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Scots actor Iain De Caestecker reveals all about playing TV’s sneakiest spinner in hit political thriller Roadkill

© BBC/The Forge/Robert ViglaskyIain De Caestecker
Iain De Caestecker

Actor Iain De Caestecker came home in March to join the family celebrations for his gran’s 90th birthday. Thanks to lockdown, he never left.

Newly imposed restrictions meant the party had to be cancelled but it did mean Iain ended up staying in Scotland for two months.

He was happy to be here though to support mum Linda, who is head of public health for Scotland’s largest NHS board, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and faced a challenging time as the severity of the pandemic unfolded.

Iain, who grew up in Glasgow but has been in London and the States for more than a decade, said: “As a 32-year-old who has lived away for quite some time, you don’t really want to be stuck back at home with your mum, but I actually loved it. It was a very stressful time for mum being in the midst of it, so it was nice to be here for her.”

Iain, who stars in new BBC 1 drama Roadkill, says his mum has been his greatest supporter since he entered the world of acting at age 16.

“Mum is really supportive,” he said. “She said to me when I was younger if I took a break from acting and got good grades in my exams and still wanted to do acting, she would back me.”

Linda de Caestecker

In fact, Iain, who featured in superhero series Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, and was handpicked by Ryan Gosling for a role in his directorial debut film How To Catch A Monster, was inspired to chase a career on screen after watching old classic films – recorded by his mum.

“I wanted to be an actor from a very young age, since my brother said he wanted to be one. I just said, “Me too” and it stuck.

“I was also really fascinated by movies. I would get my mum to tape movies like Goodfellas for us that were on way after our bedtime. Some of them gave me nightmares of course, but they really gave me an introduction to films.”

In his latest role, Iain plays Duncan Knock in Roadkill, a major new political thriller which aired its first episode last week and has been met with high praise. Knock is special adviser and spin doctor to corrupt Tory MP Peter Laurence, played by House star Hugh Laurie.

“I’m often cast more towards characters who are shy and introverted, but Duncan isn’t, he’s cocky and he’s a bit sneaky and slimey,” Iain said. “And playing a villain is fun. I did enjoy playing the part.

“I bought my gran an iPad so we could stay in touch. She loves sending emails and I know she’s been watching because she emailed me after seeing the first episode saying, ‘Iain, you are a dirty dog’.”

© BBC/The Forge/Steffan Hill
Iain alongside Hugh Laurie in Roadkill

Iain did his research for the role, visiting the Houses of Parliament to learn about the inner working mechanisms of life in the government.

And he revealed he almost auditioned in an English accent, not realising his character in Roadkill was a fellow Scot!

“I wasn’t sure whether to read it in English or Scottish, so it’s just as well I checked before I started reading,” he laughed.

One of the biggest attractions for Iain was the script, written by acclaimed playwright David Hare.

“The way he writes characters is brilliant, he said. “They are fully formed before you’re anywhere near the script, which is such a draw as an actor.”

And, of course, the opportunity to work alongside Hugh Laurie, one of his idols, as well as the show’s director Michael Keillor, another Scot.

“Hugh was fantastic. I can’t speak highly enough of him,” he said. “Between takes he really was very funny, he’s got the greatest sense of humour.

“And he’s just really professional. I don’t think I saw him stumble over a line. He is very nuanced in his profession. I really am a big fan.”

Filming for the four-part series finished in February, just weeks before lockdown hit.

“We were one of the lucky ones,” Iain said. “We had literally just wrapped it up so it didn’t affect the show going out.”

Iain admits it feels like a distant memory filming the show after a long time in lockdown.

“I started writing a diary,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never done before and it’s funny to go back and read bits of it and see how I felt at the time. There’s one line in it when I was back in Scotland staying with mum and it says, ‘I think mum is my best friend right now, and that’s okay’.

“It must have been a lonely time at that moment,” he said.

“I also started getting up in the morning and writing down my dreams. I had some crazy ones. In one of them I was hanging out with Tom Hanks working in a garage in the American sticks,” Iain laughed. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his movies, but it was pretty strange!”

Roadkill is on BBC iPlayer