Crime, the new police drama written by the great chronicler of contemporary Scottishness, Irvine Welsh, opens with a typically biting monologue. Instead of “choosing” life, DI Ray Lennox focuses on ignorance and it being the root of all evil. He concludes: “There’s the saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. No. In my mind, the road to hell is paved with ignorance.” Lennox is played by Dougray Scott, who certainly doesn’t want to be ignorant when it comes to his characters.
“I like to find out as much as I can about the world my character occupies,” he says. “Research is really a safety blanket for me, I like to fill in the gaps. I’m curious.”
A character is a puzzle to solve, Scott explains: “Why did he say that? Why does he behave like that? As Arthur Miller said, ‘What in life is it that they cannot walk away from – and does that define their character?’ I think that’s quite a good portal.”
On the surface, Lennox is another police officer whose own demons are as difficult to pin down as the perpetrator, who has kidnapped a young girl. But Welsh’s refreshingly fearless script and Dougray Scott’s committed performance raise Crime above the competition. Having already screened on BritBox and around the world (winning Scott an International Emmy and Scottish Bafta) the series is now coming to ITVX.
But as well as extensive research – “reading about serial killers, talking to cops” – Scott brought elements of himself to the role. “There are aspects of Lennox that are in me. His passion, his determination, his bloody mindedness. And that voice that Irvine Welsh has, I understand it. We come from very similar backgrounds. His writing is representative of me and the history of my cultural experience growing up in Scotland.”
Dougray Scott was brought up in Glenrothes, Fife. “It has been rough over the years. It has had its problems, its issues with drugs and many things, like any of these working-class towns.”
This history informed Scott’s portrayal of Lennox’s battle with alcohol.
“Listen, addiction is not prejudiced. It takes anyone regardless of your background, where you come from, what experiences you’ve had. You’ll find a lot of addicts have had some traumatic incidents happen in their childhoods. It’s an inability to sit with one’s own feelings when they become too painful. And so, quite often people turn to drink and drugs as a means to anesthetise themselves.”
Again, judging people dealing with addictions is an example of ignorance that prevents a true understanding of the problem and hides the solutions. And society is ignorant when it comes to most big issues.
“If you look at where we are, not just in this country but in many countries throughout the world, we’ve got everything so terribly, terribly wrong,” Scott laments. “How can it be right that we have a situation where a government is talking about the threat of immigrants coming in these boats and shutting the door.
“It is like Gary Lineker said, the language that the government used is the language that the Nazis used. I’m not saying they are Nazis. I’m saying that the language that they’re using is very similar. And we have to be conscious about how we deal with refugees, because it is a real tell-tale sign about the mentality of the government.
“You look at the extreme wealth that exists, yet people can’t put food on the table. People can’t get clean water, people’s children are dying because of malnutrition, because of diseases that accumulate because of the lack of clean water [Scott is an ambassador for charity WaterAid]. Ultimately, society has a duty to care for everybody that is born into this world, not just the people who can make a huge amount of money for themselves. It’s a humanitarian duty.”
In Crime, which deals with the entitlement of the establishment and the limited potential of everybody else, there’s a line questioning what happened to the anger of the working classes to rise up and push for change.
Scott can detect its return. “I think that working-class anger comes in waves,” he says. “When I was in college, there was a huge amount of anger during the miner’s strike. I’m on the side of the people who, through no fault of their own, are born into a system that is really not designed to benefit them.
“The anger is still there. I’ve been on the street many times over the years, marching. Does it do any good? I don’t know. But there’s a collective energy that is important to feel part of.”
A way that Dougray Scott feels the situation could be improved in Scotland is if the country was independent. But we speak on the day Peter Murrell, former SNP chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested in a finance probe. The damage SNP scandals might do to the cause is uncertain.
“I liked Nicola Sturgeon,” Scott says. “Regardless of what you think about her as a person, she represented Scotland very ferociously and passionately.
“I’m in favour of independence. I’m not massively optimistic about that happening. The question a lot of people always ask is, how can Scotland pay for itself? That’s not the question to ask. The question is, would it serve the country better to have its own government? We have a particular vision of the world, which is why I think it makes sense to have independence and we have many great stories to tell.”
Irvine Welsh’s Crime can be streamed on ITVX
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