After Mark McManus passed away, many people thought we'd never see a cop as tough and gritty as Jim Taggart. But that changed when Alex Norton turned up as DCI Matt Burke – a man who could probably scare away a rottweiler just by looking at it. But did you know Alex had been on Taggart before – as someone completely different?
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
Well I wasn't exactly brought up in a household that cared much about acting or the 'theatrical arts' in general. I'm talking cramped home, freezing loo outside, that sort of thing. Not saying we went hungry or anything, though – not quite Angela's Ashes (!)
But, when I was about 14, my eyes were opened to show-business just by going to a local amateur drama group. I really enjoyed it and I even got talent-spotted and had a small role in the old 60s TV series Dr Finlay's Casebook. But my dad always disapproved – he wanted me to get a 'proper job'.
Did your father's disapproval affect your approach to the career?
Well it sort of reinforced my feeling that I wasn't 'meant' for the acting route – that I wasn't from the right sort of background and would find it awkward to mingle with the supposed thesps and luvvies.
It was partly because of this feeling that I didn't train as an actor. In fact I made a conscious decision not to go down the RADA path, because I had this idea that I wouldn't fit in somehow. Instead I just looked around for small roles, taking acting jobs where I could, building my CV the way you would in any career.
Is it true you were in Taggart before you were cast as DCI Burke?
Yes, although it's not exactly a unique situation as quite a few Scottish actors have been in it. The show's run for so long that it's almost a rite of passage for up-and-coming Scottish talent. And they often come and go as different characters – turning up as victims, bad guys, coppers, you name it.
My first appearance was in 1986 and I played a butcher. It was quite a gory story actually, even by Taggart standards. But by the time I was cast as Burke so much time had passed that it didn't matter at all.
A few years ago, parts of Taggart were filmed in Edinburgh for the first time in its long history. What was that like? Did the old Glasgow-Edinburgh rivalry come out?
Ah, well I may be a Glaswegian but I'm happy to say I didn't mind the transition. I actually lived in the city for a fair few years so it was nice to be back, although it's clear that Burke didn't relish it. And the writers had fun with that, giving me some great lines about Edinburgh being a bit of a tourist trap. Looking like a shortbread tin and all that.
I remember fantasising at the time about bumping into Inspector Rebus while in Edinburgh. What a great crossover that would have made.
Viewers might not realise you've also dabbled in Hollywood...
I was in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel as the Captain Bellamy character. Although actually my scenes were mainly with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom rather than Johnny, but it was great fun nevertheless.
And to add to it, the ship was previously used in an old Marlon Brando film, which was an extra thrilling dimension to it. And working on a big loud riproaring blockbuster like that really touched the kid inside me – it reminded me of being a boy and watching Disney flicks in the cinema. And now I'm in them!