Rupert Penry-Jones plays Richard Reece in Stephen Poliakoff's major new drama Joe's Palace on BBC-1 soon. Poliakoff is one of the UK's most respected writers and Rupert jumped at the chance to appear in one of his productions.
When asked what attracted him to Joe's Palace, Rupert replies: "Stephen Poliakoff. It's as simple as that," smiles the actor, who plays Richard, the dashing cabinet minister who conducts a passionate affair with a married woman called Charlotte (Kelly Reilly) in the house at the core of the film. "I said 'yes' before I'd even read it! He's someone I know I will always want to work with. He's just brilliant."
Rupert, who is best known for his starring role as Adam Carter in BBC One's hit espionage drama Spooks, goes on to explain what makes collaborating with Stephen such an irresistible proposition.
"I've been in Stephen's Sweet Panic, and he's just got an incredible mind. His take on urban life is fantastic. He endows London with such mystery, he turns it into a magical place.
"Also, he writes the most compelling characters. Every single person in a Stephen Poliakoff drama is worth playing. That's why he always manages to recruit such wonderful casts. Even if you're only in two scenes, you know they'll be crucial to the drama.
"You also know that Stephen will direct them with absolute integrity. Because he has total artistic control on his projects, you can be sure he won't be pushed around by people who don't have a creative bone in their bodies. With Stephen, you are involved in something creative rather than mere entertainment. That's very rare in television nowadays."
Rupert, who has also given fine performances in Casanova, Krakatoa: The Last Days, Cambridge Spies, Charlotte Grey, North Square, Poirot, Match Point,
Hilary And Jackie and The Student Prince, explains more about his character. "Richard is a young hotshot member of the Cabinet who leads a very fast nd exciting life.
"He never has time to stop and think about anything. His way of surviving is by having dalliances with various women and taking risks. His thinking is, 'if I
stopped doing this, I'd stop being able to do anything'. Other people relax by shopping or going on holiday. Richard relaxes by sleeping with different women.
"He has a beautiful wife at home whom he loves, but these affairs have nothing to do with that. He enjoys the frisson of sailing close to the wind; he needs to keep taking these risks in order to feel alive. He has effortless confidence, some people are just like that.
"He's the sort of person who has the balls to ask people the questions no one else would ever dare ask, like 'can I use your house to conduct an affair?'
He'd go up to a famous person and ask him out for dinner. Richard is bold and he seems happy, but actually he has a very lonely existence."
The actor, who played Captain Wentworth in Persuasion earlier this year, was also intrigued by the idea of the house being a third character in this film.
"The house is the lead in Joe's Palace – especially in a vast city like London, there are lots of properties you look at and think, 'I wonder what goes on in
there?' This house is based on a building Stephen grew up near in central London.
"The idea of a house being a living thing with a history going back decades is fascinating. This house affects all the people who come through it. It touches people and stays with them for their whole lives. The mansion is an incredibly evocative place, replete with memories."
The house certainly has a major effect on Richard. According to Rupert: "Initially, Richard and Charlotte bring a breath of fresh air into the house. They suddenly bring the house to life.
"And in the house, Richard gets close to people like Joe who he would never become friendly with elsewhere. But the house also makes Richard stop and think, and he finds that unsettling. So he stops coming, he's a person who has to keep moving."
Rupert finishes by praising his co-star, Kelly Reilly: "She's great," the actor enthuses.
"We were already friends before this film. We played lovers in a Poirot and had appeared together in a show at the Milan Fashion Festival. It's always difficult doing sex scenes, but the fact that Kelly and I had played lovers before made it easier. We shot all the scenes in one day and had a real laugh.
You have to laugh making those scenes, otherwise they're just excruciatingly painful!"