This week BBC One’s critically acclaimed and award-winning spy/thriller series Spooks returns. Amongst the new cast members joining Spooks for the new season is actor Max Brown whose previous credits include Foyle’s War, The Tudors and Crossroads. Under our ‘Rising Stars’ banner of the ATV Icons strand we take a look back at the career of the actor so far.
Max Brown’s first big break on television came in 2000; for nearly two years between 2000 and 2001 Brown played the role of Danny Hartson on CBBC’s school-drama Grange Hill before the BBC in their wisdom decided to dumb-down the once critically acclaimed series. While appearing on Grange Hill he won the role of Mark Russell on Carlton’s revival of midlands soap, Crossroads. However, his role on Grange Hill prevented Brown from joining the cast straight away and once he completed filming on Grange Hill he took up his role on Crossroads.
Crossroads had originally run on ITV between 1964 and 1988 produced by ATV and later Central and attracted millions of viewers per episode – 18 million in its heyday. The main star of Crossroads from its launch till 1981 was actress Noele Gordon as owner Meg Richardson. Crossroads ended in 1988 after nearly 5000 episodes but in the mid 1990’s it was mooted for a comeback by the newly launched Channel Five but Central declined permission for it to be revived. Then in 2000 ITV found themselves looking for a replacement for departing Australian soap Home and Away which had been snapped up by Five and so they commissioned a revival of Crossroads!
Original stars Tony Adams, Jane Rossington and Kathy Staff all agreed to reprise their respective roles and a lavish set was built in Nottingham for the new soap. The 21st century version of Crossroads would be run by the Russell family who bosses hoped would become as popular with audiences as the Richardson’s had. Heading up the family was Jane Gurnett, who had regular roles in Casualty and Dangerfield, as Kate Russell – dubbed the new Meg by the press. Max Brown played Mark Russell, Kate’s son with husband Patrick [Neil McCaul] but she had an older son; Jake [Colin Wells] – the JR of Crossroads with wife Tracey [Cindy Marshall-Day] very much inspired by Sue Ellen.
The character of Mark Russell on the soap was introduced several weeks after its launch returning home to visit his family and instantly his old rivalry with half-brother Jake was revived. The duo later thought over the attentions of Jill Richardson’s [Jane Rossington] daughter, Sarah Jane [Joanne Farrell] with Jake embarking on an affair with the devious receptionist but Mark ending up engaged. Determined to prevent the wedding between Mark and Sarah Jane jealous Jake did some digging and came up with a shocking revelation; Sarah Jane was an imposter. On the wedding day the fake Sarah Jane left King’s Oak with a lot of money; paid of by Jake, and Mark was introduced to the real Sarah [Holly Newman].
Initially Mark was resentful of the new, real, Sarah but eventually he mellowed towards her and they eventually ended up in a relationship too. Sarah had inherited her mother’s shares of the Hotel when Jill had been murdered by husband Adam [Tony Adams] and in 2002 she and Mark voted to sell their shares to Vic [Ray Lonnen] an old flame of Kate’s and Jake’s real father. With the money they got from the sale of the shares the two were planning to go travelling around the world. The ratings for the revived Crossroads were not as high as ITV had hoped. Although the soap was attracting over 2 million viewers per episode greedy ITV wanted more. In 2002 the broadcaster ordered a revamp to that end and new producer Yvon Grace took the helm; Grace was ruthless axing the majority of the cast. When Crossroads returned in 2003 in a “Dallas at teatime” form Max Brown was not part of the cast; he was axed from the cast along with most of the other characters including popular ones such as Billy [Gilly Gilchrist] and Jake.
However, very quickly Brown joined the ranks of another soap; Hollyoaks. From 2002 to 2004 he played the role of student Kristian Hargreaves on the Channel Four soap. Amongst the storylines to involve Kristian was a pot-holing trip that ended in disaster when two friends died and his on/off relationship with Lisa Hunter [Gemma Atkinson] and later Jodie Nash. He had a one-night stand with Mel Burton but met his match with Stacey Fox [Jemmy Keys]. Kristian was only after a one-night stand but Stacey was after more and eventually Kristian was forced to pretend he way gay and transferred away from Hollyoaks to escape from Stacey.
Following his two year stint in Hollyoaks Brown went on to make guest appearances in dramas such as Casualty, Down to Earth, Doctors and Heartbeat. In 2008 he appeared in the first series of Mistresses as Sam Grey. In the BBC One drama he embarks on a relationship with GP Katie Roden [Sarah Parish] unaware that she had an affair with his father and helped him die when he was suffering from a terminal relationship. Sam realised that his father had been having an affair and confessed to Katie what he suspected but she didn’t reveal the truth because she was worried about her job/going to prison. However, in the finale of season one of Mistresses Katie finally confessed the truth to Sam about her relationship with his father and her role in his death. A second series of Mistresses was commissioned by the BBC but it did not feature Brown or his character.
The following year in 2008 Brown appeared in the second half of The Tudor’s second season. The Showtime historical romp chronicles the reign and marriages of Henry VIII [Jonathan Rhys Meyers] and the second part of season two charted the downfall of Anne Boleyn [Natalie Dormer] and the rise of Jane Seymour [Anita Briem]. In the historical drama Brown plays the role of Edward Seymour, the cunning and devious brother of Jane. Along with his father Edward plotted to make sure Jane won the favour of the King and became his wife following the execution of Anne. Max Brown reprised his role in the third season of The Tudors which dealt with the marriage of Jane [played in season three by Annabelle Wallis] and her death following the birth of son Edward. In the third season Edward Seymour is made protector of Edward and the boy prince is heavily guarded by Seymour knowing the Prince is his key to future success and power. He also joins in the plot against Thomas Cromwell [James Frain] following the failed marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves [Joss Stone]. Max Brown will appear in the fourth and final season of The Tudors as Edward Seymour. The final years of Henry’s reign will be covered including his marriages to Catherine Howard [Tamzin Merchant] and Catherine Parr [Joely Richardson].
Max Brown was introduced as Adam Wainwright in Foyle’s War in the opening episode of the 7th series; The Russian House. The episode was set just following the end of the war in Europe and dealt with the issue of Russians POW’s being sent back to the ‘Mother Country’ to be shot by Stalin as traitors. Adam was introduced a potential love interest for Sam [Honeysuckle Weeks] and the two meet at a Guest House and when Adam was shot, because Sam and Foyle were being chased, she felt guilty and later agreed to work for him in his Guest House in Hastings. Confirmed future roles for the actor include: Act of God, Flutter and Red Tails with the possibility of more Foyle’s War should ITV commission an 8th season.
Spooks returns to BBC One on Monday at 9pm.