Billy's an evil psycho, but he's a joy to play...

IS the reign of terror of Shieldinch's most hated man finally about to end?

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Sandy Morton faces judgment day as villain Billy Kennedy
Sandy Morton faces judgment day as villain Billy Kennedy

Tonight is judgment time for gangster Billy Kennedy, played by Sandy Morton, when he faces trial for the murder of Paul Malick.

In typical style, Billy isn't about to go down without a fight.

"I'm sure there are some people who are really pleased that Billy's up for trial. Quite right - I think he's evil," says Sandy.

All the pressure at the trial is on Jimmy Mullen, played by Billy McElhaney, as the burden of proof of the whole case rests on his shoulders.

As Billy covered his tracks after Paul's death, he dragged an unwilling Jimmy in to help.

Now Billy isn't about to let Jimmy forget all that he has seen and done and, with the help of his recently released cellmate, sends a threatening message to Jimmy.

Jimmy doesn't receive it directly - his daughter Madonna is handed an envelope at the school gates and inside is a sympathy card with a sinister message.

The thought that one of Billy's men could get so close to his family, terrifies Jimmy.

Whether Billy can silence Jimmy is another matter.

"Billy is definitely under pressure, but it remains to be seen how much stress he can put on Jimmy," says Sandy.

"He won't rest easy wherever he is and I think that's the way Billy has been all his life. He's vindictive to say the least."

Billy won't give up easy. A terrified Kelly-Marie phones the police after Jimmy receives an anonymous threatening phone call.

Will steps in to offer police protection, but is that enough to stop Billy seeking revenge?

"Billy is feeling a certain amount of trepidation facing the murder trial, not fear, but perhaps this is the heaviest thing that has ever happened to him. It's getting close. This is perhaps the least confident he's been."

He adds: "In one of the last scenes I had a few weeks ago when Billy was with his lawyer in prison, it was the lawyer who was more depressed and worried.

"Billy says he's not going down for this and in a way is comforting the lawyer."

The hard man creates fear in the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of Shieldinch but Billy has made too many enemies along the way.

He managed to survive a murderous revenge plot by the skin of his teeth but he could be the cat who has used up all of its nine lives.

Despite all that, Billy has been a joy to play, according to Sandy.

"I know he's not the most likeable person in the world but I think he's very funny. He has a very dry sense of humour - he is a psychopath, there's no getting away from that. He is evil."

Sandy is best remembered for playing the ghillie Golly Mackenzie in the BBC television series Monarch of the Glen - a character who couldn't be more different from Billy Kennedy.

"You just have to delve deep and see what comes up," says Sandy.

"The character is there, Billy is a gift of a part. You have to be careful when you play such parts that you don't overplay, because you don't have to."

His long career has included roles in Take The High Road, Silent Scream, Second Sight, Looking After Jo Jo, Valhalla Rising and Shetland.

He was the first actor to play Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus in the radio adaptations of the book, and says one of his favourite roles was as the manager of a rock'n'roll singer in drama Waiting for Elvis.

"That part was a joy because he was a complete tube but very funny," says Sandy.

The Glasgow-born actor went to London to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama then came back north to find work.

It was when he had a television role in London that he moved south again and fell in love with his landlady.

The family now live in London though he enjoys trips home to film River City.

"Glasgow has changed since I was a boy but I love it," says Sandy, who grew up in Hillington and Cardonald.

"We used to laugh when we'd see a foreign film and people would be sitting outside at tables and we'd say, that would never happen in Glasgow. Of course it has now and it's great, I love it."

l River City, BBC 1, tonight, 8pm.

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