Dougray Scott plays Uncle Tony in Sky Original’s new 1980’s set crime drama series A Town Called Malice, here he tells us about series and the outrageous costumes his character wears.
Why were you so eager to be involved in A Town Called Malice?
I’m a big fan of Nick’s. I’ve known him for quite a few years. He’s a terrific writer and director. I was attracted to the tone of the piece. I felt it was a very realistic portrait of the 80s, and not in a kitsch kind of way. I really felt that he occupied that space.
I grew up in that time, and the music and the style are spot on. It’s got a lot of pizazz as well. Nick was on set all the time, and he and the director Jamie were just a joy to work with.
What was your take on your character Uncle Tony?
Uncle Tony is nothing like me, but he jumped off the page at me. As soon as I read it, I thought, “Yes, I can do something quite interesting with this character.” I’ve met so many of these gangster guys. It’s not my world, but I’ve spoken to them at length and watched so many documentaries about them.
How did you set about portraying him?
You just have to really leap into the shoes of someone like Uncle Tony. He’s a showman. It’s all smoke and mirrors. He says he’s one thing and yet in reality he’s another guy. I just loved how convincing he was. He really convinced everyone that he was this very high profile, successful businessman. He gets to spin his backstory about how he got away from London. He can’t possibly tell anyone the reality of the situation – that would be too shaming, too embarrassing. His brother didn’t know anything about it either, so he is taken aback when the truth comes out.
How does Uncle Tony get away with his deceptions?
He’s funny and charismatic, but he’s also lethal. He’d kill you as soon as look at you. You’ve got to tread a fine line, so you don’t make him a caricature. He’s a showman, and so part of his persona is to beguile people, to dazzle them. He’s all shiny and jazz hands. He’s saying, “Look over here”, when what’s really happening is over there. It’s enormous, enormous fun to play.
Did the costumes help with your performance?
Definitely. The costumes I wore as Tony had a lot to do with his character. That really helps you as an actor. When you see that Tony is going to be wearing a powder-blue safari suit, you think, “Yes, I understand that guy.” And the purple suit he wears at the night club is just perfect. The costumes were superb.
Is it hard to play someone diametrically opposed to you?
Sometimes when you have the opportunity to play someone who’s so different from you it empowers you and gives you a new energy. So you’re inspired to come up with a really well- rounded, authentic character. I watched lots and lots of documentaries again, and I remembered all those people I’d met over the years, and I worked on getting the voice right. I loved it.
Music is another character in A Town Called Malice, isn’t it?
Absolutely. It’s a reminder of the optimism of that period. When you a hear a song like The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, or the one I sing, “True”, you think, “It’s great. It’s so positive and so evocative of that era.” I remember Spandau Ballet and Haircut 100. They weren’t really my cup of tea, but people loved them. I was very much a Jam guy.
Tell us more.
I love The Jam’s lead singer, Paul Weller. I grew up on a council estate in Fife, and whenever The Jam song “A Town Called Malice” came on, everyone would get up on the dance floor. Where I was from, everyone would get up and dance to “A Town Called Malice” because it was an expression of who they were. There was a real connection between what our lives were like and what Paul Weller was writing about. His observations were spot on. You’d listen to “That’s Entertainment,” and go, “Yes, that’s my life.” I remember that very clearly. Paul Weller just had his finger on the pulse of everything.
How do you hope that viewers will react to A Town Called Malice?
First and foremost, I hope people will be entertained because that’s the name of the game. I also hope they appreciate the writing, the direction and the evocation of this era. It looks so filmic and really fantastic. Finally, I hope people will be inspired to go out and buy some Spandau Ballet and some Jam records and remember how glorious the 80s were, apart from the haircuts. The haircuts really were terrible!
A Town Called Malice is airing Thursday nights on Sky Max.