Meeting Malcolm Tucker was a scary prospect - but I needn't have worried

Peter Capaldi was interesting, open and great fun to interview - we even had a great discussion about both hailing from Bishopbriggs.

The foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker may only be fictional but I’ll admit I was still slightly intimidated sitting down to interview the man who portrayed him so brilliantly in The Thick of It.

I needn’t have worried.

Peter Capaldi was interesting, open and great fun to interview, reflecting on his incredible career with those distinctive, dulcet Scottish tones you could listen to all day.

The 65-year-old is currently starring in police drama Criminal Record as cop Daniel Hegarty, a man with many a dark secret to hide. It’s won rave reviews and ratings on Apple TV+, much to Peter and his family’s delight, given that his wife, Elaine Collins, is also head of the show.

“I was lucky because I’m married to the executive producer,” he told What’s On Scotland. “So she was developing this idea already before I became involved, and I suggested to her that it might be a good idea if I played Hegarty.”

“How did that go?”, I asked. “Surely she couldn’t really say no?”

Peter replied: “Well, she could. Yeah, she definitely could. But it was quite a challenge because a lot of the parts I’ve played before have been quite out there in the sense that they speak their mind or (are) always trying to make a connection with the audience. He (Hegarty) is hidden. He’s veiled.”

Peter grew up in Springburn in the north of Glasgow before his family got “grand” and moved to nearby Bishopbriggs in East Dunbartonshire. That tickled me because I too am from Bishopbriggs, which we had a great discussion about.

Peter Capaldi.STV News

It was when he was a young boy that Peter formed his love of performing, although apart from a singing uncle, also aptly called Peter Capaldi, there was little showbiz influence in his family.

Instead, he created his own little world to act out scenes. “I used to have a little shoe box, in which I made a television studio that was based on Ready, Steady, Go.

“They’d have like The Beatles on the show, so I drew little Beatles for the show box studio.”

I would later discover he also drew mini Daleks for the studio, which clearly served him well. But we’ll come to that.

Peter’s route to the acting world was not straightforward.

He explains: “I got turned down from drama school, it broke my heart. You know, to audition, you had to do a modern piece and a classical piece. Who would I know who would take me through any bits of Shakespeare? I’d never seen any Shakespeare. So it was all doomed.

“But luckily I had a very good teacher at school, Mr Boyle, who helped me get into art school. It was too late to get a folio accepted.

He (Mr Boyle) said “well, I’ll give them a ring” and obviously drawing the wee studio and The Beatles and all that stuff had added up to something and I got admitted and it was the best thing that happened to me, really.

“Because that kind of creative kind of cauldron where you really have a go at everything was the right place for me to be.”

Acting may have taken a back seat while Peter completed his degree and also became the lead singer of punk band The Dreamboys with fellow Scot Craig Ferguson. But the bug never really left him and when he got the chance to be in movie Local Hero, he grabbed it with both hands and never looked back.

Various TV and film roles followed but it was in 2005, after a rather grumpy audition, that he found his way into the role of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It – a fictional, behind-the-scenes look at the world of contemporary politics.

Peter wasn’t in the best mood as earlier that day he had been at an audition for a part that was basically perfect for him.

“You know, the part was basically a Scottish man of my age, who looks exactly like me and speaks like me. But I looked up and the room was packed with people and I had worked with them all. I just got fed up, scunnered with the whole acting thing.

“So, by the time I went to meet Armando Iannucci (creator and director of The Thick of It), who is a wonder and a delight, I was in a bad mood, but he recognised that, I think, and was quick to use it. And Malcolm Tucker was born.”

From one cult hero to another, Peter then went on to play one of the most famous characters in the world, the 12th Doctor in Doctor Who.

“I was always a great fan of Doctor Who from when I was that little kid in the tenement. I didn’t ever think I’d be Doctor Who, especially not because they were all so handsome!

“So Steven Moffat, who’s from Paisley, but we’ll let him off for that. He was running the show and he just got in touch and said how would you feel about being a Doctor Who?

“I went to see him and did a bit. He’s written a great script, great regeneration scene, which I did for him, but I thought it was terrible. I thought I was. Really. I thought it didn’t work, but by the time I got home, they decided it did.”

Peter played the Twelfth Doctor from 2013 till 2017 but remains a firm favourite among Whovians to this day.

Now enjoying his latest role as a grandfather, as well as the success of Criminal Record, I wondered whether there was a role he still wishes he had got or would still want to land?

“No, I just feel very lucky that I had the chance to do these and I’m still here doing it. I learnt sort of fairly early on that it was a bad idea to have a plan because it was out of my control.

“You know, young actors asked me for advice, which always makes me nervous because I don’t really know what to say to them other than, you know, learn your lines, which is a key thing, which is basically what you’re paid for.

“And keep showing up. Keep trying. You know, even if you don’t get that job, you don’t get the next job, something will happen. Just keep believing in yourself and in your possibilities.”

A philosophy that’s served Peter well.

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