Rough and ready
Scottish actor JOE McFADDEN is sweet talking his way to the big league. It looks like Peter Pan has grown up. tVOrcs: Kathleen Morgan POOIOQ'EDPI David Eustace
THE STAGE lS set for actor Joe Mcl"addenk homecoming. The BB(‘ press woman is ensconced in the cafe of (ilasgow's (il"l'. ready for the onslaught as .\lcl’adden's latest TV production Bumping The ()(/(/.S‘ is launched.
When .\lcl"adden fails to arrive on time. she telephones the taxi firm responsible for getting him here from his parents’ (iovanhill home. This is. alter all. wee Joe. barely 22 and with the biggest eyelashes in TV history: the new darling of the Scottish media. Last time he was spotted. he was just asking to be squeezed. as the vulnerable Prentice .\lclloan in BB(‘ drama The (raw Road.
It is only a few months since the actor left 'I’V' soap High Road and took the low one to London. armed with his boyish charms and actress girlfriend Kirsty Mitchell. iiven before .\lci‘adden’s bloody demise in the fictional Highland village of (ilendarrogh. his career path was going skywards. He made his mark in (iillies Mackinnon's film of (Ms (ilasgow razor-gangs Small litres. and set pulses racing as Scotland's hottest panto hero in Peter Pan. But it was with The ('raw Road that the nation took him to its heart.
The immediate future is looking good. After Bumping The ()(/(/.V comes .\’lcl"adden’s first big-time movie. l)a(/ Savage. due for release in NOS. llc stars opposite Star ’l'rck‘s Patrick Stewart and fellow Small l-iu'cs star Kevin McKidd in the story of gangland Lincolnshire.
.\lcl"adden arrives looking less than fresh- faced. apologising for being late and complaining of the flu. llis tight schedule looks like it is taking its toll. In a few hours he will go to London for another press launch. then back to Wales. where he is starring in a
theatrical production of [interlainiirg Mr
S/(mlu'. His role as Sloane explains his badly
bleached blond locks. The eyes to drown in are still there. but some of their glitter has gone. possibly doused by the cold. it looks like London life is giving little boy Joe a few rough edges.
()ver a much-needed coffee. Mcl‘adden cases into a conversation about Bumping 'I'lu' ()(lzls. a one-off BB(' drama set in the murky world of (ilasgow's loan sharks. He plays Andy. a small-time crook who runs an illegal taxi business. at sea among the big boys. The drama's backdrop - a (ilasgow housing estate in the grip of money lenders and drug dealers
is far removed from Mel‘adden's relatively secure. working class Irish (‘atholic upbringing.
‘l was brought tip in the South Side. so I didn’t see people like that I’m glad to say'.’ he says. conceding that his new home in .\'orth
West London also provided little in the way of
research material. ‘l'm not saying it‘s posh or
anything. but I haven't seen any money lenders doling out cash. I know people like Andy who don't have a focus in their life. though.‘
.\lcl"adden's own focus in life gradually became clear after he ‘fell into acting' at the age of twelve. llis drama teacher at llolyrood Secondary School had encouraged him to go for a part in 'laggart and. although the audition was on April Fool‘s day. he was successful. By fifteen. be had an agent. a role as the local heart—throb in High R()(l(l and the beginnings of a promising career. .Vlcliadden's mother had other ideas.
'l'ntil the last couple of years she thought i \\;t\ going to do something clscf says .\lcl’adden. ’She saw this as not a wry steady career. where you're unemployed for half the year. She was set on me getting formal qualifications and going to uni.’
instead. she saw her son become one of Hie/I lv’mul's central characters. As (iary Macdonald. he made all his mistakes unlike many of his contemporaries. he has no formal training in acting. But he also moulded the small-screen charm and sense of \ ulnerability lhttl llllS characterised [Host of his roles. including Andy.
in the background was school and real life. '.\l_\' school work “(Is it hit neglected.’ tldtttils .\lcl"adden. 'I never got a tutor or anything. I had to catch up on all the work my self. 1 was above average. but my head was in another place.‘
(ilendarrogh. Twice a week. ()n Scottish 'l‘elevision. So how did his school friends find going home and switching on to .\lcl"adden's other life‘.’ ‘I got a fair bit of ribbing about it. but nothing too bath he says. ‘I didn't have a scarring childhood or wake tip screaming at night.‘
()utwith High Road. .\lcl’adden began broadening his repertoire in the classic way pantomime. It worked in more ways than one. llis relationship with Mitchell began on a professional level when they shared a flat and the stage for a (‘hristmas panto in Ayr. Romance blossomed and they began living together in (iiasgoyy's \Vest iiltd. before moving to London.
‘I currently want to be with Kirsty for as far as I can see into the future.’ says .\lcl'"addcn. who sounds devoted but unsurprisineg shy ofthe ‘m' word. ‘I know so many people who say they had a great relationship until they got married and the stamp of finality was put on it. I’m far too young for any of that.’
lie denies his success has put any strain on their relationship: "l'here's no resentment. We're not in competition with each other.‘ But what of the romantic roles that have earned Mcl‘adden the label of tartan totty in women’s glossies'.’ ‘Kirsty knows l might lime to do a scene where I‘m snogging other girlsf says .\icl5adden without so much as a blush. ‘lt’s the most mechanical thing in the world.’
.\lcl-'adden is so far unwilling to get carried
away by all the hype. lf putting him in a kill and branding him ('eltic talent is what it takes for now. fine. bttt the actor is prepared for the possibility of the roles drying up. Already. he has had a taste of how tickle the acting btisiness is. While Scottish actors like liwan .\lc(iregor and Robert (‘arlyle are the hottest thing since vegetarian stovies. filmmakers are still reluctant to look north of the border part of the reason .\lcl‘adden moved to London.
"l‘here's a really mad snobbery.‘ he says. for some reason directors don't take you seriously if you live in Scotland.’
l"or now. though. .\lcl"adden is wooing them with that charm offensive. And it looks like it‘s working even with the rough edges.
Bumping The Odds is on BBC2, Sun 7 Dec. 10.15pm. Dad Savage is due for release in 1998.
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