Former Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison talks about his role in A Very English Scandal, which sees him playing a useless hitman hired to kill the ex lover of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, played by Hugh Grant

You’d imagine that hiring a hitman could be quite a tricky business, but back in 1975 the dodgy associates of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe thought they’d found just the right candidate to bump off his troublesome ex lover Norman Scott. It proved very unwise, however, to plump for former airline pilot Andrew Newton, who turned out to be a drunken idiot and a total fantasist.

Inbetweeners star, Blake Harrison, is portraying the hapless Newton, whose murder mission is a comedy of errors – he even heads to Dunstable instead of Barnstaple to look for Norman after mishearing his orders!

Blake plays a hapless hitman

When he does finally catch up with Norman and attempts to murder him one rainy night on Exmoor, dog-phobic Newton only manages to shoot Norman’s large Great Dane instead.

TV & Satellite Week caught up with Blake Harrison to talk about Newton’s dramatic arrival in the second episode of A Very English Scandal, and to spill a few secrets about filming with Ben Whishaw who plays Norman…

TV and Satellite Week:  Jeremy Thorpe’s dodgy associates couldn’t have hired a worse person to kill Norman Scott, could they?

Blake Harrison: “Absolutely not! They’d have been better off hiring Neil from the Inbetweeners! It’s incredible that he had this fear of dogs, which is why he killed Norman’s dog first and it was sheer luck that after that the gun jammed. Had he not had that fear then Norman Scott would have died, he would have disposed of the body and that would have been that!”

TVSW: Andrew Newton was also a bit of a fantasist wasn’t he?

BH: “Yeah he saw himself as a bit of a James Bond or a gangster when he clearly wasn’t. He was also constantly on the make and constantly thinking, how can I make even more money out of the situation? He had no sense of morality and in lots of ways it was quite fun to play someone that selfish.”

Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw star in A Very English Scandal

TVSW: The whole story seems pretty unbelievable looking at it today

BH: “It does! It just seems so far fetched and so calamitous with the amount of things that went wrong. It’s like a comedy of errors. It’s almost too crazy to make up and I think viewers will almost struggle to believe that this actually transpired. Most of my mates had never heard about the story before and when I talk to them about it they’re like, this is unbelievable!”

TVSW: How did you find filming those rainy scenes where Newton was trying to kill Norman on Exmoor?

BH: “It was difficult with the dog, because it kept farting in the car, then wouldn’t do as it was supposed to! But of course it’s not an actor! It was freezing as well as it was December, it was a night shoot and we were under this rain machine. We had to work very hard to keep the spirits up.”

TVSW: Had you handled a gun on screen before this?

BH: “Yeah, I’ve done it a few times. In Dad’s Army we were shooting old World War Two weaponry and I did an episode of The Bill where I had a handgun. Even in the second Inbetweeners movie there’s a montage and I’m shooting a double Uzi!”

TVSW: What was it like working with Ben Whishaw, who plays Norman Scott?

BH: “I’d never worked with him before but he’s such a nice bloke and a very talented actor. He really owned that part. I always have those moments working with these highly regarded actors when I think, ‘oh God am I bit of a fraud here?!’ But Ben was so lovely and so nice, so it was a real pleasure to work with him.”

TVSW: Did you enjoy the 1970s fashions you wore for this drama?

BH: “Do you know what, some of the fashions weren’t too bad but I’m not a fan of Andrew Newton’s moustache! I grow a beard most of the time anyway. The hair and make up team loved it because they could shave and shape the sideburns and moustache from my facial hair, but the downside for me was having to go home and for weeks you look like Borat!”

Death in Paradise Series Seven

Neil is guest starring in the new series of Death in Paradise

TVSW: What’s next for you?

BH: “I’ve been in Guadalupe filming an episode of Death in Paradise, which is perfect really because then I’m going on to do a play in London called End of the Pier which is about stand-up comedians. I’m trying to go off in a few different directions. I directed a short film last year and I’m looking at doing a bit more of that. We’ll see what happens.”

TVSW: But you’ll still make time to go along to your fooball club, Millwall?

BH: “Actually, I’ve got two young kids now so it’s difficult to get down to the ground. Most of my weekends are about being Dad, which I love!”

A Very English Scandal is on BBC1, Sunday, 9pm

Main pic: PA Archive/PA Images