and victims’ families, I got very disturbed and moved by the way in which we don’t think about the families, especially those who have lost children and are never allowed to grieve over them. That haunted me.’
For Bill Paterson, the role of a convicted child-murderer also came as something of a departure from a steady stream of roles as avuncular, decent, middle-aged Scots. ‘Steadman seemed to me to be the figure within it who was the most ambiguous,’ he says, ‘and that always interests me. I’ve always been interested in characters who seem OK on the surface, but underneath, there’s a terrible darkness hidden. I tend to drift towards that kind of character. And even if the part isn’t like that I try to make it that way.’ .
Like Lowe, Paterson was aware of the possibility of being accused of tastelessness because of the subject matter. ‘Maybe my ﬁrst words when discussing it were “this is something we have to get right or maybe we shouldn’t do it at all.” But it would only worry me if it was facetious or sensationalist or exploitative, and I don’t think this is. I would be happy otherwise if it causes debate on those issues. What I would hate was if people said, “You’ve taken one of the most taboo delicate subjects and turned it into just a piece of television.” I wouldn’t want that to happen and I thought about that long and hard when I agreed to do it.’
Paterson’s performance as Steadman is one of the most powerful elements in the drama. He deliberately eschews melodrama in favour ofa quiet control, something both writer and director were keen to put across. and Paterson thought most appropriate to the role. ‘Emotionally, I thought that because of what the characters represent
‘1 do look back onthe days when I used to make people laugh on stage, ~ which seem such a long time ago now, ’ says Bill Paterson, slightly perturbed at his status as one of Scotland’s senior thespians. ‘I seem to play more and more roles as dark and heavy people, and I look back quite fondly to the time when people
were falling off their seats at John Sometimes you can get too far away Channel 4 film God On The Rocks to Byrne’s Wnters’ Cramp at the from that, get into the track of just be broadcast over Christmas,‘and a Festival.’ . being an actor who turns up and does vignette in the new Richard '
The Glaswegian Paterson was one the job and goes away.’ Attenborough movie Charlie. ‘I play of the founding members of 7:84 in Away from the stage, Paterson has the stage manager who introduces
the early 705, having attended the
RSAMD with the intention of training as a teacher. After working for a surveyor’s company, he performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and later became Assistant Director of Glasgow Citizen’s. ‘My real nostalgia is for a time when I was involved in the beginnings of something,’ he says. ‘I like doing new things where you’re not judged
5 against what some other guy’s done before. I’m proud of having been part of that era in Scotland where the Great Northern Welly Boot Show kicked off a lot of things, 7:84 began, John Byrne was writing stuff.
become one of the more instantly
and particularly my character, the weight of emotion that they are carrying, the killing of this child seventeen years before, I thought you don’t really have to do very much for an audience watching that to add their own tensions. There was one scene where Brid Brennan and I are walking through this rain-soaked forest towards this possible grave where maybe her daughter is buried. She believes this man is taking her to the grave of her young daughter. And there’s not much acting you can do to cope with that, in a modernistic setting. It’s a Greek tragedy, that sort of scene. 80 we tended just to let the atmosphere and the place and the still faces do the job.’
‘The main plank that he has of normal behaviour is that he’s been saved,’ explains Paterson. ‘Religious salvation has made sure that he will never return to the kind of crime he committed. I played it very much in the beliefthat that salvation is a truthful one, it isn’t just put on or convenient. This is the problem with that type of crime isn’t it? A lot of people have claimed to have found that type of salvation, but how many do you believe? There has to be some that are genuine. I did actually take on board that this was a genuine conversion.’
Not that it necessarily means Steadman is a completely reformed character. Lowe’s script goes beyond the simple thriller shorthand of goodies and baddies to ask more complex questions about redemption, revenge and contrition. ‘I don’t believe in objective art,’ says Lowe. ‘I’m a subjective writer. I find myselfwriting about the stories that haunt me.’ Tell Tale Hearts looks likely to haunt several million viewers as well.
Tell Tale Hearts starts on BBC 1 on Sunday November] at 9.30pm
In Object 01 Beauty
recognisable faces of the British cinema with supporting roles in numerous productions including The Ploughman’s Lunch, The Killing Fields, TheAdventures 0f Baron Munchhausen, Truly Madly Deeply and The Object Of Beauty. His starring role as lovelorn DJ Alan ‘Dickie’ Bird in Bill Forsyth’s Comfort And Joy probably did most to consolidate his image as a fundamentally decent, slightly neurotic good guy. TV roles as the provocative psychiatrist in The Singing Detective and a heroic anti-drugs crusader in Channel 4’s award-winning Trafﬁk barely dented ' this impression. The character of Steadman in Tell Tale Hearts is probably the closest he’s come to an § § actual villain. ‘The nearest [came to ' that before was Ally Fraser in A uf Wiedersehn Pet,’ he says, ‘but that was in acomedic framework that softened it slightly. But then [don’t really want to play out and out
He emphasises the need to remain versatile. ‘To ring the changes still remains the main attraction ,’ he says, with future work including a
Charlie Chaplin at the age of ﬁve. I
BILL PATERSON FEATURE
. .e I _'
Emma Fielding as reporter Becky Wilson
thought I’d ad lib a bit and said “Charlie Chaplin, you’ll never get anywhere with a name like that son, better change it.” Richard Attenborough laughed but said “sorry luvvie, we’ll have to cut
that. ”’ That would never have happened back in the good old days of 7:84.
i i ',lnComlonAndJoy
The List 23 October :5 November 1992 9