's great!"
The Sheriff's relationship with Guy of Gisborne has also evolved. "During this series, you become more acquainted with the idea that the Sheriff is grooming Guy. He sees him as his boy and is training him in the ways of extreme evil."
But, at the same time, Keith adds: "the Sheriff never lets Guy forget who's boss. He always holds the reins, he's delighted to have power over someone so much taller! He also loves winding Guy up. He's always taking the micky out of Guy for his love of Marian. It's really cruel, but great fun to play!"
Finally, the Sheriff has proved especially popular with younger viewers. They seem to enjoy his scenes – such as the moment from the first series where he blithely crushed his own budgie as a way of taking out his rage about Robin.
So, why do younger viewers warm to the Sheriff – despite his outrageous sadism? "Kids adore the Sheriff," beams Keith, the contentment clear for all to see. "They get him immediately. They realise that he's a heightened character, but, above all, they just find him hysterically funny."