WARWICKSHIRE actor Ben Daniels is getting ahead by plonking on a barrister’s wig and making himself at home in the courtroom.
The Nuneaton actor, who played a love rat in BBC drama Cutting It and 007 creator Ian Fleming in Bondmaker, is part of the cast of the new British version of Law and Order.
It is based on the enormously successful US show format – now in its 19th series – and Law and Order: UK is essentially split into two halves.
The first half of the show, which starts on ITV on Monday, follows the police investigation of a crime, while the second follows the Crown Prosecution Service’s attempt to prosecute the offenders.
Ben plays Senior Crown Prosecutor James Steel and gets to wear the obligatory wig.
The former Manor Park School pupil said: “It is made of horse hair and is very uncomfortable.
Costume wanted me to have a wig specially made to fit me but I refused because I wanted one with a bit of history. “My wig has its own TV career, it has been worn by so many different actors. There are loads of names in it that have faded away from the sweat including Alan Davies from when he did The Brief.”
Ben’s crimebusting co-stars include Coronation Street’s Bradley Walsh, Battlestar Galatica’s, Jamie Bamber, former Doctor Who assistant Freema Agyman, Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson.
Ben, who also studied at Stratford College, says his character’s quest for the truth is one of the reasons the series is so compelling to watch. “It is justice at whatever cost for James. He is so blinkered in his quest for the truth that it even destroys his personal relationships.”
Ben explains: “James is a Senior Crown Prosecutor who has worked in the Crown Prosecution Service for about eight years and previous to that he was a defence counsel.
“He was a brilliant defence counsel and got lots of people off, however, one particular case coincided with the birth of his son.
“He had managed to get a man off a rape charge three times in a row – that as well as his son being born made him rethink his whole life and defect to the CPS. Apparently many defence barristers end up doing that.
“It is all about guilt. You are not allowed to defend someone if you know they are guilty but I think sometimes it is quite evident they are guilty and they have to do it. It’s a cab rank principle – unless you are hired privately you don’t get to choose.”
The Olivier award-winner continues: “Once he changed sides, James is completely consumed by his job to the point where his wife leaves him, taking their son to live in Scotland.
With his family gone there is an empty hole to fill with his work.
Ben confesses he was a massive fan of the original Law & Order.
“I revisited them again briefly while in New York – on Broadway in Les Liaisons Dangereuses) – when I was up for the role of James Steel.”
“I watched those early episodes again but ours is just so different even with the same storylines… primarily because our court process is so different.”
While the format and pace is similar to its US counterpart, there is also humour in Law and Order UK, which is absent in the American version.”
Ben says playing a barrister is very like working in the theatre. “James has that when he is trying to nail someone in the witness box and he veers away from what is written down.”
“That is the most exciting part to play as it is so in the moment and I think when he is at his best. He knows what angle to take and depending on how the witness reacts he tries to nip in like a terrier and hold on.”
“We came to an arrangement early on in the filming that I would have a camera on me and the person in the witness box would have a camera on them for the cross examination so we would both be able to talk and overlap each other which gives a real energy to filming.”
“Because you are in a room full of people, like an audience, and there are just two of you going at each other there is definitely an element of theatricality to it.”
“James is quite absolute in the way he sees the world. It is all black and white, good and bad, right and wrong.”
“It’s refreshing to play a man who is a beacon of truth. I would go as far to say that James is quite a heroic figure in his quest to do the right thing.