Interview extra

Brian Cox, Bob Servant IndependentJanuary 10, 2013

Brian Cox in Bob Servant Independent

X-Men and Bourne star Brian Cox returns to his native Dundee for a sitcom about a local businessman, Bob Servant, who always has his eye on the main chance. When the MP for Broughty Ferry dies, Bob decides to enter the world of politics and stand as an independent. Brian tells TV Choice more…

One of the things that strikes us about this show is it's maybe the first time we've heard a Dundonian accent on telly…
The first time ever! Ever! They did a thing called Jute City a few years ago [1991] and nobody could do the Dundonian accent. Nobody. This is the first time. It’s all set in Broughty Ferry in Dundee. We filmed around those locations, which was great.

Bob Servant IndependentThe BBC is going to make a big deal out of the fact they’ve got you in this show — a Hollywood star on BBC4. But you've played Bob in a radio series too. So would the project have come to you if you didn’t have the prior involvement?
I don’t think it would. It came through the persistence of the guys really getting the thing made. And it so happened I was committed to being in Scotland anyway [Brian lives in New York], because I’ve just done a documentary series there. I’m also the rector of Dundee University, so there were a lot elements that kind of made sense to me being there. As I’ve got older I’ve wanted to do more and more comic things. Drama is kind of — it’s okay. But I really like comedy. I love comedy! I did a Will Ferrell comedy [The Campaign] last year and had great fun. In fact, I’m about to go and do one of his Funny Or Die – a thing he does on YouTube. So it’s the kind of world I really enjoy. And then this thing coming up, and seeing how great some of the British comedy has been over the last few years… How it’s resurged in an extraordinary way.

When you’re doing these jobs, is acting just acting? Or if you’re doing Bob Servant does that feel like a completely different deal from something massive like an X-Men film?
Oh, it’s a different deal altogether. I said, if we do another series, we need more time. It was a bugger to learn, because it's so full of non-sequiturs. That's the brilliance of the language because Bob does these kind of intellectual malapropisms, which are kind of dazzling, really, but they're hard. And there's a lot of 'em because he's a talker and he's a great spiel-er — that's what he does. He's a salesman basically.

Are you politically minded?
I am, yeah. Much more than Bob.

Bob Servant IndependentDo you have feelings on Scottish devolution?
Yeah. I was very much for devo max, you know, gaining as much as possible without actually going the full hog. Unfortunately that question's been taken out of the running. So I've actually become quite a supporter of the yes campaign. And I suppose I do it from a kind of Anglophile position, because I really do feel the British government should be shaken up — and one way you can shake them up is through Scottish independence.

Scots are very proprietorial about Scottish actors. Do you get that?
That's the great thing about coming home. There's this word in Scotland, 'couthy' which is a sort of form of cosiness, but it's a nice form of cosiness. You feel you belong. And I've always done well, partly being a Dundonian, because in Scotland it's always been about the great Glasgow/Edinburgh divide. You're either Sean Connery from Edinburgh or Billy Connolly from Glasgow. And they used to get a fair amount of treatment — nice treatment. But they'd be ribbed about getting above their station. What they call Jock Tamsin — the tall poppy syndrome. But I've always done really well. Even in Scotland, they don't know about Dundee, they don't understand it. Dundee's very distinct and it's got a very distinct humour and a very distinct kind of character. But less of the Scots get it.

You don't get stick for living in New York?
No, not at all. They're very generous. And because I'm now rector at the university, I try and spend as much time there as I can in Dundee. It's been really nice being associated with the city.

BBC4, Wednesday

Graham Kibble-White

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