Character acting

As Channel 4 prepares to luxuriate in a weekend filled with soap suds, The List profiles two Scottish actors with soap opera connections. Fiona Shepherd asks EastEnder Caroline Paterson about life with the Fowlers, while (below) Eddie Gibb talks to Ross Davidson, a veteran of no less than four UK soaps.

Soap-viewing habits of the soap opera stars. part 34: Caroline Paterson takes a pretty selective approach.

‘l've watched Brookside.‘ she says. ‘1 watched it when Anna Friel was on. l‘ve only watched Coronation Street once. l‘rn not a fan; 1 can‘t seem to get into it at all.‘

And what of liastEnders, the programme which has propelled Paterson from limited theatrical notoreity in Scotland to nationwide recognition as Mark Fowler‘s second wife Ruth. the daughter ofa Scottish minister and proponent ofthe quintessential whiney Glaswegian speech pattems'?

‘l loved Michelle Fowler when l was younger,‘ says Paterson. ‘She [Susan Tully] is a lovely actress. ljust think it‘s great what she did in that programme. The way she acts. i watch her and think “how do you do it?" I really miss her because she was great to learn from. When I first went in i felt very wooden as an actress. i didn‘t seem to fit in. it takes a while. lfyou watch any new people in soaps they stand out for a bit until they feel comfortable and can just be.‘



i Square go: Caroline Paterson with her screen husband

: Todd Carty

l Paterson describes getting her role as a ‘complete

l fluke‘. ironically she went for the pan of Mark’s first

; wife. who later died of AIDS. a few years ago. Now

3 for many soap watchers she is Ruth Fowler and has to graciously accept comments that they ‘make a

lovely couplc'. With Mark also HIV but still healthy.

the chances are that Paterson‘s part will become higher profile if her screen husband gets sick. But at

'5 least to Scottish audiences Ruth is not her ‘role zero‘

l and she is familiar for her theatre work with Raindog,

: the improvisational theatre company whose

| distinguished ranks include Robert Carlyle, Barbara

I Rafferty and Alexander Morton.

, As Paterson sits in the company's Glasgow offices. - enthusing about Raindog‘s latest project. a short film The Lueky Suit which she will direct with a script devised by a core learn. it is not difficult to divorce her from her small screen role nor to appreciate that

Raindog‘s work is a major priority for her.

| ‘By improvising. it‘s like having ten soap powders -

you‘ve got so much choice.' she says. ‘lt‘s a very difficult way to work; at points you think “why do we work this way? Get me a script!" but at the end of the day the characters are more solid and

believable. Actors are there to create and sometimes

they don‘t get a chance to do that. ‘EastEnders is very different because somebody

= : writes it for you. In some sense you‘ve only got time

to be whatever is there. There‘s no wrap party at the end of this. in the ten years l‘ve been acting, things always come to an end whereas this is like “where‘s the wrap party?“ You never get to an end. It is disciplined; i don‘t think every actor could do it.‘ Paterson’s acting career started in her late teens

‘By improvising, it’s like having ten soap powders - you’ve got so much choice. It’s a very difficult way to work; at points you think “why do we work this way? Get me a script!”

through a Youth Opportunities scheme. Despite discovering that she came from the archetypal ‘theatn'cal background‘ —- her grandfather was a comedian and her aunts dancers her own baptism into theatre and television work was a spur of the moment thing.

‘I was picking up TV pans because there wasn't a huge number of people my age who had their Equity cards. All the seventeen-year—olds were still in drama school so for the first five years of my acting life I never stopped.’

Her Gorbals upbringing meant she was never far

3 from the Citizens‘ Theatre and when pushed to name

her acting mentors she cites David Hayman, Ciaran Hinds and Gary Oldman. all of whom played at the Citizens’ when she worked there as an usherette. ‘l

admired actors in the theatre much more than television actors.‘

Having directed Raindog productions. including the two parts of Wasted, Paterson‘s ambition is to move more into film direction and. as she has shown with Raindog. this will not involve moving south.

‘1 want to stay here; i don‘t want to be in London. l‘m a terrible commuter. l've spent all my money flying up and down.‘


When EastEnders launched in 1985, Scottish actor Ross Davidson got his first break in soap-land and for a while he was the golden boy of Albert Square. His character Andy D’Brien had been lined up as a toy-boy for the Queen Vic’s dominatrix Angie Watts, and there was even talk of him becoming landlord of the yuppie watering hole the Dagmar. Instead Wilmot-Brown got the wine-bar and Davidson was written out rather abruptly after an altercation with the show’s producers. Heroically sweeping

a child from the path of an on-coming I wouldn’t have been offered without lorry, Andy fell and banged his head on i EastEnders,’ he says.

a bollard, thus killing off one of the Square’s handful of professionals (he was a nurse).

Among Davidson’s misdemeanors was an off-screen affair with the actress who played his on-screen partner Debbie and some newspaper quotes, which he says were fabricated, about

, actor William iioache who plays Coronation Street's Ken Barlow. The

resulting furore blew up into an unpleasant libel action brought by iioache against a national newspaper

"' l which alleged he was ‘boring’. Though ' . Davidson’s departure from the Square

was not entirely amicable, he says he

wasn’t bitter about losing steady work i and the fame that comes with a high- ; profile soap part. ‘When I left I was

like any actor who becomes closely identified with a soap character, Davidson found television parts dried up after leaving EastEnders. He put some distance between himself and Andy by presenting Pebble Mill, but has subsequently appeared in no less than three other soaps. Bizarrely, Davidson had a small part in Welsh- Ianguage drama Pabol y Cwn, before playing a football manager in a handful of episodes of Brookside. Since last year, Davidson has been a Dlendarroch regular in High Road as interior designer Peter Ddell. ‘I had no reservations about doing another soap and this character has a lot more balls than Andy,’ says Davidson. (E6) Soap Weekend Is on Sat 2 and Sun 3

Boss Davidson: taking the High Road l

getting leading roles in theatre which

Dec on Channel 4.

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