7 Questions with… Alex Rider’s Vicky McClure: ‘Mrs Jones is completely different to Kate Fleming - they’re both strong women, but they have very different attitudes!’

Line of Duty star Vicky McClure answers seven burning questions about her new show Alex Rider, including why it’s similar to James Bond, and what appealed to her about the role...

By Sophia Moir Published: 8 June 2020 - 4.07pm
Getty / Amazon Prime Video

Based on the smash hit coming-of-age spy thriller book series by Anthony Horowitz, Alex Rider is a brand new TV series on Amazon Prime Video.

The eight-episode series stars 20-year-old British actor Otto Farrant as the eponymous hero, who has unknowingly been trained since childhood to become an espionage agent.

The series also stars Vicky McClure as Mrs Jones, Alex's handler whose job is to ensure he's looked after on his mission into investigating his uncle's death.

The BAFTA-winning actress answers seven burning questions about the show, including why she signed on for the role of Mrs Jones, why she thinks Alex Rider is similar to James Bond, and how the show compares to Line of Duty and her famous role as Kate Fleming…

1. What attracted you to this project?

Well, I'd not heard of Alex Rider, so I asked my 11-year-old nephew about it and he said, "Duh, yeah, of course I've heard of it! I read it at school."

I'd read the scripts at this point and I really liked them, but for me it was really different to be able to do something my nephews could watch, so that was a big steer.

Also it was just a great action-packed series that I think appeals to a varied audience. I thought it was going to be quite child-like, but there are some really action-packed things in there. If you look at kids' games nowadays, they're quite risky. I think Alex Rider's got a bit of that.

Vicky McClure Alex Rider Amazon Prime Video

2. How are we first introduced to your character?

We first see Mrs Jones as a spy within The Department, but the first time she meets Alex Rider [played by Otto Farrant], she tells him that she works for a bank.

Throughout the series, you see that she gets quite involved with being Alex's handler. That means that she starts to care about him, rather than just doing the day-to-day job.

He's a young lad and he's being put into lots of very difficult scenarios, and that is partly her doing. So yes, it's quite complicated for her.

3. Does Mrs Jones have a protective, almost maternal instinct towards Alex?

Yes. Given the connection between The Department and his uncle [Ian Rider, played by Andrew Buchan], there is always going to be that duty of care, which is probably slightly more raised than it would be if it was just some random kid. So that adds an awful lot of weight to how Mrs Jones feels about protecting him. 

“We'd be lying if we said there wasn't some sort of connection in the worlds in which Alex Rider and James Bond both belong”
- Vicky McClure

Not only that - he's a good kid. He hasn’t gone out of his way to get himself in trouble - this has come to him. And it's dangerous. The stakes are really high.

You’ve got the other kids in Point Blanc [an academy for the problem sons of billionaires in the French Alps] but predominantly Alex is there doing all the work. The whole department has a responsibility towards him, but as Mrs Jones is his handler, it puts her in a position that she wasn't prepared for.

4. Why do you think the Alex Rider series will connect with audiences?

I don't know if we're meant to be staying away from the word ‘Bond’, but I think we'd be lying if we said there wasn't some sort of connection in terms of the world which they both belong in. And that world is so far from reality. So, it's all about imagination. We all like to escape and we all want to imagine another world. 

Alex appears to be getting through the process of a nice, normal life, and then we cut to the chase and go way beyond whatever reality is. And yet, in amongst everything, it still feels like there's a kind of reality bubbling away - right down to a really powerful ending. 

Alex Rider Amazon Prime Video

5. How do you think Otto has coped with a shoot that has lasted over six months?

He's a machine! I've got to say, he's done incredibly well. Not in terms of the acting side - he can act like he doesn't need to. It's just the demand on him is huge. With any shoot, it's tiring, it's time-consuming, and you have to sometimes put life aside a little bit. 

“It feels as if The Department in Alex Rider is a bit like AC-12 in Line of Duty”
- Vicky McClure

But the great thing about Otto is he's just so passionate. He's read the books, he knows his stuff, he's very, very well prepared. And that takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time.

That just shows in his performance and it shows in him holding the show together. But with a real smile on his face. I've never seen him down and out, he's just a ball of energy.

6. Have you enjoyed working with Stephen Dillane, who plays Alan Blunt?

Absolutely. Since we've been working together, I’ve just found he's got this wonderful dry sense of humour. He's a funny, funny guy.

But he’s also a complete professional. If there's something he's a bit confused about, he makes sure we've ironed it out before we shoot it. I hope to stay in touch with him. 

Line of Duty BBC One

7. Are there any similarities between Alex Rider and Line of Duty?

No. I'd never compare one job to another but it feels, I suppose, as if The Department in Alex Rider is a bit like AC-12 in Line of Duty. Also, it's me and two men predominantly within that [like in Line of Duty]. But the Alex Rider script, its language and the surrounding characters are all completely different to Line of Duty. 

Also, Mrs Jones is completely different to Kate [Fleming]. They might both be strong women, but they’re very different in their attitude, lifestyle, and their look and hair. I'm always changing my hair for every job; I don't know why! 

Alex Rider is streaming on Amazon Prime Video from Thursday, June 4.

Catch up on Line of Duty seasons 1-5 on BBC iPlayer.

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