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Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden reveal the conflict at the heart of BBC One's Bodyguard

Hear the word “Bodyguard” and it’s almost impossible not to think of ’90s vintage Kevin Costner and Whitney belting out ‘I Will Always Love You’.

But new BBC One thriller Bodyguard – a tense thriller from Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio – is looking to change that… and it might very well succeed. (“We talked about various titles and that just seemed the most apt,” is Mercurio’s pithy response when asked about any prior associations.)

The series reunites Mercurio with Line of Duty‘s Keeley Hawes, here playing Julia Montague, the ambitious and powerful Home Secretary. “At risk, every day”, Montague is assigned David Budd (Richard Madden) – a war veteran-turned-Specialist Protection Officer – as a bodyguard.

Budd, though, quickly finds himself torn between his duty and his beliefs. Responsible for Montague’s safety, could he become her biggest threat?

“I was attracted by the contradictions within him, this man who deeply cares and wants to protect, but then also has his own very strong political opinions,” Madden explains. “He’s constantly fighting with himself, but there’s inherent good within him.”

The conflict within Budd allowed the Game of Thrones actor to experiment while filming Bodyguard and he would often interpret the same scene in more than one way. “I had these opportunities on set where I could play things two different ways: as the Home Secretary would see it, and then from inside David’s head.

“I get to experiment, then it’s down top the director and editor to pick.”

Above: Keeley Hawes in Mercurio’s Line of Duty

Julia Montague, too, is a character with many sides to her, according to Hawes. “I am very lucky… particularly after Line of Duty – thank, you Jed! – that people have been more imaginative in terms of the things that I’ve been offered.”

For the BAFTA-nominated actress, playing the fiery Montague was a “fascinating” and eye-opening experience, one that she says “changed [her] ideas about politicians”.

“It’s not popular to say you’re sympathetic to politicians,” she admits. “But I’d like to think that most of them have gone into those roles for the right reasons, regardless of what we may think of their reasons, or their opinions.”

Conservative politician Amber Rudd was Home Secretary at the time that Bodyguard was being filmed and while Hawes insists that she’s “very much not playing Amber Rudd”, she’s confessed to researching some of Rudd’s background for the part.

The conflict between Budd and Montague is the driving force at the heart of Bodyguard, a drama that’s more character-led than Line of Duty but no less gripping. But Mercurio says that sex is not particularly important to their dynamic.

“Personally, it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me whether a character is male or female,” he says. “So I could’ve switched it round.

“In terms of choosing whether the bodyguard would be male or female, and whether the politician would be male or female, it just felt that it was more interestingly dramatically to have the power relationship set up so that the woman was a more powerful individual, in societal terms.”

But does Montague truly hold all the cards? Or is Budd about to defy all of her expectations? A brutal power play is about to begin…

Bodyguard begins on Sunday, August 26 at 9pm on BBC One. Episode two follows on Bank Holiday Monday, August 27, with the series then continuing on Sunday nights.

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