In Spotlight: Keeley Hawes’ best ever roles from The Durrells and Spooks to Bodyguard

Whether it’s in tense thrillers, police procedurals or family-friendly dramas, Keeley Hawes has been a fixture on our TV screens for more than 20 years. Here’s our pick of her biggest roles.

Published: 25 June 2020 - 1.18pm
Jeff Spicer/Stringer

When you see that Keeley Hawes is involved in a drama, you know it’s going to be a good one.

The star has an uncanny knack of picking out some of the best projects around, and as a result has rarely been off our screens during the last two decades.

Here’s our pick of Keeley’s top roles to date.

Tipping the Velvet (2002)

One of the first major roles we saw Keeley in was an adaptation of the Sarah Waters novel Tipping the Velvet.

Keeley played Kitty Butler and starred alongside Rachael Stirling as Nan Astley, telling the story of a lesbian love affair between two women in the 1890s.

Her character was a male impersonator music hall star and her performance was a hit with viewers and critics alike, under the guidance of screenwriting royalty Andrew Davies.

Tipping the Velvet is available to watch on BritBox.

Spooks (2002-2004)

In the same year that mini-series Tipping the Velvet was a hit, we were introduced to the much longer-running, but even more popular, spy drama Spooks.

The BBC series followed the dangerous and exciting world of MI5 agents and saw her star alongside Peter Firth, Hugh Simon, Nicola Walker and David Oyelowo in the first three seasons of the show.

Although Keeley left the show in 2004, it continued until 2011 and went on to feature such big-name stars as Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lara Pulver, Robert Glenister, and Hermione Norris.

She also ended up marrying her Spooks co-star, Matthew Macfadyen.

All 10 seasons of Spooks are available on BBC iPlayer and BritBox.

Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010)

Keeley Hawes in Ashes to Ashes BBC

Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes is remembered as one of Keeley’s career-defining roles.

The sequel to time-travelling police procedural Life on Mars saw Alex undergo a similar weird experience to John Simm’s character Sam Tyler – apparently waking up in a different decade after suffering a traumatic injury.

Alex, who was revealed to have been Tyler's unnamed psychologist from the original programme, found herself working with unreconstructed cop Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and co in the police force of the 1980s after being shot in the head by a patient.

The programme ran for three series and viewers were won over by Alex and Gene’s odd working relationship.

Watch all three seasons of Ashes to Ashes on Netflix, BBC iPlayer and BritBox.

The Casual Vacancy (2015)

This three-part adaptation of JK Rowling’s first novel for adult readers starred Hawes as Samantha Mollison.

Samantha was a scandalous character for the seemingly sleepy town of Pagford, an apparent alcoholic who was running a struggling bra shop that often shocked some of the more conservative residents.

Keeley’s character also kissed a 16-year-old boy as she appeared in the series alongside Rufus Jones, Julia McKenzie, Rory Kinnear and Michael Gambon.

The Casual Vacancy is available to buy on Amazon Prime Video.

Line of Duty (2014-2016)

Jed Mercurio’s enormously successful police corruption series is known for its stand-out performances, not just from its main cast of Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar, but also from each series' guest stars.

Keeley is in good company, joining the ranks of Lennie James, Thandie Newton and Stephen Graham as a series guest star. Critics labelled her performance one of the best of 2014.

Viewers were kept guessing at whether her character Lindsay Denton was really being bullied at work as a detective, or if she was scheming against the force all along.

She returned for another series of the show and as ever in Line of Duty, was part of a string of twists and turns that were thoroughly unpredictable.

Seasons 1 to 5 of Line of Duty are available on BBC iPlayer. Seasons 1 to 4 are on Netflix.

The Missing (2016)

Another Kelley Hawes series that had everyone talking was 2016 drama The Missing.

Keeley featured in the second series of the mystery thriller as the mother of a girl who was kidnapped, presumed dead – until her apparent reappearance many years later.

Her character Gemma lived on an army base in Germany, which she’d refused to leave since her daughter’s disappearance despite the huge strain it put on her family.

Keeley’s portrayal of a bereaved mother who wanted desperately to believe that her child had returned from the dead was masterful and heartbreaking.

Watch seasons 1 and 2 of The Missing on Amazon Prime Video or BBC iPlayer.

The Durrells (2016–2019)

Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell in The Durrells ITV

Although her CV is replete with roles in gritty dramas, Keeley won new fans as the lead character in a cosy family series on ITV.

She played Louisa Durrell in the TV adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s memoir, My Family and Other Animals.

The formidable Louisa – mother to writer Laurence as well as future conservatonist Gerald - moved her family to Corfu as a single mother in the 1930s, as she battled to cope with her husband’s death and carve out a new life for her children.

Viewers fell in love with the gentle, funny series that also took in some of Corfu’s most beautiful scenery.

Season 1 of the Durrells airs on ITV from 7pm on Sunday, July 5, 2020.
Seasons 1 to 3 of The Durrells are now available to watch on Netflix and BritBox.

Bodyguard (2018)

Kelley Hawes and Richard Madden in Bodyguard BBC

Bodyguard, from Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio, became the TV talking point of 2018 when it aired in the autumn of that year.

Keeley played ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, who is assigned a new personal protection officer, David Budd, from the Met’s special protection unit.

However Budd (played by Richard Madden), is a traumatised ex-soldier. While he has closer access to Julia than anyone, he has wildly differing political views to her, making the relationship between the two a test of loyalty and morality.

The series was a huge success with critics and viewers alike, with 11 million people tuning in for the thrilling finale. Hawes was nominated for a Bafta for playing Montague, while Madden won a Golden Globe for his role. 

Watch Bodyguard on Netflix.