The hustle and bustle of a BBC TV studio in the 1950s provides the stylish backdrop to BBC2’s new six-part thriller following the team behind a new current affairs show called The Hour Tuesday, July 19).

Based at BBC’s swish Lime Grove studios, the news crew is headed by a young female producer, Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), debonaire newscaster Hector Madden (The Wire’s Dominic West) and idealistic home affairs reporter Freddie Lyon, played by Ben Whishaw, who spoke exclusively to What’s On TV about the series which features murders, spy scandals and love triangles…

Although The Hour is set in the media world of the 1950s and there’s a Mad Men feel to the style of the drama, the thriller element gives this series a much harder edge doesn’t it?
“Yes and I’m very pleased with it. It made me want to carry on watching which is important.”

Is Freddie a frustrated character and a loose cannon at BBC at the time?
“Yeah, I suppose so because he’s lower middle-class. I get confused with these classifications, but he’s a grammar school boy. He got himself a good education but has definite issues with class and authority. He’s always bucking against authority.”

He has a great relationship with The Hour’s producer Bel…
“Yes, she sticks up for him and gets him out of trouble lots of times.”

What’s his background – he was evacuated in the war to live with an aristocratic family, Lord and Lady Elms and their daughter Ruth…
“That sort of gets revealed slowly, the pieces start to come together and you start to get a glimpse of what his anger is about. You discover why he’s angry at privilege and why he’s angry with the government.”

“He’s a brilliantly well-drawn character, I think. I love the way the writer Abi Morgan writes because you really do feel that they’re real people. They have many different dimensions and don’t feel stock. I really loved that. And I love the words she puts in their mouths. She writes so beautifully.

Is it true you don’t watch much TV?
“My telly doesn’t have a signal, I don’t know whether I’ve just been cursed but I’ve never been able to get a signal so if I watch telly, I watch it on the iPlayer now. I’ve just fallen out of the habit of coming in and putting the telly on, which is not a bad thing really.”

Did you enjoy working with Romola Garai?
“It was the first time I’ve worked with her and she was wonderful. I just felt very connected to Romola and very comfortable always. There was a certain meeting of minds, an understanding of each other that made our job much easier.”

Does Freddie and Bel’s relationship change during the series?
“There’s always the possibility that it might, in every episode it feels that it might change into something else. It remains ambiguous, but I don’t know how much I can tell you. But there’s a definite connection between them.”