Bill Nighy as Cameron Foster – State Of Play (2003)
Awards and nominations
Bill Nighy won a (well deserved) Bafta (Best Actor) and a Broadcasting Press Guild Award for his performance in State of Play. And was nominated for a RTS Television Award (Royal Television Society, UK) award too.
About State Of Play
BBC TV Drama in 6 parts, written by Paul Abbot (Cracker, Touching Evil).
Stephen Collins (David Morrissey) is an ambitious politician. Cal McAffrey (John Simm) is a well-respected investigative journalist and Stephen’s ex-campaign manager. En route to work one morning, Stephen’s research assistant mysteriously falls to her death on the London Underground. It’s not long before revelations of their affair hit the headlines. Meanwhile a suspected teenage drug dealer is found shot dead. These (apparently unconnected) events expose a dangerous habit within modern government of dancing too closely with the corporate devil. Friendships are tested and lives are put on the line as an intricate web of lies unfolds.
A potent mix of love, politics, and journalism combine with murder, deception, and intrigue in this six-part drama.
Bill Nighy plays Cameron Foster, the editor : Sarcastic, tough, and committed to the story, Cameron Foster is the hands-on Chief Editor of The Herald. Not one to back down easily, he’s there every step of the way with his reporters as the story unfolds, whether in the office, on the street, or at the police station.
Even though State of Play is a high pulse thriller, Bill manages (as always) to make you laugh in many scenes, with his “wise-cracking” and ironic remarks.
Bill Nighy about Cameron Foster
‘He’s a decent man in a hard game and he absolutely believes in the benign power of newspapers. He seems to have survived the experience of having worked in Fleet Street in an admirable way. He’s honest and he does think that if you bring information into the world it is with a view to making things better,’ explains Nighy.
As the investigation twists and turns, he and his team of reporters find themselves trying to stay one step ahead of the police investigation. This doesn’t make him popular with DCI Bell. ‘He has a particularly strong relationship with Cal – he reminds him of his younger self. He puts a lot of trust in Cal and I guess there must be a couple of moments when he speculates about it. But for the most part I don’t think he doubts Cal’s motives or his integrity, although he thinks there are times when he’s serving too close to the line.’
Nighy is familiar with the world of journalism, “I played seven journalists when I was a young man – it became a running joke when I was in my thirties – but never an editor. I’m going up in the world,” he laughs.
He reveals he once wanted to be a journalist himself. “I wanted to be a journalist principally because Ernest Hemmingway had been a journalist, and he was my hero. I was very keen and really saw myself in a good hat and decent trench coat. I had the completely romantic vision of what a journalist was like.”
Yet Abbott says Nighy proved to be “fantastic” because he’s somebody who can step into complex occupational roles — whether it be a rock musician or newspaper editor — and play the parts convincingly.
Paul Abbot (scriptwriter of State of Play)
And then, suddenly, we were in the mood for a proper drama, like the fabulous State of Play, the first of Bill ‘God’ Nighy’s three hits for 2003, alongside Love, Actually and (though he may not consider it his greatest dramatic stretch) a very funny turn on Grumpy Old Men.
Jaundiced wit and sinister charm have turned the charismatic newspaper editor in BBC1’s hit thriller State of Play into the star of the show. And it helps, of course, that the veteran actor who plays Cameron Foster has ‘the sexiest voice on TV’.
‘Nighy manages to do that brilliant thing of not appearing to act,’ says Kathryn Flett, this newspaper’s television critic. ‘You can imagine walking into a newspaper office and seeing him sitting there doing that job. What’s more, you can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.’
Paul Abbott’s State of Play is a classier act by far, full of twists and good lines. Cameron Foster (Bill Nighy plays editor) is an icon already. Guardian journalists helped Abbott fill in the cracks of verisimilitude. Randy Cal takes up with an MP’s wife. ‘Hands up anyone who’s never screwed a source,’ barks Cameron. Dainty Della and dogged Dan are on the job. ‘It’s a big story and a big day for big hitters,’ says Cameron, who probably writes his own headlines.
The miniseries is worth watching just to see Nighy steal every scene he’s in. He plays McCaffrey’s imperious, charismatic editor, who’s prone to call for a bottle of wine during tense meetings.
Nighy’s Cameron Foster is the series’ crypto-hero, but it isn’t until the final episodes that genuine courage begins to break through his façade of jaded weariness. Until then, he has the funniest lines, sighing, “Hands up anyone who’s never screwed a source!” when he discovers how many of his employees have chased the story all the way to bed, and shooing a reporter out of his office with, “Why don’t you go and type something lovely?” Still, when the moment of truth arrives, he orders one of the most stirring stop-the-presses scenes I’ve ever seen.
Paul Abbot is currently working (and has been for a while) on a State of Play II, and Universal is turning this TV Drama into a feature film. Bill won’t be in the film.