Ian McShane is Sir Roger Scatcherd
Q: Who is Sir Roger Scatcherd?
“It’s one of those classic tales. That behind every great fortune is a secret. He went to prison, came out and then made a fortune in the railways. Now he is on his last legs but he has all the money and the upper class, in the form of the Gresham family, have none. They are heavily in debt to him but still live in their house, which he all but owns now. He treats them far better than I would have done. I’d have kicked them out of the house and moved in!”
Q: Were you a Trollope fan?
“I’d never read Trollope until this came along. Then I only read the book for research purposes, dipping into it now and again. Sir Roger is there as a reminder to ordinary folk that they can rise above it all.”
Q: How did the role come about?
“I’m based in America but I come back here all the time to see my mother, the kids and the grandkids. I was over in the summer of 2015 for a holiday when Game Of Thrones came up and they asked me to do one episode. My grandkids would never have forgiven me if I didn’t do it. Then the offer to play Sir Roger in Doctor Thorne came along, which seemed one of those perfect jobs with a very good cast. I liked working with the director Niall MacCormick who had very specific ideas about what he wanted to achieve, it will look fantastic on screen. I’ve also known Julian Fellowes for a long tme, so it was nice to get his script, great to see him and a lot of fun to do. The character was well drawn and I had a good time filming it. There is always room for this kind of drama. Costumes and food change but not human emotions.”
Q: You worked with Tom Hollander, who plays Doctor Thorne, and Stefanie Martini, who plays his niece Mary Thorne?
“I’m a fan of Tom’s, I loved his show Rev and we worked well together on Doctor Thorne. Stefanie is a lovely girl. She seemed very down to earth and confident in the best kind of way, enjoying the experience. She was also excellent in the part and wonderful to work with.”
Q: Sir Roger stands for election. Have you ever been a candidate for anything?
“Oh God, no. I’d much rather be under the radar, thank you. When I was at grammar school they made me a prefect for a while. But I was on the side of the people, shall we say. I’ve never stood for election in Equity or anything else. I can do a lot of complaining about people that are elected but I don’t want to be elected myself.”
Q: What did you make of the locations used for Doctor Thorne?
“We filmed at Lacock, an incredible village in Wiltshire which I’d never been to before. It’s been preserved and is owned by the National Trust. The only problem is they still allow visitors to walk through. So suddenly you’ve got 150 tourists walking through the set. But we coped and it was fine.”
Q: Snobbery is one of the themes in Doctor Thorne. Have you ever been a victim?
“I came up in the 1960s when all of that went out of the window. Now we’ve got it back again. Today no working class kids can afford to go to drama school, so it’s all the people who have come through at Eton, Harrow, Cambridge and Oxford. No longer do they give grants towards young actors, so we’re seeing the age of the gentleman actor back again. That’s not to say they’re not good. But it doesn’t make for an all round mix of actors. I’ve no idea if I would have made it coming through today.”
Q: Lack of money also features in Doctor Thorne. Have you ever been down to your last few pounds?
“You don’t think of money when you’re young. You just carry on with your next job. It never bothered me at all. I’ve been married three times, so that will tell you something. But I can’t remember a time when I worried about having no money. Maybe I should start worrying about it now I’ve reached the sunset, twilight years. You just get on with it. Money isn’t the be all and end all. But it sure does help.”
Q: You have a lifelong link to Manchester United through your father Harry McShane, once a United winger, who died in 2012. Do you still get to games at Old Trafford?
“Oh yeah. I was there three weeks ago with Alex Ferguson. I always call up and try and get to as many games as I can when I’m over. I also watch it at home in America on TV. Every game is shown live on a Saturday morning. But it feels a little strange. Making a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich early in the morning and putting your scarf on…”