Traces: John Gordon Sinclair interview

John Gordon Sinclair shot to fame in the 1980s in Bill Forsyth's classic coming-of-age film Gregory's Girl and went on to an illustrious career on stage and screen. He's also turned his hand to crime writing with three novels published.

John Gordon Sinclair plays Drew Cubbin

John Gordon Sinclair plays Drew Cubbin

Drew is Emma Hedges' father, a man with many flaws, who wasn’t really there for his daughter as she grew up.

What attracted you to Traces?

Top of the list, Val McDermid, because she's Val McDermid and that's instant appeal. Also, the scripts. Amelia Bullmore, the writer, has done such a phenomenal job. Also, I noticed my character got to ride a motorbike, which I haven't done for a long time, so there were lots of things going for it. The fact it was set in Dundee, which is a very picturesque town, but not much production goes on so it was good to have that as well. And I used to play guitar, which I haven't done for ages. I had to sing a song in this so I had to get my guitar out and start practising again. That has been fantastic. So now, I'm going to buy myself a new guitar and a motorbike on the strength of it all.

Can you tell us a bit about your character Drew?

Drew is Emma's father. I wouldn't describe him as the best father in the world. He didn't really spend a lot of time with Emma when she was younger, he was into dope, he's a bit of a fly-by-night guy. When his wife, Emma's mother was murdered, he didn't cope with it very well. He's not been the best father in the world. He's had lots of affairs, he still lives in Dundee, but he's a bit of a rogue.

When you were sent the scripts, what grabbed your attention the most?

I think the main thing was the quality of the writing, which is phenomenal, really, really good. There are lots of twists and turns. At the centre, there's a love story as well. Unlike a lot of crime drama, I think you empathise with the characters that are really attractive for the characteristics, which is quite rare to find people you empathise with in crime drama, because it can be unremittingly gritty, whereas this, there's a love story at the heart as well. Also, the fact there's a story about a young girl trying to discover what happened to her mother as well. There's a lot in there.

When getting into character, what sort of research do you like to do?

I spent some time on a motorbike to get my skills up. I started playing the guitar again and my main thing in terms of character work is learning the script. If it's well written, that's an easy thing to do, if it's in the writing, you don't really have to do that much. It sounds a bit lazy, which is why it's such an attractive proposition because the writing is so good. It makes it easy, you don't really have to go all method on it, it's all there, it's on the page. That makes it easy to learn and say the words.

What have you enjoyed the most about filming?

There have been quite a few highlights so far. Working with Molly Windsor, who's just fantastic. She plays my daughter, we had a day where it was just the two of us and lots of scenes and one set, so there were no changes. I was doing lots of different scenes in one place and that was just a great day because she's so brilliant. I would say that's been the highlight. And, again, because I hadn't been on a motorbike for quite a while, I spent a day running around a car park on one and that was quite good fun too.

What makes Traces different to other crime dramas?

What makes Traces different is the empathetic nature of it, the fact there are lots of layers, lots of twists and turns, but the characters at the centre of it, you get emotionally attached, emotionally involved, with them, especially Molly's character Emma and the journey she's on. I think that makes it stand out from a lot of other crime drama.

Why are people so enthusiastic about crime drama?

I'm a writer and I write crime fiction books. My theory on this, which is a bit hackneyed really, is that I think crime in particular exposes you, in a safe way, to danger. The world we live in is actually pretty safe. We don't have to go out and hunt for food. We don't live in big tribes that have to fight amongst each other to get resources, so generally everything's pretty safe. That element of danger is part of the human condition and so crime drama exorcises that part of us as human beings that exposes us to danger without actually being involved in it. It's always life or death, which is obviously a big theme of life, dying, so people find to be able to explore that on your sofa or on your bed when you're reading a book or watching crime drama on television, is what's attractive about it.

Can you describe Traces in one sentence?

Traces is a dark thriller about a young woman's search for what happened to her mother with a love story at the heart of it.