Bobby Robertson is a Scottish actor who was born and raised in Edinburgh. After some time in theatre, he moved into film and television and has starred in a number of short films.
In this interview, he discusses dropping out of school to pursue his love for acting, the process of writing, producing and starring in his short film Wild is the North (2018), and acting in Rubicon Films’ most recent folk-horror, The Droving (2020). He also has a role in Benediction (2021), starring Jeremy Irvine and Peter Capaldi (due out in 2021).
Acting inspirations and attending drama school
FF: How did you get into acting?
BR: When I was a really young boy I saw the Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) in particular, which made me want to act. I loved the characters in the films, especially Han Solo who I thought was so cool I wanted to be him. And then Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was in the cinemas and I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I guess back then I realised Harrison Ford was my hero!
I think life experience helps you to become a great actor.
And then I saw Sean Connery as James Bond, as well as his other films. Each time his films were on TV I was reminded that Big Sean was also from Edinburgh.
These great actors inspired me to apply for drama school, albeit briefly, as I was skipping my last year at school to attend – once I got in, of course. The few months I attended were brilliant. My parents didn’t know, but the truancy letters were coming in and I had to leave because they couldn’t help me financially and my Dad wanted me to work with him in Leith Docks. I only had a few months left at school and, just before leaving, my Dad was unfortunately made redundant. I joined the Royal Mail but I still did community theatre at that time.
Coming from a working-class Scottish background
FF: Do you think your working-class background influences your work?
BR: I think life experience helps you to become a great actor. Whether you go through times of joy such as births or marriages in the family, or times of tragedy such as the death of a relative or a friend.
I lived in a working-class family where a lot of hard living was done. Living in a family with parents that worked lots of hours to provide for their family, pay the bills and go on good holidays. Often my parents got ratty with one another because of the long hours they worked but you couldn’t blame them. Experiencing it wasn’t pleasant at times but my Mum and Dad loved each other for nearly 60 years, until I lost my Mum a few years ago.
During those times as a kid I experienced lots of emotional joy and tragedy which I often channel through my acting.
Advice for aspiring actors: networking is vital
FF: What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
BR: I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of young people want to apply for drama school to be the next big actor but some get bored with the college experience and end up leaving and giving up acting altogether. Attitudes about wanting to be an actor have to be right.
I lived in a working-class family where a lot of hard living was done.
I have had numerous years working in other jobs, apart from acting, to earn money. I have had numerous agents who were good for me at that time, but I had to leave them to evolve and grow as an actor. The agent I am with now is perfect for me. They help me if I need it and never ever give up on me if I’m stuck. Furthermore, they are great actors themselves, which helps. I love them.
Don’t just find the first agent and wait for them to email you or call you for work straight away. You need to network, meet other filmmakers, directors and actors on networking nights. Or even message the local college to see if their filmmakers in training need actors to be in their short films so you can have something to build on reel-wise. It can take a while but a lot of people nowadays are tech savvy which helps.
Get a job to tide you over. We all need money, so find any work to do for now. It never did me any harm and I also believe that working with the public has helped me as an actor.
FF: What actors, past or present, inspire you?
BR: Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are the obvious actors that have inspired me. I love all of them. Their films have made me laugh, cry and kept me on the edge of my seat. Every one of them is charismatic and legendary.
Starring in Rubicon Films’ folk-horror, The Droving (2020)
FF: You recently starred in The Droving (2020) which is available on Amazon Prime at the time of this interview. What was that experience like and how did the opportunity come about?
BR: I got messaged by Rubicon Films’ Jonathan Russell who co-wrote The Droving (2020). He said he liked the clips I was putting up on social media and wondered if I could chat to George Popov who also co-wrote and directed the film. George and myself chatted and we both got on like a house on fire.
You need to network, meet other filmmakers, directors and actors…
I got the part in the film and went down to Cumbria to film my scenes. It was great working with Daniel Oldroyd who also worked on AMC’s The Terror (2018), and Suzy Frances Garton who is a fantastic actress. I watched them both in Rubicon’s last film Hex (2017) on Amazon Prime and thought they were both brilliant in it and looked forward to working with them.
The experience was sensational, especially filming in Penrith and Ambleside during the Winter Droving Festival they have around late October. Working with a talented bunch of lovely people who made me feel so welcome was a beautiful experience and Jonathan Russell’s family welcomed me with open arms. I’ll never forget it.
Moving behind the camera
FF: You wrote, starred in, and produced Wild is the North (2018). What did you learn from the filmmaking process and is there anything that you would change if you were to do it again?
BR: I enjoyed bringing in a great cast for Wild is the North (2018) and I assembled a crew who were at the top of their game at bringing the film to life. Up until then it needed another wee tweak at the end before deeming it complete and entering it into festivals.
If I was to change anything, I would have done more takes for each scene. Although you want to make the first film as good as you can, it’s always going to be trial and error which will stand me in good stead for next time I want to make a film. The experience was nice, although organising it was taxing and too stressful.
FF: Do you see yourself moving behind the camera more, with writing and producing, or will acting remain your focus?
BR: Acting is my first love but I’m really enjoying my writing just now and I am currently writing my first novel which is exciting. Researching and writing Wild is the North (2018) has really given me the writing buzz, especially writing about real characters that existed nearly 1000 years ago.
After Wild is the North (2018), I then went on to write Living in the Room which is my first ghost story that I hope can be made into a short film. I also hope to one day write my first theatre play that can be shown at the Edinburgh Festival and tour up and down the country which would be a dream.
Editor: Keren Davies
Second Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams