Swapping Rab C. Nesbitt’s Glaswegian growl for a West Highland lilt, GREGOR FISHER is taking to the high seas in a new comedy series. He spoke to Kathleen Morgan.
hrough dewy eyes, Gregor Fisher is describing his voyage into the watery
world of his latest alter ego — the bumbling captain of an unreliable
Clyde steamer and BBCl’s new
flagship comedy drama, Para Handy.
The actor insists his red-eyed distress has nothing to do with temporarily abandoning BBC2’s foul—mouthed sage Rab C. Nesbitt, for the sweeter character of the West Highland mariner Para Handy. This is all about facing the
8 The List 29 July~ll August 1994
press with a faceful of hay fever. With a sodden hanky stuffed periodically up his nose, Fisher addresses the inevitable question — will his adoring public be able to divorce Para’s red heard from Nesbitt‘s street-soiled stubble?
Born in the 19305 on the pages of the Glasgow Evening News and irnmortalised in the original 50s Para Handy television series starring Roddy McMillan, Neil Munro’s fictional character bears little resemblance to Nesbitt. There is no tattered bandage under Para’s felt hat and ifthere is any trace of alcohol on his breath, it is purely the hazard of a sea- faring existence, not of a hard- bitten life in Govan’s gutters.
However large the gulf between the two characters, Fisher acknowledges comparisons will be made. He just hopes his audience likes what it sees. ‘Nesbitt’s good for Para Handy and Para Handy is good for Nesbitt — one helps the other,‘ he explains patiently. ‘They have the same face and a partiality to a small libation now and again, but that’s about where the similarity begins and ends. It’s a totally differ- ent gear change. Nesbitt’s sometimes scream- ing in top gear and this character never gets into top gear. It’s very gentle.’
Slipping down a couple of knots is no problem for Fisher — he is an actor after all, one who enjoys slamming one wardrobe door and opening another. He is already looking forward to ‘jumping ship’ and shaving his head for a Channel 4 series featuring the Naked Video
The two laces ot Gregor Flsber: Rab c. ﬂesbltt (top) and Para Handy
character The Baldy Man. Nesbitt propelled him to fame, but Fisher is not scared to let go his grubby hand. ‘That’s one of the nice things about this business,’ he says. ‘The opportunity to do different things in different ways, with or without red beards.’
He is philosophical about the Para Handy series, just as he was when the BBC powers- that-be held Nesbitt at arms length until the Glasgow rogue began drawing audiences of six million. ‘ljust see it as a programme I’m in,’ he says. ‘I want it to succeed, but what’s the point of putting yourself through the wringer about it? Some things go and some things don’t go.’
With just the slightest hint of cynicism, he adds: ‘There are some times I wonder whether I
Will people be able to divorce Para’s red beard from Nesbitt’s street-soiled stubble?
work for the same organisation that makes Middlemarch. I can remember when Nesbitt was made, it was viewed with some suspicion, but now it’s metamorphosed into the top-rated show of BBC2, everyone’s got a different opinion of it. It strikes me when a programme’s made, that’s when it needs people to have faith.’
Fisher’s Para Handy is an amiable rogue with a twee accent and a tendency to shirk responsi- bility for his crew and cargo in favour of a wee dram. Both actor and script have been fairly true to the original character — this is not laugh-a- minute material, but the gentle rib-ticking brand of Munro’s highly descriptive tales. Fisher admits the six-part series will probably