Alex Rider: Vicky McClure on the enthralling Amazon Freevee's third season of Anthony Horowitz spy series

Vicky McClure, Otto Farrant and Brenock O’Connor talk to Kerri-Ann Roper about the enthralling third season of the Anthony Horowitz classic spy series, Alex Rider.

Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure probably knows a thing or two about having to keep a secret.

After all, she previously had to deal with questions galore about what Jed Mercurio had in store for the hit BBC show and its gripping storylines.

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Fast forward to one of her latest roles, returning for the third series of Amazon Freevee’s hugely popular Alex Rider, based on the novel series of the same name by Bond author Anthony Horowitz, and there’s no escaping an air of mystery for McClure.

Vicky McClure ('Mrs. Jones'). Credit: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.Vicky McClure ('Mrs. Jones'). Credit: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.
Vicky McClure ('Mrs. Jones'). Credit: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.

But the Nottingham-born actress, 40, also known for roles in This Is England and Trigger Point, likes that exact fact about her Alex Rider character Mrs Jones, who we met in the first series as the deputy head of MI6 and who became Alex’s professional guardian.

“I can sort of play her in a certain way that feels like it exists and we really try and go for the truth, and making sure that it feels believable and relatable and all that kind of stuff,” McClure explains.

The novel series, featuring the eponymous teenager who is unwittingly dragged into the world of international espionage, is often cited as one of Horowitz’s most successful works.

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Adapted from the fifth Alex Rider novel, the third series of the TV instalment sees Otto Farrant, 27, who has starred in BBC dramas Mrs Wilson and War And Peace, back as Alex.

Vicky McClure in Alex Rider. Picture: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.Vicky McClure in Alex Rider. Picture: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.
Vicky McClure in Alex Rider. Picture: Rekha Garton/Eleventh Hour Films/Sony Pictures Television.

This time around the teenage spy is on the hunt for the agency known as Scorpia, and with his close friends Tom (played by O’Connor) and Kyra (played by Marli Siu) at his side, he embarks on a mission to destroy Scorpia.

McClure adds: “Otto, especially being sort of in every single scene, needs to make sure that the audience invest in him especially and then everybody else doing that same sort of acting, but I think with Mrs Jones I just quite enjoy the mystery of her.

“Because some of it is so surreal, it’s quite playful. Whereas the other shows that I’m involved in feel like they’re real-life events, and that’s not quite the case with Alex Rider.”

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Novelist Horowitz, who was made a CBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours list, was commissioned by the estate of Ian Fleming to produce a number of James Bond novels.

His first, Trigger Mortis, was released in 2015 and following its success he was asked to produce another, Forever And A Day, in 2018.

In 2000, the first Alex Rider novel, Stormbreaker, was released in the UK, and the series has 14 novels to date.

Horowitz says: “I’m often asked which is my favourite Alex Rider book and although I am very drawn to Stormbreaker, the first in the series, I think it was with Scorpia that the series really found its feet.

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“It’s a very dark adventure which tests Alex’s loyalty to MI6 and forces him to confront his family history, and the forces that turned him into a teenaged spy.”

He added: “It also has one of my favourite villains, Julia Rothman, magnificently played in this series by the ice-cold Sofia Helin.

“Not just my favourite book but, I think my favourite series so far, Scorpia is everything I wanted Alex Rider to be. Fast-paced, full of action, serious but fun.”

The third series also brings with it a lot of action for Farrant’s protagonist and what he says are “a lot of twists and turns”.

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“Every fight that I have to learn is like a dance,” he explains.

“You have to go into this slightly zen mode where you’re just so focused on when the next hit is going to be and the choreography is everything. It’s a really nice antidote to the more emotional side of the character and the slower scenes that we see him in.”

He adds: “We’ve always tried to lean into the grittiness of it and because it’s a heightened reality, a lot of the things that are happening, but we really wanted to ground it within kind of London and that kind of grittiness that we know and love.

“So, to take that even further this season, it was amazing, because I think the pay-off is even greater … the threat is so big and you don’t know who is an ally or an enemy.”

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What the show does have in its droves is a dedicated and passionate fan base. Just ask O’Connor, 23, who plays Alex Rider’s best friend Tom.

The English actor and singer, who played Olly in fantasy series Game of Thrones and has also starred in The Bromley Boys film and BBC series Dickensian, relays an anecdote as he talks about Alex Rider’s wide-ranging appeal.

“A lot of other projects I’ve done, you can sort of paint what you imagine a fan of that show would look like, you’ve got an image of who we’re making it for,” he says. But for this, I was queueing for a pint at an Arsenal game and a 14-year-old girl came up and said that she’s obsessed with the show, and she loves it.

“And then two days later, I got accosted by a stag do full of 40-year-old blokes. Also just as in love with the show. And that, to me, says that the show is doing something right. It’s attracting the right audience of people who have been with the book since day one and kids that are finding it now and might read the books after it. It’s got a broad appeal, which is lovely to know that people are taking to it.”

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McClure, who was made an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours last year for services to drama and to charity, is in agreement about the show’s success stemming from it appealing to “lots of people of lots of ages”.

She says: “With dialogue and relationships and the complexity, kids and adults alike, they want to figure things out. They don’t want it to be spoon fed. Nobody wants that. I think Alex Rider is a very intelligent show in that way. You have to pay attention – which is just how it should be.”

Alex Rider returns to Amazon Freevee on Friday, April 5.

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