Glasgow star Stephen McCole opens up about his role in BBC’s Shetlands after Vigil’s success
STEPHEN McCole will have some presence on our television screens this fall. In the wake of his role in the twisted thriller Vigil, the Glasgow-born actor is part of the cast of the latest installment of the murder mystery drama Shetland, newly returned to BBC One for a sixth series.
The latter sees McCole playing brooding war veteran Logan Creggan who (if you haven’t watched the opening episode yet, beware; a few slight spoilers will follow…) ends up in the frame as a potential suspect. when a local personality is shot.
Our fearless crime-fighting trio of Perez, Tosh and Sandy – played by Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell and Steven Robertson respectively – have their work cut out for them.
Who is Logan Creggan? That’s a question on the lips of many Shetland viewers and McCole, 47, keeps his cards close to his chest. “His time in the military left scars on him,” he says. “He is a troubled man and a very dangerous man. He tries to find happiness but fails miserably.
Is it fair to assume that Creggan and the murder victim had an unresolved issue? “They have known each other from a young age,” he confirms. “There is history there.” McCole stops laughing. “It’s hard to know what I can say, but yes they did know each other and the victim had the opportunity in the past to help Logan but decided not to.”
A testament to Shetland’s popularity as a television series is its ability to consistently come up with storylines centered on challenging and important topics. In the opening episode, we learned that Logan Creggan served in Iraq. A conversation with Perez discusses historic crimes against prisoners of war.
Is this something we could see explored in more detail? “The things he saw and did as a soldier affected him,” McCole says. “It made him the man he is. We’re going to tackle that and find out who Logan Creggan really is.
Among the many joys of filming Shetland, he says, was reuniting with Douglas Henshall who McCole starred with in the 1998 flagship film Orphans, written and directed by Peter Mullan, about four Glasgow siblings facing the fallout. emotional over the death of their mother.
“It was great,” he says of their reunion. “It was effortless. It was exactly the same as it was all those years ago when we made Orphans. Dougie has always been someone I admire as an actor. This has not changed 25 years later.
McCole, whose previous roles include The Crow Road, High Times, River City and Rushmore, spent nearly three months filming Shetland. Did he have the chance to do a lot of exploration around the islands?
“I was lucky to have about five days to myself,” he says. “I rented a car and drove until I saw a sign that said ‘beach’. Every day I found a different place. Spiggie Beach was one of them. We filmed on one of the beaches that I had laid all day in the sun.
It was good to get back to work, he says, after the uncertainty of the pandemic which has seen television productions shut down and theaters across Scotland darken.
McCole was filming Vigil – the recent BBC drama in which he played shady politician Patrick Cruden – when the first lockdown occurred in March 2020. After production shutdown, there was a long hiatus.
“It’s the longest job I’ve ever had,” he says. “We had filmed for four or five weeks, then filming stopped. No one knew if it was coming back or what was going on.
“There were those glorious six months as an actor where you knew why you were out of work. Everyone was in the same boat. I feel very lucky to have had a job before containment and then a job to complete as soon as the business reopened. ”
When the cameras started rolling again, he couldn’t wait to go. Her co-star Lauren Lyle recently told me that a DIY hairstyle led to a mini continuity crisis that forced her to wear hair extensions for her scenes. Did McCole run into similar issues?
“I lost a bit of weight. I fell ill during confinement, ”he says. “I had been on a good diet and had quit drinking, but when the lockdown hit I thought, ‘F *** this is the end of the world. I’m not going out to eat carrot sticks and drink orange juice.
“The weather in the original lockdown, as you will recall, was magnificent. I was sitting in the back garden. It was eat and drink whatever you want for a while.
“Then I noticed I was getting really tall and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m going to have to start backing up …’ because I was scared to go back to Vigil and not be able to fit into my costume. Then I got sick, a little bit sick, and the weight started to lose me.
“When I returned to Vigil, my clothes didn’t fit – they were too big. I had to buy a new suit jacket one size smaller. Since then I have lost another three or four stones – I look amazing. McCole laughs to show that he speaks with a firm tongue. “Well, if I say it myself,” he said impassively.
Does he feel healthy again? “With the way the world is right now, it’s hard to get appointments and answers, but the tests have been done,” says McCole. “I don’t think it’s anything too serious. We are awaiting the results.
“It was a lifestyle and diet change that was needed. This is what we are doing now. The weight remains low and I feel great. You can’t say better than that.”
Comedy is a vocation on which McCole clearly thrives. What sparked this passion? “I am addicted to television. I have been since my childhood. I think that’s why I wanted to be an actor. I like TV. I spend a hell of a lot of money on all of these streaming services.
Amongst three children, he grew up in the Castlemilk district of Glasgow. His mother and father, now retired, worked in a textile factory and as an overhead railway engineer, respectively.
Her older brother Paul, who starred in the comedy-drama High Times, is another comedian (“an actor, musician, comedian and handsome b ****”), while his younger sister trains to be a nurse (“the real real family superhero ”).
McCole is married with three children. He and his wife Emma recently bought a motorhome. “A little wild swimming. A little camping. We just started doing it this year, ”he says.
“It’s such a cliché now, isn’t it?” With the pandemic and the stays, caravanning and motorhomes have exploded, but it’s something we’ve always talked about doing. ”
As an actor, McCole has racked up various projects over the past 25 years. What is it that makes him most proud of his career? “The fact that I still do it, that I still enjoy it and that I haven’t thrown in the towel,” he says. “It can be the most glorious profession, but it can also be quite soul-destroying.
“It’s a sad truth, but you need money to live, and it can be quite difficult to do that as an actor – money of course. When I was in Shetland, I realized on a beach, alone, at 7 am, that things were going well. These moments can be worth anytime you think about throwing it away. Choosing to stick to it is probably what I’m most proud of. ”
Shetland continues on BBC One Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Catch up on BBC iPlayer now