Eleanor Matsuura is about to return in Spooks: The Greater Good, which sees the popular television series brought to the big screen for the first time.

Eleanor Matsuura

Eleanor Matsuura

Spooks: The Greater Good is set to the biggest film of Matsuura's career to date as she really steps into the big budget blockbuster for the first time.

We caught up with the actress to chat about the film, her character Hannah, and what she has ahead for the rest of the year.

- Spooks: The Greater Good is set to hit the big screen in a few weeks, so can you tell me a bit about the film?

I think if you are a Spooks fan then you really won't be disappointed. It picks up with Peter Firth's character, who has been away for a while. There is a big case where terrorist Qasim escapes the clutches of MI5 and they bring back Will - who use to work for MI5 - and is played by Kit Harington. He and Harry help find Qasim.

A lot of the film is the chasing of the escaped terrorist but it is also about trust within the MI5 agency as they try to figure out who is with them and who is against them. It is a real love letter to London as well. Spooks is homegrown and ten series of very British drama and the film has really honoured that. We were filming on some great locations in and around London and the city almost plays another character in the film. It provides a really great backdrop.

- You are set to take on the role of Hannah Santo in the film, what was about this character and the script that was the major draw for you when you read it for the first time?

For me, the character of Hannah was brilliant because she was very ambitious, very capable, and very brilliant MI5 agent. Her storyline really allows her, as a female character, to be just that; so often we have female characters worked in because they are a love interest or they are a secondary storyline that runs alongside the male storyline.

With Hannah, it was just really refreshing to be playing a girl who is really good at her job, ambitious, not afraid of taking risks and breaking the rules sometimes. It is really nice to be able to play a woman who is just really good at her job. Will finds her and draws her into this situation - it is really hard to say without giving too much away. It was just refreshing that there wasn't a cheesy romantic storyline.

Hannah and Will meet as equals and try to help each other out. The film really deals with the idea of doing good or doing well; Hannah is one of these characters that is drawn into a situation where she has forced to choose between those two things constantly.

- Did you do any particular training as you were preparing for this role?

No. I wish that there was some sort of MI5 training for this, but there wasn't. I had to do a lot of running in this film; many of the films that I have been getting at the moment have involved a lot of action sequence running.

On a personal level, I have had to get really good at running and up the exercise routine to build up a bit of stamina. There are a couple of chase sequences where I was legging it through Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, at first it is easy, but when you get to shot ten it does get more taxing (laughs).

- Bharat Nalluri returns to the director's chair with Spooks: The Greater Good, so how did you find working with him? And what kind of a director was he?

He is great. Bharat was really great at honouring the show. He has directed a lot of the television show and being with it from so early on, he had a connection to what the Spooks franchise is and what the heart of it is. It was really perfect for him to take the reins on the movie. He really honoured what television show but wasn't afraid to push it into sexy movie area where it could stand on its own two legs as a film. I don't think Spooks fans will be disappointed but, as a movie, it stands alone really well.

On a personal level, he was great to work with as he was always there giving me time and allowing me to find the best moments for Hannah and her journey. However, when you watch the movie, he has also got some really great big sexy action movie sequences in there as well. Those are the things that you can't worry about as an actor - all of those things are out of your control. It was nice to see that he had both of those things covered.

- What did you think when you saw the film for the first time?

It was thrilling to see it up on the big screen and it always is. When you have been working so hard on something and you finally see it come together. It is pretty nerve-racking because you want all of your good work to bear fruit.

I think they have done a fantastic job and I was really impressed with how action packed it was, how sexy London looks, and how we still managed to honour the TV show as well.

- And while this is a blockbuster type film, how collaborative was it between the director and the actors? How open was he to you bringing some of your own ideas to the table?

Yes, it was actually. As a team, particularly when we are talking about working in MI5 roles, you really do have to bring that; you have to bring that with any job really. When you go on to film sets - or when you are doing live theatre - you have to work together in such small amounts of time, you have to bring that energy, that generosity, and that collaboration to make something work within the time limit that you have got.

That is why often those experiences on films are quite intense and you form really intense friendships, as you go through this incredible experience together in such a short period of time. You have to develop these relationships with your characters with friends that have known each other for ten years - you are supposed to manifest that in a day (laughs). That is making movies for you.

- We are also going to be seeing you in The Lady in the Van later this year - which is a movie I am really looking forward to - so can you tell me a bit about that project?

Did you see the play at the National Theatre?

- No

I didn't either. It is a shame actually, as I would like to have seen that having done the film. It was loads of fun. It was great as I was filming practically on my doorstep in Primrose Hill; it is always lovely to be filming something in London when you are from London, as it always feels special.

I am playing an American journalist in the film and I have a great scene with Alex Jennings, who is playing Alan Bennett. It was a very very happy set and it was a real honour to be working with Nicholas Hytner; it is not his first film but it is his first film since leaving the National. I think that will be really exciting and I can't wait to see it.

- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between TV and film as well as work extensively in the theatre. How do the mediums compare? How much do you like moving between them?

I totally adore moving between them. It is so hard to have any kind of control in this career as jobs come and go and you just have to go along with it really. That is why many people became actors to be honest, as people don't want to be doing the same thing again and again. Variety is definitely what keeps it interesting and exciting.

For me, I love the fact that I am able to do TV, film and theatre as you are exercising a different muscle for each and they are all good for different things. It was great last year, as I went from doing a big movie like Spooks, to going on to do a television show, to going on and doing a play. The variety is what keeps you sane. Also, you don't really have a choice and the work tends to find you (laughs).

- You have had many theatre roles over the years, with productions such as Danton's Death, The Changeling, and Enron, so what is the major draw of the stage for you as an actor?

I think theatre will always be my home. Many actors, particularly in this country, have done theatre training and there is a real discipline there. There is something about the live nature of the experience - you go in every night and the show can be different. If you have a bad show, you have to let it go because you have got to go in the next night and do it again. There is something really magical about that and it also gives you a sense of community as well.

A lot of actors are a bit like gypsies; we go from job to job and never stay in one place for a long time. With theatre, it gives you that sense of belonging to something - more than TV or film - and there is a particular intensity to it that I think is really important to keep going back to.

Many actors call theatre their 'church' as that is what they go back to. TV and film can often feel a bit disconnected because it is much bigger and disjointed. With theatre, every night it is live, you are often sharing a dressing room with all the actors, it is just a different thing.

- Most recently, we saw you return to the role of Isobel in Bull, how did you find returning to this part and this play?

I loved returning to a part that I had already played as it was the first time that I had done that with theatre. First of all, I loved the play and I loved the part and so I never got bored of tired with wanting to play Isobel. Sometimes when I finish playing a part I get these ideas in my head about how I could have done things - with Isobel I got the chance to go back and try things out.

It went on quite a journey as it played at the Crucible in Sheffield, then it went to New York for a run, and finally to the Young Vic. I think that London is its natural home as it is a very British play. The audiences here really got it. It has actually been nominated for an Olivier, which is fantastic. I am really proud of it.

- Finally, what's next for you going through the rest of this year?

At the moment, I am filming a BBC 1 drama called Cuffs and we are filming it in Brighton. That is my whole summer really. It is a police drama but it really centres around the characters, their lives, and their lives in Brighton. I am playing Donna, who is a gay police officer in the police response team.

We have just been through all of our training. You were asking about training for Spooks earlier - for MI5 we had no training and for the police there was just so much. I feel that if we didn't start shooting soon I would have to become a police officer. We have just starting film that and it will be out in the autumn.

Spooks: The Greater Good is released 8th May.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
find me on and follow me on