Adrian Lester (Mickey Stone)
Adrian Lester has been a busy man lately. For the first few weeks of the Hustle shoot not only was Lester playing Mickey Stone during the day, he was also on stage and receiving rave reviews for his role as Henry V at the National in the evening and playing the role of comforting dad to his sleepless young child by night.
Although understandably he felt exhausted for these first few weeks, it certainly didn't dampen his enthusiasm for any of his projects.
Following a week of training with a pickpocket and sleight of hand expert in preparation for this part, he jokes that he now has another potential line of work. "I was taught all the tricks of the trade from card-shuffling to stealing watches. I'd always keep some playing cards in my pocket during filming and every time I wasn't needed on set I'd get them out and have a practice. I think I might start my own magic show; I could be the new David Blaine!," he laughs.
So, does he think he could make it in the real world of the con artist? "I couldn't be a con man in real life because it's a much more dangerous form of acting. It's life and death at some points and I prefer to do my acting in the much safer environment of a theatre where the worst thing that can happen to you is the critics saying you were terrible!
"I'd rather that than lose ý100,000 or a limb because I hadn't managed to pull it off!"
Lester has had a diverse range of roles from musicals, winning the Olivier award for best actor in a musical for his role in Company, to theatre and Hollywood films such as Primary Colours.
Lester's role of Mickey Stone in Hustle is a departure from his more favoured roles in theatre and film. In fact, Lester has purposely tried to avoid television series throughout his acting career.
"I couldn't imagine playing the same character for years, but Hustle was completely different. In the very first rehearsal we were doing a dance routine and then the next thing I know I'm whacking out several different accents and I just thought, 'I'm in heaven, this is great!'."
Mickey, like Lester, is held in high esteem by his peers and recognised as one of the best in the business. He is respected by law enforcers and lawbreakers alike. Described by the police as in a class of his own, he is the prize catch for every fraud squad in the country.
He's the gang's key player who will offer you what seems to be the deal of the century. He is the leader elect and protégé of long con veteran Albert Stroller, who taught him all he knows.
Mickey himself takes on the role of mentor when rookie Danny Blue, joins the team. "Mickey is fiercely intelligent, aperfectionist but lonely. He leads the gang, which is like a family to him, and they all have their particular role within it. Mickey is the big brother, the boss man. He's the guy who says, 'We are going to do this, now'. He creates the con and instructs everyone as to what they're doing and makes sure they are doing their job properly.
"He does have a pushy temperament and he needs to be kept in check by Stacie. But like most perfectionists, to the outside world he has everything he could possibly want, apart from the woman he loves."
"The Stacie and Mickey 'will-they-won't-they' story is quite a powerful element to the drama," explains Lester. "They have history together and Stacie is up for getting back together again but Mickey isn't so sure.
"He has been badly burned in the past; he wants to be careful. He does get a lot attention from women but I wouldn'tsay he was a stud. In the end all the women screw him over in one way or another apart from Stacie - that's hardly stud material!"
Mickey and his team are con artists of the highest calibre but they are strictly major league.They only target the greedy and morally corrupt - people who thoroughly deserve it.
"Every pickpocket and every con is against someone who takes the general public's money," says Lester. "There is a bit of the Robin Hood about them, although they don't share the money out amongst the poor, they keep it for themselves! It's in the same vein as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid you root for them knowing they are robbing banks.
"They are criminals but they are criminals on the side of the ordinary person. Their approach makes you think, 'If I was a criminal what sort of criminal would I want to be?'.
"They are people who are against the establishment and a system that keeps people down. In one instance they actually make a mistake and con the wrong person so they make sure they give all the money back.
"Every story has its own morality tale - you can't con an honest man, don't be greedy, don't feel you can cheat your way into lots and lots of money because we will be there watching you."