Created by X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz, Hunted falls somewhere between a Bourne-like action movie and a paranoid thriller. While its plot—an espionage operative called Sam (Melissa George) is betrayed by a member of her team—is familiar, the show is bolstered by strong performances and a level of stylistic confidence unusual for a British television series.
Ahead of its debut on BBC One this evening, we spoke to actor Adam Rayner about his role as Aidan, Sam’s former love interest, handler and possible traitor.
The show is framed entirely from the perspective of Sam she doesn’t know who has deceived her and mistrusts everyone, including you. How do you play an ambiguous role like that and not show your hand?
Acting is telling the story to the audience but in a show like this you’ve got to watch you don’t overdo it, given there’s meant to be uncertainty there, a mystery about what this character’s motivations are. You have to play every scene truthfully but you also have to not give too much away. In a way that’s something I had to learn. I think it’s less interesting if you answer all the questions too early.
As the series progresses your role gets quite physically demanding, with lots of intimately-shot fights. Did you have to do much training for that?
I didn’t get a huge amount of warning between being cast and starting work. I think I got better as we went along. It was pretty much training on the job, really, working with the stunt team and trying to copy them. You have to do so many of fights, and a lot of them were outside in the middle of winter in London so it was very tough. You get knocked about a bit. It’s difficult, and to begin with you’re not physically confident as you need to be to inhabit these characters physically. But they were great teachers as well as performers and got me and Melissa on the right track.
Hunted is a co-production between the UK production company Kudos and the American network Cinemax. Are you happy working here or would you like to do more work in America?
Well it’s lovely to be a part of both industries. I’m very fortunate in that I have an American mother so I can work in either country. The whole industry is changing, though, so there’s a lot more crossover than there used to be. You can audition for roles on tape and e-mail it across. It’s not like you have to live in Los Angeles, although because of my dual nationality I did spend a couple of years working there and I’m glad I did – I feel comfortable there. I certainly don’t want to choose one over the other.
Does it feel different to work on an American series?
Actually I was on a show over there on the day it was cancelled. I was struck by the experience, because it happens every day over there. People weren’t saying , “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, I’m out of a job”, they were saying, “Oh well, this one failed, on to the next one”. Even the lead actors. “This show didn’t work so it’s back to the drawing board for the pilot season next year.” Frank Spotnitz said recently that the American TV industry is like an incredibly efficient factory. There are very skilled operatives producing a very slick product, but there’s so much product, the sheer volume is such that it has to be a production line. You only have to go to their buildings, these huge edifices, to realise that it’s the number one business. Whereas here we’re a bit more of a cottage industry. It isn’t quite such a machine. It’s all more ad hoc.
You were in an episode of Doctor Who a few years ago where your character is killed by a giant wasp. What was that like?
It haunts me, that one. It’s amazing how often people mention it. I still get Doctor Who fan mail. I think I get killed in the first five minutes, but it was a lot of fun. It’s a rites of passage these days, really. If you want to be any kind of actor in this country you’ve got to do a bit of Doctor Who. It was great.