Interview: Jim Sturgess on BBC One's Hard Sun

Hard Sun is a pre-apocalyptic crime show set in contemporary London. Charlie Hicks and Elaine Renko are detectives who, while investigating a murder in the inner city, stumble upon proof that the world faces certain destruction - in five years.

It’s a terrifying reality that the British government is urgently trying to suppress. Hicks and Renko find themselves pursued by ruthless Security Service operatives, who are trying to kill them in order to keep secret the truth about the mysterious cosmic event. The pair must use every bit of their ingenuity to protect themselves and those they love.

When the classified dossier is made public the government quickly discredits the story as a hoax and fear largely subsides. But the story never entirely goes away. Hard Sun is still out there - in a thousand online forums, supported by conspiracy theorists and the dispossessed on the fringes of society and the internet. And as the murderers, the abusers, the serial killers, the cult leaders start to come out of the woodwork, it’s up to Hicks and Renko to take them down. But what does justice mean in the face of Armageddon?

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What was your reaction when you first read the script for Hard Sun?
It slightly annoyed me [laughs]. I’d been very busy, and I was ready to take a break and do some music. Then I read this and went my, oh my God, it’s really good! By page five, I was saying to myself, oh no, I’m going to have to do it. Dammit!

What stood out for you about Neil Cross’s writing?
It has one of the most interesting, unique, brilliant introductions to a character I’ve ever read. Hicks, the character I play, goes from A to Z in five seconds. You start thinking he is one thing, and then immediately you’re led in the totally different direction. I was instantly drawn in by the possibility of what this could be and where this could go.

What does the unique setting provide?
It reminds us that we are all here together and that we could all go out together. It asks what an impending apocalypse would do to society. We all may face that one day. We are not going to be here forever. The story has overwhelming moments where the characters ask, what’s going to happen next? And then they get sucked into everyday life and relationship issues and the challenges of how to be a good friend. Every character is disturbed in this piece. Neil’s writing is just thrilling.

Do you enjoy variety of tones in Hard Sun?
Absolutely. It’s so rewarding. Hard Sun has moments of family drama, of cop show, and of sci-fi. It is brutal and tender, heartfelt and aggressive. It’s the most wonderfully varied show to work on.

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Can you outline Hicks character for us?
The only way to describe him is how he would describe himself. He accepts that occasionally he’ll do bad things for the benefit of the greater good. But all the same he believes 100 percent that he is a good guy who is pursuing the greater good. He’s a natural with people and would consider himself an excellent family man with strong values. He’s an amazing dad and husband and leader and team player.

How would you characterise his relationship with Renko?
They deeply distrust each other from the very beginning. But they’re thrown together by this idea of Hard Sun, which binds them together completely. Each ends up being the only one the other one has, but at the same time, they screw each other over. It’s a spaghetti junction of human complications!

What was your response when you heard you would be working opposite Agyness?
The minute her name was brought up, I was very excited. I knew what a great actress she is. I love it when people think out of the box. Renko is a killer part. She’s such a strong, ass-kicking, brilliant, complicated human being. It’s a golden role for any actress, and Agyness plays it superbly.

How have you found it working with her?
Agyness has been brilliant. She brings it. We have both been pulled apart and put back together while making this drama. But Agyness in particular has been dragged through the mill. However, she’s made of strong stuff, and she’s been amazing.

You had to do a lot of your own stunts in Hard Sun, did it go smoothly?
No! I took a hit from Agyness when she was wearing a knuckleduster. She smacked me in the nose. There was a lot of blood, but I think she was more upset than I was!

In Hard Sun, how does society react as the apocalypse draws closer?
Hicks says: “All the madness is going to come out of the woodwork,” and he’s right. It immediately divides people. The drama asks whether in this situation society would behave in a sane or a really dangerous way. That confusion unites Hicks and Renko. They have a common understanding that it is bigger than anything else.

What do you hope that viewers will take away from Hard Sun?
I think they’ll find it compulsive. It’s a bombardment of ideas, and audiences will be gripped by it. From the moment it starts, it doesn’t let you go!