Rupert: ‘Clive realises prosecution is his forte’

Silk’s Rupert Penry-Jones reveals how barrister Clive Reader risks his career with an act of rebellion (BBC1, Tuesday)…

This week Clive discovers the real reason he didn’t make silk. How does he react?

“At the end of the day Clive only has himself to blame for not getting silk. He slept with his pupil, Niamh, and he got caught. The fact that Senior Clark Billy made this known is bad – but Clive shouldn’t have done it!”

So he’s not furious?

“He is hurt and upset, but it’s worked out well for him. Martha (Maxine Peake) now gets a smaller amount of high-profile cases, while Clive gets all the work she used to, so he’s busy!”

He still has time to fool around with solicitor George Duggan (Indira Varma), who is turning his head…

“He flirts with her from the moment they meet on a defence case. She keeps her distance for a while, but she can’t resist him in the end! George is strong, powerful, very sexy and puts him in his place – and he likes that. She’s dangerous and plays him as much as he plays her! There’s a constant battle of wits going on.”

Do we discover more about Clive’s past this series?

“With Clive you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. He talks about his horrible experiences at boarding school and it’s quite moving. But he’s doing it to get a client he’s defending to open up, so you can’t be sure if it’s true or not.”

What do you think of this more duplicitous side of him?

“I think it’s realistic and it’s the way that most people live their lives, whether they’re doing it deliberately or not. The truth inside their heads is how they need it to be. With Clive, I think it’s one of the most interesting things about him – when he does things you’re never sure whether he’s doing them for ulterior motives!”

How is his working relationship with Senior Clark, Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke), this series?

“Billy and Clive are constantly playing each other. There’s a lot of wrangling between them. Billy wants to keep Shoe Lane a defence-only chambers, but Caroline Warwick (Frances Barber) has told Clive prosecution is an easier route to silk. Caroline’s got ulterior motives, as she wants to become a prosecutor at Shoe Lane. She’s willing to help Clive, but not for very long. She’s using him just as he’s using her. They’re all using each other!”

This week Clive follows Caroline’s advice and – unknown to Billy – he takes on a prosecution case in Oxford. Is this a bit of a career gamble?

“In this episode he takes on a case prosecuting three students from his old Oxford college. He realises prosecution is where his forte lies, and is much more up his street than being a defence barrister. Billy, however, is determined to keep Shoe Lane a defence-only chambers…”