OSCAR-nominated star Carey Mulligan is starring in the BBC’s new high-octane political thriller Collateral, the first television series by Sussex-born playwright Sir David Hare.

The four-part drama is set over four days in present day London with the Hollywood star, who appeared the films An Education and The Great Gatsby, in the lead role and with a cast that also includes Billie Piper, who starred in Penny Dreadful and Dr Who, Life on Mars actor John Simm, and Nicola Walker, who appeared in Spooks and Last Tango in Halifax.

Collateral, which begins on BBC2 on Monday (February 12), is Sir David’s first original television series. “I’ve been writing drama for the BBC since 1973, but this is my first original series,” he says. “I’m thrilled that it has such a stunningly gifted cast.”

Collateral, directed by S J Clarkson, explores the spiralling repercussions surrounding the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. Refusing to accept this is a random act of senseless violence, tough and single-minded Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie, played by Carey Mulligan, is determined to discover if there is a darker truth.

Politician David Mars (John Simm), becomes instantly embroiled in the drama through his turbulent relationship with his troubled and unpredictable ex Karen (Billie Piper). Meanwhile, compassionate vicar Jane Oliver (Nicola Walker) struggles to conceal her affair with the only witness to the crime.

The BBC describes Sir David’s “electrifying writing” as “acting as a moving spotlight, asking crucial questions about the state of modern Britain”.

Sir David, who grew up in St Leonards-on-Sea and attended Lancing College, explained that while there has been plenty of film and television drama about two formative events of the early century – the invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis – there has been much less about what he describes as “the third great challenge – the waves of migration prompted by war, poverty and fresh persecution”.

“The 21st century looks as if it will be a time of mass movements, and corresponding mass resentment of mobility,” he says. “It looks to me as if privileged societies are urgently looking for ways of protecting their wealth, and of keeping the poor outside their boundaries.

“For all our talk of encouraging initiative and enterprise, foreign entrepreneurs who travel the Mediterranean by boat seem especially unwelcome. Donald Trump’s proposal for a wall with Mexico and the UK’s vote for Brexit are both evidence of attitudes hardening in the West towards aspirational newcomers.”

Billie Piper, who lived in Easebourne for several years with her then husband, the actor Laurence Fox, describes her character as “a complex woman”.

“I always find that the most appealing thing in a script,” she says. “She has obviously lived a difficult life and has been damaged by her past. She has lived with addiction and a devotion to a man who didn’t love her and, unsurprisingly, she isn’t a particularly nurturing mother. It is Karen who kick-starts this entire story; she gets it all rolling and she is such a great character – a woman of many faces who is beautifully written.

“My character and John’s character share a volatile relationship in the drama: it’s sexy and aggressive, it’s loveless, but it is her passion. She lives to pursue this dead love, and it’s really tragic.” 

She adds that it’s “thrilling” to be involved in a David Hare drama because of his “ability to write incredible female characters”.

“He really does flesh out the complexities of a woman as well as some of the ugliness.”

Carey Mulligan has previously worked with Sir David on his play Skylight. She says, “There is such a scarcity of great writing for women and this drama has so much. It is happening much more in TV than in film but it is still rare to have this many well-rounded

Above: Billie Piper as Karen Mars

Main picture, top: Carey Mulligan as Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie

Below: John Simm as politician David Mars

Above: Nicola Walker as vicar Jane Oliver

Below: Nathaniel Martello-White as Glaspie’s partner DS Nathan Bilk

Above: Hayley Squires, who appeared in the movie I, Daniel Blake and in the BBC’s recent drama The Miniaturist, plays pizza shop manager Laurie Stone

Below: pizza shop driver Mikey Gowans, played by Brian Vernel 

Above: Ahd Kamel as Muslim refugee Fatima Asif

All pictures: BBC/The Forge

female characters in one drama and what I love is that they are not all likeable – they are flawed, three-dimensional, real people. Often women are encouraged to be amenable, likeable characters and these women are much more than that, they have so much going on which is really exciting.”

Sir David, who has written Oscar-winning films including The Hours and The Reader and plays including Skylight and Plenty, explains that while at the start Collateral may seem familiar because it involves a police investigation, it veers from the conventional path of TV drama. “After an illegal immigrant is shot in the opening moments, I am much more interested in exploring how the death of one individual, who has lived out of the sight of respectable society, resonates and reaches into various interconnecting lives.

“One of the common paradoxes of our time is that even as we lose faith in public institutions, so our belief in private virtue holds steady. Collateral takes us through various British institutions – the police, the Church, politics, the army, and, most especially, through our weird and shaky detention system – and asks why so many organisations seem deliberately structured in a way which prevents individuals being allowed to exercise their own judgements and standards. Why are we feeling disempowered?”

Collateral begins at 9pm on Monday February 12 on BBC2.