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16 October 2003 1245 BST
Don't egg Andrew Lincoln on!
Andrew Lincoln in The Man of Law's Tale
Andrew Lincoln stars as Alan King, whose world is turned upside down when a beautiful stranger walks into his life

Andrew Lincoln is more often than not associated with rebellious and cheeky 'geezers' such as Egg in the cult BBC series, This Life.

Find out more about the actor who went to school and grew up in Bath, and who stars in the latest of The Canterbury Tales...


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>>> The BBC series takes six tales (re-written and in a modern setting): The Wife of Bath Tale; The Miller's Tale; The Knight's Tale; The Sea Captain's Tale; The Pardoner's Tale and The Man of Law's Tale.

>>> The Man of Law's Tale tells of a Roman emperor's beautiful and virtuous daughter, Constance, who is cast out to sea by her wicked mother-in-law; she lands in England but becomes the object of a young knight's unrequited lust and then is framed for murder.

>>> Chaucer lived at the time of the Black Death and the Peasant's Revolt, when King Richard II was on the throne. Chaucer was popular with Richard, but the king was far from popular with his own people, leading eventually to the Battle of Shrewsbury.

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Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are being retold for a modern audience in one of the most ambitious adaptations undertaken by the BBC.

The Man of Law's Tale

This story and Chaucer's tale is just as relevant today as it was back in the 14th century.

In Olivia Hetreed's modernised version, Constance is a young Nigerian who is found by a couple, Mark and Nicky, on a small boat in the Chatham docks.

Mark and Nicky take Constance in and pretty soon she falls in love with Mark's attractive young boss, Alan (played by Andrew Lincoln).

Then a young man at Constance's church takes a fancy to her, but when he finds out his feelings are not reciprocated he takes drastic action to try to stop Constance and Alan's love from developing further.

Andrew said: "It's an extrordinary film - Alan is a marine archaeologist and he's young and quite privileged, but he's tender, humorous and a laid-back kind of guy who has a very intense relationship with his overbearing mother.

"He believes in love and he's led by the heart. He's quite a sensitive and intuitive guy."

Alan King is a responsible character whose world is turned upside down when a beautiful stranger walks into his life.

But when Andrew first got a call about doing Canterbury Tales his initial thoughts were of Chaucer, 14th-century England and men in tights!

"I didn't study Chaucer at school because it wasn't on my syllabus so when my agent phoned me I said: 'You're having a laugh – I'm not wearing a codpiece and doing olde English!'

"A friend of mine saw the script that I had which had some olde English on the front and I said to him that this was what I was doing and he said to me: 'You ain't going to be able to do this!', but I said: 'Don’t worry, it's an updated version.'

Andrew Lincoln in The Man of Law's Tale

"It fascinated me though; it's such an old story and I think the way it translates into a contemporary setting is beautiful and so relevant."

The timeless themes of human emotions - such as love and bigotry - are at the heart of Lincoln's heart, even though he is more often than not associated with rebellious and cheeky 'geezers' such as Egg in the cult BBC series This Life, and Simon in Channel 4's Teachers.

"The heart of the piece is this love story between Alan and Constance which defies all of the prejudices of his mother, and although he's not religious he respects Constance's religious passion.

"Their love is colour-blind and classless; it's about these two people who love each other.

"It's almost like Romeo and Juliet. It's right up my street - I'm a romantic at heart!

"In the course of the story there is a growing-up process that happens to Alan through great trauma with Constance and the fact that he has to sever all links with his mother because of her betrayal.

"He follows his heart which is probably the most courageous thing he's ever done in his life - I think it's a great allegory for life."

Ties to South Africa, not just Somerset

Although Lincoln grew up in Somerset, his roots are in South Africa, where part of the tale was filmed.

His mother is South African and left the country because of its apartheid policies.

His grandfather stood as a liberal councillor there and many of his family were in law in the country.

Lincoln is hopeful that the bigotry and prejudice which Constance experiences in The Man of Law's Tale, and which plagued South Africa for such a long time, can soon be eradicated.

He said: "Alan's mother, Leila, says the most extraordinary things but she doesn't even realise the connotations or the repercussions and this is something that in England we need to combat.

"My mother has always been an exile in this country and there is still racism.

"It's more polite racism and it's brushed over, but if we are aspiring to be a multicultural society these things have to be eradicated.

"Hopefully people are getting more integrated," he added.

Andrew Lincoln in Trevor's World of Sport
Andrew Lincoln starring in Trevor's World of Sport

Lincoln is diversifying from his acting and has been directing the new series of Teachers, but he also has links to several charity projects including VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), through which he travelled to Ghana.

"I got asked because they were trying to recruit teachers and they were looking for impassioned people like Simon, my character in Teachers.

"It was an amazing trip, it changed my life. It was beautiful, really extraordinary."

Lincoln also works with Plan International and Shelter and although he naturally shies away from being in the limelight, it was his mother who encouraged him to make the most of his popularity and fame.

Andrew said: "It's come about through work.

"I'm not going to pretend I'm some saint because I'm not.

"I got approached by the charities but I was very reticent because I don't like doing the celebrity bit, I just want to be an actor.

"But my mum said to me: 'If you can do anything in any small way to help promote things, then you've got to do it. It's a moral obligation.'"

>>> Andrew Lincoln is in The Man of Law's Tale on BBC ONE on Thursday 16 October at 9pm

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