Floppy-haired thesp Ben Whishaw is having an autumn for the ages. Hot on the heels of a starring role opposite Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and Halle Berry in the Wachowski’s mesmerizing drama “Cloud Atlas,” the 31-year-old is enlisting in Her Majesty’s Service as gadget guru Q in James Bond’s latest romp “Skyfall.”
But the actor is no neophyte—like many of his countrymen, Whishaw cut his teeth in theater (theatre?) before landing roles in “I’m Not There,” “Brideshead Revisited” and “The Tempest.” He arguably shines brightest, however, in the BBC period piece “The Hour” (which just kicked off its second season across the pond).
Starring Dominic West and Romola Garai, “The Hour” follows a fledgling television news magazine of the same name as it strives to not only gain an audience but report fairly and accurately on the escalating Suez Crisis—no mean feat given BBC brass’ desire to appease the British government. Think of it as the love child of “The Newsroom” and “Mad Men”—swaddled in a Union Jack diaper. Add dashes of murder, adultery and espionage (yes, MI-6 plays a pivotal role here too!), and “The Hour” is among one of the best British exports (fish & chips is No. 1, obviously).
And though Whishaw’s tenacious reporter Freddie Lyon plays second fiddle to West’s dapper anchorman Hector Madden, it’s only within the context of the show within the show, because it’s through Whishaw and his winning performance that we learn the most about “The Hour”’s inner workings. His Freddie is mercurial, tempestuous and above all else, predictably unpredictable, leaving viewers to wonder whether he’s stark-raving mad or a mad genius. (We’ll never tell!)
So before you get shaken (not stirred) this weekend, be sure to check out Whishaw in “The Hour.” The new season kicks off on BBC America on November 28.
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