Tutti Frutti’s Bomba speaks: Stuart McGuigan Interviewed

Scottish actor Stuart McGuigan has starred in some of the best known TV shows on British television, including It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hamish Macbeth and, most famously, Tutti Frutti.

I recently caught up with Stuart to discuss his career and we touched upon his role as ageing rocker Bomba MacAteer in John Burns’ iconic series.

This interview took place before the DVD release was announced.

Jonathan Melville: What was it like working on Tutti Frutti?

Stuart McGuigan: John Byrne’s scripts were the best I’ve ever worked with on in television, without a doubt.

The director, producer cast and script just gelled.

I don’t know what you have to do to get the BBC to release it, who you have to pay to get it out. There’s still and audience for it, I still get stopped in the street about it and they ask can I buy it and I have to say no.

I have a theory that if the Scots were in charge of their own broadcasting there’s no way you’d have the best comedy drama series ever made in a country lying dormant for 20 years.

There should be a monument up to John Byrne as he’s a hugely talented man. He’s a writer and artist, he’s designed stage sets. Lovely guy, the show was the happiest six months I’ve ever spent making something – being paid by the BBC to learn drums, you can’t get much better than that.

Put it out on DVD and expatriate Jocks around the world will snap it up.

Robbie Coltrane was billed as the star but for me Maurice Roëves gave a more impressive performance as Vincent Diver.

I’m glad you mentioned that and I agree entirely. Maurice’s performance as a man having a major midlife crisis in amongst all this comedy and drama hasn’t been recognised enough – he’s fabulous.

Almost weekly I remember lines from that show and I’m very boring about it. When I first agreed – or rather bit their hand off – to do it, five of the six scripts were delivered by post one morning and I took them back to bed and got up about midday and I was sore with laughing so much.

Great west coast Scottish humour. Brilliant stuff.

There’s a great scene where the two cars approach the crossroads, the passengers of both singing the same song in almost a duet…

It’s beautifully shot by Tony Smith and he’s never really seen the acclaim he deserved from holding it all together.

Could they do a sequel?

[Laughs loudly] Well I’m just about old enough now to play Bomba properly, I was a bit too young at the time, it’d be interesting to see. That’s iconic television.

And what about BBC Scotland output today?

Well just look at what BBC Scotland’s putting out now: River City.

STV has Taggart which is about quarter of a century old and lousy, it’s just awful.

I live in London and when I watch  Still Game I get ashamed. This is what the BBC are putting out as representative of Scotland. It’s barely funny, it’s old and it’s tired.

A lot of people seem to like Still Game.

There’s a kind of patriotism that says “if it’s Scottish it must be good”.

Not true.

That stuff is embarrassing. That’s just wiped me out of appearing in Still Game but I don’t think I would anyway.

It’s not good enough to just be made in Scotland, it actually has to be good.

Thanks to Stuart McGuigan for his time.

Read my interview with Tutti Frutti star Ron Donachie for more insights into the programme’s production.


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