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24 September 2014
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Adrian Lester as Dr Ben Ergha


Adrian Lester plays Dr Ben Ergha

Adrian Lester plays Ben Ergha. Ben is the forensics expert in a formidable and eccentric team of University archaeologists headed up by the brilliant but maverick Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham).


Ben is Gillian's rock, a straight-down-the-line guy. They have a history together, which he seems happy to put behind him. However, you sense that he still holds a little candle for her.


Ben's role is to add energy and moral guidance to the team. If there is a dilemma, he usually comes out on the right side about where they should be going. Whether they follow his lead is another matter, but he is usually the one saying: 'come on, we should do the right thing here'.


Adrian, an acclaimed theatre actor who has also starred in Hustle and the Emmy Award-winning Teaching Matthew for the BBC, starts by sketching in the back-story.


"Gillian, Ben and Gregory [Hugh Bonneville] all went to university together," he says. "She was the brilliant one – an 'instinctive' archaeologist – and after they graduated, she asked Ben and Greg to join her team."


The group dynamic is one of the drama's strongest features, as Adrian explains: "It's a great team. Everyone has their own function in the drama and within the team. They cover all of the different disciplines – it works."


The actor, who has also headlined in such movies as Primary Colors, As You Like It, Love's Labour's Lost, Hamlet, Born Romantic and Scenes Of A Sexual Nature, goes on to reveal a link between Ben and Gillian that gives extra spice to the recipe.


"Ben and Gillian had a relationship years ago. They don't appear to fit together, but in a way they really do. They needle each other constantly, but at the same time there's a definite spark which adds to the relationship.


"The team is completed by Viv, the young intern played by Gugu Mbatha Raw. She hunts the team down in order to work with them. When she turns up, there's definitely a twinge of jealousy in Gillian as she sees how well Ben and Viv get on."


Adrian, who invests the part with a great sense of dignity and his natural cool, thinks the premise of Bonekickers is a winner.


"It's all about the buzz of the find," he says. "That's what archaeologists really get off on, and it's what makes this such a strong drama.


"There's a large element of detective work in each episode. Each story reveals something new to the audience, a scientific story or historical intrigue, and viewers always love that."


When asked how Ben compares with roles he has played in the past, Adrian says: "Ben is the bones, chemicals and forensics expert within the team, and that was really interesting to learn about. He's a bit different to my past characters in that this is the first time I've played a character in my own voice."


One of the drama's major challenges lies in how it deals with history, and the lines it draws between fact and fiction. The actor believes this is another aspect that makes Bonekickers such an absorbing proposition.


"In our series," Adrian observes, "history is the fact – we can't play with that. What we can do, though, is play with the interesting elements of the story. So we explore the possibilities of what could have happened – the 'what ifs'.


"Throughout history, the past has impacted on the present. So our perception of history is inevitably somewhat slanted because generally the only history that survives is the one written by the winners."


That approach certainly allows the writers a degree of leeway to explore the 'what ifs'. As Adrian points out: "another major element of this series is that it moves things on from a perceived point. It gets you wondering what happened previously to get us to this stage."


So Bonekickers sets out to alter our perception of the history that was taught at school and turn it into something altogether more organic and alive.


Adrian continues: "Our interest in history is there because we are intrigued by what makes us tick. Living with global warming and so on, we have to learn to look at the bigger picture, not just switch off because we think it's someone else's issue. This series reflects the bigger, overarching mysteries down the ages that ultimately tell us more about ourselves."


The drama is clearly aiming high. "It's very ambitious," Adrian concedes, "but I believe the audience is ready for that."


Finally, Adrian looks back fondly on the experience of working on Bonekickers.


"It's been really positive," the actor enthuses. "The attention to detail in the scripts is amazing, while the flashback elements are hugely important in terms of delivering the emotional impact of the story.


"For instance, I love the story of the Maroons in episode two. It just goes to show that there are so many stories out there you don't hear about because they're the stories of those who lost…"



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