I want to play a boxer, a cow­boy, an as­tro­naut but in­stead I’m on a land­fill site in Mid­dles­brough ...and lov­ing it

– Ac­tor Jon Mor­ri­son Star of TV’S Vera is down in the dumps for new se­ries but couldn’t be hap­pier as he looks back on ac­claimed ca­reer

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Bill Gibb [email protected]

As

an ac­tor, Jon Mor­ri­son is still full of am­bi­tion and, while he might be look­ing back on 40 years of screen suc­cess, he still has dreams of mak­ing a cow­boy movie or a sci-fi epic.

In­stead, re­turn­ing to one of his most pop­u­lar TV roles has seen him plough­ing through a foul-smelling rub­bish dump in Mid­dles­brough.

But, Jon says, de­spite the smell, he is de­lighted to be back in lon­grun­ning hit Vera, play­ing Brenda Blethyn’s side­kick de­spite one episode’s nox­ious back­drop.

He said: “It’s eas­ily the smelli­est place I’ve ever worked. There were all sorts of gases seep­ing up that made it a hard­core set to work on.

“The crew had on spe­cial­ist suits – but they just threw us ac­tors out into the mid­dle of it!”

Jon has been play­ing DC Kenny Lock­hart since the first se­ries but says, at 72, the show’s star re­mains an in­spi­ra­tion.

He said: “She amazes me. “She’s in al­most ev­ery scene and works ev­ery day from dawn un­til dusk. She is to­tally in­spi­ra­tional and I’ve got a feel­ing she’ll still be do­ing it when I’m not. I think she’ll see us all out.”

But the Glas­gow-born ac­tor has him­self proved in­spi­ra­tional to other Scots stars, as Robert Car­lyle cred­its him with pro­vid­ing the im­pe­tus to pur­sue his per­form­ing dream.

Jon had filmed Gary Old­man’s Nil By Mouth, star­ring along­side Ray Win­stone, and was at the 1998 BAFTAs where the movie won Best Bri­tish Film.

“Bobby was up for The Full Monty, for which he won Best Ac­tor,” said Jon.

“He came up to me on the night, gave me a big hug and said he wouldn’t have been an ac­tor if it wasn’t for me.

“It was through Just An­other Satur­day be­cause he said I was the first per­son he’d seen with just an or­di­nary, con­tem­po­rary Scot­tish ac­cent, not a posh one.

“It was some­body talk­ing the way he did. It was very nice of him to say that.”

Just An­other Satur­day, from 1975, and The Ele­phant’s Grave­yard, from the fol­low­ing year, were the two ground­break­ing BBC Play for To­day dra­mas that made Jon’s name.

He starred along­side Billy Con­nolly in the Peter McDougall films, with Just An­other Satur­day, with its Orange Walk back­ground, in par­tic­u­lar mak­ing waves.

“For a kid like me, work­ing with Billy was a big deal,” said Jon.

“And with Billy and Peter to­gether no­body got a word in.

“They were in­flu­en­tial peo­ple and the sec­tar­ian sub­ject mat­ter in the 1970s was a taboo. We were ba­si­cally thrown out of Glas­gow while mak­ing it.

“The po­lice said that they weren’t

The Big Yin got a Gib­son gui­tar case in denim, like Levi’s jeans

happy with a scene of vi­o­lence out­side a pub, so lo­ca­tions in Ed­in­burgh had to be recced in a day and we de­camped there for the rest of shoot.”

Off set, mu­sic con­tin­ues to be a pas­sion for Jon, who takes his acous­tic gui­tars on the set of Vera, hav­ing re­cov­ered from a bad re­ac­tion to med­i­ca­tion that left his hands weak.

“I was in a band called The Out­fit with my mate Chris Glen, from the Sen­sa­tional Alex Har­vey Band,” said Jon.

“I was do­ing that for about five years be­fore I had this prob­lem with my hands.

“It was re­ally bad for about two years and I had to leave the band. I couldn’t even lift the gui­tar up, never mind play it.

“It was an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion and I’m in a lot bet­ter nick now since I stopped tak­ing it.”

Jon, who is back liv­ing in Glas­gow af­ter years in Lon­don, has been in ev­ery episode of Vera bar the pi­lot, the only ever-present along­side Blethyn. It is one of ITV’s big­gest hits, sold world­wide, and the next se­ries will be num­ber 10.

“Hav­ing the prospect of a 10th se­ries is amaz­ing as it all started in 2009,” said Jon. “I’m in­cred­i­bly proud to be the only other per­son al­ways there. Work­ing with Brenda has been such a plea­sure, she just makes life eas­ier.

“Film­ing is the high­light of my year.”

Work on Vera takes up much of Jon’s film­ing sched­ule and while it’s his pri­mary fo­cus, he says he still has other act­ing am­bi­tions left.

“There’s still so much on my bucket list that I haven’t achieved,” he adds.

“I’ve never been in a box­ing movie, a cow­boy movie or a sci-fi movie de­spite hav­ing read all of Philip K Dick’s books. And I’ve never re­ally done pe­riod pieces, I don’t think I had the right look.”

In the mean­time, Jon is back in the long-run­ning ITV hit, based on the books of Ann Cleeves, which re­turns tonight on ITV at 8pm.

Vera’s long brown trench­coat and hat have be­come her trade­marks while Jon’s char­ac­ter DC Kenny Lock­hart has his own wax jacket, which Jon has worn since the first se­ries, dated suits and ter­ri­ble ties.

He said: “They re­ally help the char­ac­ter and Kenny has be­come more in­te­gral and use­ful, less of just a butt of Vera’s with­er­ing put-downs.”

Vera is back tonight on ITV at 8pm.

Cast as wan­der­ing soul­mates on screen in the Ele­phant’s Grave­yard in 1976, Jon and Billy Con­nolly be­came firm friends.

Jon, who played one of the two job­less leads who come across each other by chance while pre­tend­ing to their fam­i­lies they are work­ing, said of the Big Yin: “He was a bril­liant char­ac­ter and when I was young I was im­mensely im­pressed by him.

“When we were film­ing The Ele­phant’s Grave­yard he had just signed with his man­ager Frank Lynch.

“He said he’d told Frank that if he bought him a Gib­son mono­tone banjo and a Gib­son J200 gui­tar then he’d sign with him.

“Frank duly went out and bought them and Billy had the cases for them both done in denim, like Levi’s. They had wee pock­ets on the front and he used to stick the New Mu­si­cal Ex­press in them and swag­ger about.

“We had a break one week­end and he loaned me the J200 which was such a beau­ti­ful gui­tar.

“It was such a gen­er­ous thing, let­ting me take it away as it was new and cost a for­tune. There are great mem­o­ries and rem­i­nis­cences of the ’70s. It doesn’t do to for­get the past.”

Jon says Big Yin’s pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and men­tal tough­ness in deal­ing with his Parkin­son’s is just what he’d ex­pect.

“Billy does have the fight in him and that’s strength in any­one. I think he’s sur­pris­ing ev­ery­one ev­ery month. It’s re­ally good to see.”

In Just An­other Satur­day

Billy Con­nolly al­lowed Jon to bor­row his Gib­son J200

Jon and Billy in Ele­phant’s Grave­yard

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