ober Carlyle's uncomprimising performances in a number of powerful urban dramas have identified him as one of the UK's most interesting yound actors. So his new role as Hamish Macbeth, an unambitious police constable in a sleepy Highland village, comes as something of a surprise.
"If the producers of Hamish Macbeth were looking for a conventional actor, they wouldn't have chosen me," he says.
Robert's most recent television appearance was a Albie, the chilling shaven-headed Scouse psychopath in the latest series of "Cracker". Before that he played a vicious punk in Antonia Bird's award-winning film 'Safe', and he will soon be seen as a gay priest's lover in a controversial new feature film, 'Priest' which was the smash hit of the Toronto Film Festival.
Since playing the lead in Ken Loach's feature film 'Riff Raff' which was European Film of the Year in 1993, Robert has turned down more roles than he has accepted, preferring to spend time with Raindog, the experimental theatre company in Glasgow which he co-founded.
"I do get offered my fair share of thugs, psychos and nutters," admits Robert. "I like Hamish because he isn't afraid to show his gentler side and he has no ambition whatsoever. He loves cowboy books and secretly sees himself as the sheriff of a one-horse town in the Wild West."
With his nearest superior officers based over a hundred miles away in Inverness Hamish Macbeth is free to carry out his duties in the way he thinks fit.
"There aren't too many serious crimes in Lochdubh so he acts more like a social worker than a policeman," says Robert. "He has his own way of resolving petty crimes, feuds and misdemeanours. You could say he uses the wisdom of Solomon rather than the letter of the law. He tries to find the middle ground, to maintain the equilibrium of the village, wherever possible."
Born and bred in Glasgow, Robert is a city dweller so he approached the three months shoot in the remote village of Plockton with some trepidation. "I can't deny I missed city life," he says. "But living in a village with a population of only two hundred was quite an eyeopener. People have time for one anoher and I realised that community spirit is what gets them through the long dark winter."
Robert quickly became known affectionately in Plockton as Hamish, and was frequently mistaken for a real policeman during filming, "I was regularly asked for directions to the nearest camp site," he says, "and several times people asked me whether the filming was a headache for the police. I usually just smiled and said it's no bother!".
Robert had an unconventional upbringing in Glasgow. He lived in hippy communes as a child and worked as a painter and decorator for five years before spending three years at drama school.
"Until no, mainstream drama hasn't really been my bag," he says. "But Hamih Macbeth might suprise people. It's not about cops and robbers. It's about people and about life in a small community. The fictional village of Lochdubh could just as easily be in Devon or the Dorodogne. The feelings, the emotions, the characters that inhabit the village are the same the world over."
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