Yer Granny star is enjoying old pals’ act

Jonathan Watson will star in Yer Granny, a National Theatre of Scotland production, touring Scotland in May and June 2015.''Contributed pics
Jonathan Watson will star in Yer Granny, a National Theatre of Scotland production, touring Scotland in May and June 2015.''Contributed pics

Modesty is perhaps not what you would expect from an all-round Scottish entertainer with four decades in the industry under his belt.

But it personifies 58-year-old Glaswegian actor and mimic Jonathan Watson, who is touring Scotland in the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) satire Yer Granny.

Jonathan started his career in the theatre in his home town in 1979 and he has worked steadily ever since on the stage, big and small screen and radio.

Local Hero, City Lights, Rab C. Nesbitt, Only An Excuse?, Bob Servant Independent and Filth are just some of the highlights.

We caught up with Jonathan as he and fellow Yer Granny stars – including former Rab C. colleagues Gregor Fisher, in the title role, and Barbara Rafferty – took part in technical rehearsals.

It all started for Jonathan, aged ten, when he enrolled in the junior course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

His first part was in a Wednesday Play for the BBC and roles in Dr Finlay’s Casebook and Sutherland’s Law quickly followed.

Despite this early success, Jonathan left school with no intention of pursuing an acting career.

But a call from the BBC to take part in a Studio A recording changed his mind.

He said: “I got a great buzz from it so I applied for the full time course at the Royal Scottish Academy.

“I spent three years there.”
Graduating aged 22, he had to get a job in the industry to get an equity card and that came courtesy of TAG Theatre Company at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

He mastered his craft under the tutelage of then artistic director Ian Wooldridge before doing the Clydebuilt Season 7:84, a year-long season of plays.

Jonathan missed one production – to star as Jonathan in the now iconic Scottish film Local Hero.

Around that time, he came to the attention of BBC’s Comedy Unit and was asked to do Naked Radio. That in turn led to Naked Video – Jonathan starred in all five seasons – and the smash-hit TV series City Lights.

He said: “That show was such a huge hit. The public hadn’t really seen a Scottish comedy before and it seemed to capture their imagination.”

Yer Granny is somewhat of a reunion for the cast – barring Maureen Beattie, Jonathan has worked with them all. But Maureen’s sister, Louise, was his wife in City Lights.

“I’m married to Maureen in Yer Granny so, funnily enough, I can now say both Beattie sisters have been my wife,” joked Jonathan.

Off stage, he is keen to keep his private life exactly that but Jonathan has been happily married for 16 years and the couple have a teenage son.

Perhaps that helps him play the role of Cammy, the patriarch of the Russo family in Yer Granny, to such perfection.

Jonathan was invited to take part in the NTS workshop for the show last November.

“I was delighted when the director said at the end of it that he wanted me to do it,” recalled Jonathan.

“We’ve been in rehearsals for over a month and it’s going really well.

“It’s great to be sharing a stage once again with the likes of Gregor and Barbara and I’m proud to be part of it – it’s a great piece of writing.

“NTS has an excellent reputation but it hasn’t done much comedy so we’re hoping the show will appeal to an even wider audience.”

That audience will no doubt be bolstered by fans of the all-star cast, most of whom Jonathan would no doubt be able to mimic. But he played down his exceptional gift, which he shows off every Hogmanay in Only An Excuse?

He explained: “It’s flattering to get credit for it but most actors, by and large, can mimic people.

“Most have one or two up their sleeve!”

When it was pointed out he had more than one or two, Jonathan laughed: “Yes, I suppose so!

“It’s a great programme to do and the voices change all the time because we have to keep the show fresh.”

With such a fine acting pedigree, Jonathan is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most famous faces.

So what is he most recognised for?

“It depends on what time of year it is and where I am in the country.” he said.

“At New Year it tends to be Only an Excuse? but in Dundee, where Bob Servant is set, it’s that.”

Fans of Bob Servant will be pleased to hear that another series is likely but it won’t be shown until next year.

In the meantime, Jonathan will be on our screens with Fried airing on BBC Three in the near future and Two Doors Down airing on BBC Two later in the year.

His latest film, Let Us Prey – which was filmed in Ireland two years ago – is also “doing the rounds” at film festivals and getting rave reviews.

But if you want to catch Jonathan on the stage, Yer Granny is the perfect opportunity.

He added: “I’ve been doing this since 1979 and I’ve always been lucky enough to have a job to go to.

“I do enjoy doing a mixture of things – it keeps it fresh for me.

“I try to do a play every year and I was lucky enough to get Yer Granny.

“If people want a great night out, they should come along.

“A right good laugh – that’s a good reason to get out of the house.”

We couldn’t put it better make sure you don’t miss Yer Granny!