The Rebel Series 2 interview: Bill Paterson

A long-time friend of Simon Callow, Bill Paterson also happens to play his best pal in the show. We spoke to the veteran Scottish actor, Bill Paterson, about the second outing of The Rebel.

Bill Paterson interview

Why do think the first series of The Rebel did so well?

It really struck a chord with audiences because the characters are real human beings. You only have to go to Brighton to see that the place is packed with real life Charles's, Henrys and Margarets. There is a sense that people have washed up there from other places. The city has given them a second chance. You get the impression these people had previous lives and are grasping their last 10 years of clarity, if they're lucky! That feels very realistic. The more rooted in reality a comedy is, the better it is. That's why the show found such a loyal audience in the first series.

What is happening to Charles at the beginning of the second season?

He's just as lost as he was last time! He is in a love triangle with Henry and Margaret. Charles and Henry are like hopeless adolescent schoolboys. To be honest, Margaret would be crazy if she settled down with either of these men. Henry is so set in his reactionary ways, and Charles is goodhearted, but he's basically a hopeless case who just drifts along with anything. It's like a teen relationship - Charles and Henry are jealous when the other one gets more attention. "I fancied her first!" I'm sure it reminds us all of our own school days!

How did Charles end up in Brighton?

Charles just washed up in Brighton. He came to London from Scotland, drifted around and had a few relationships. Then he clearly said, "Brighton is really easy-going - I'll go there!" He's not a drug addict, but he likes the availability of dope and the relaxed atmosphere of Brighton. It's full of casual people who are his style. There is still a whiff of patchouli oil about him.

You've been friends with Simon for a long time, haven't you?

Yes, I've known Simon since 1972, and our lives have often crossed and uncrossed since then. I saw his debut at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in Schippel. He played Archduke Ferdinand's nephew, and the play became a cult show. I immediately admired him.

What stood out about his work back then?

His boldness, his voice, his wit, his timing. Simon still has those qualities in abundance. He loves the bravura aspect of performance. In turn, we adore this polymath man who touches on so many things without a sense of showing off. It's a real pleasure to be his friend. My relationship with Simon is not unlike what Charles feels towards Henry. Henry knows about life and copes with it better than Charles.

What might cause you to launch into a Henry-style rant?

Areas of social media irritate me. Social media was supposed to be an extension of the 60s philosophy that everyone in the world would be connected with each other, but that's not how it's worked out. Look at the development of social media - what has it provided us with? Probably the worst governments any of us have ever experienced. That's all supported by the garbage that's spilled out on social media.

There is a very funny scene in this series where Henry dashes fully clothed into the sea. Were you not tempted to join him?

I actually wrote myself out of that scene! It was going to be both the characters running into the sea, but I tweaked it quite cleverly. The producers should be grateful. If I had done it too, it would have doubled the work and the insurance. But Simon plunged in with gusto, and fortunately also with a wetsuit!