Following part one of my two part interview with Barbara Rafferty she discusses Hamish Macbeth and The Last King of Scotland.
While still making Nesbitt, Barbara became part of another major Scottish export with the role of Agnes Meldrum in BBC Scotland’s Hamish Macbeth. Hamish wasn’t like other ‘cops on the box’, defying easy pigeonholing. With a first episode containing filicide, domestic violence and substance abuse, cosy teatime drama this was not.
“It was dark,” she agrees, her eyes lighting up, “and one of the best jobs ever. These fun, quirky scripts would come in from Danny Boyle, and we had some great guest actors like John Grieve and Andrew Keir”.
“At the start, the female characters were a bit underwritten, but that changed as we went on. In one episode my long-lost son turned up, played by Alistair Mackenzie [later of Monarch of the Glen], and the women had a lot more to do.
“We were hoping to sell the series to America, but they wouldn’t buy it because of the [cannabis] smoking.”.
I mention the Wild West theme of the series, most noticeable in the title sequence (sheriff’s badge and gun) and in Hamish’s love of pulp-Western novellas.
“That’s exactly how the series was set up, about the Wild West [of Scotland] – the locals were a law unto themselves. All those undercurrents were there. And I think it could have got darker. I think the BBC were a bit scared at just how dark Danny wanted to make it, so they brought in the other writers to balance it out. They were all good, but Danny had that darkness…”.
The series came to an abrupt end after three years when Robert Carlyle moved on to film roles new, but had things gone differently, the show may have lived on…
“For a long time there was talk of carrying on the series with the locals, like they did with Ballykissangel. People lived in hope for a long time, but nothing ever came of it”.
The Last King of Scotland
Now a full time cast member of Scotland’s only primetime soap, River City, Barbara is allowed time off to appear in other projects. Most recently this has included the role of James McAvoy’s mum in the Oscar and BAFTA award-winning Last King of Scotland.
“It was great to do. I first saw James McAvoy in Privates on Parade in London, where he was terribly pukka, and it was only afterwards that I realised he was Scottish. He was lovely to work with, and of course he’s a big Ella fan, and his gran is a River City fan, so they all came to say hello!”
“The producer, Andrea Calderwood, who also produced Hamish, tried so hard to get that film of the ground, and look what’s happened now…” she says, referring to its award success.
Then there’s her current role as the Baroness in the Edinburgh production of Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.
“I went to London for the audition, sang my song, and told the director I looked great in a basque!”.
With thanks to Barbara Rafferty.