Black Watch star in new play at Oran Mor

ACTOR Michael Nardone offers a wry smile at the notion he is either handcuffing people or pointing a gun at their heads.

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Harry Ward, left, Michael Nardone and Dan Boyd, right, are appearing  in Operation Phantom Fury
Harry Ward, left, Michael Nardone and Dan Boyd, right, are appearing in Operation Phantom Fury

He is well known for his stint in BBC soap River City, in which he played Detective Chief Inspector Whiteside, the cop with the very dark soul.

And the actor enjoyed huge headlines from his time spent in Black Watch, the story of Fife soldiers sent to Iraq.

But Michael, it seems, can't stop playing authoritarian figures.

He played a de-commissioned centurion in epic TV series Rome, and last year he received international award nominations for his work in Canadian cop drama Durham County which, although it didn't make it on to the British screens, was sold to 122 countries.

Soon, Michael is set to appear in BBC drama series, Privates, a period piece, telling of the last intake of National Servicemen in 1961.

His part? Yes, he is playing a soldier again; an older, hardened, drill sergeant.

Right now, Michael is back in the service again, this time at Oran Mor, in Glasgow's West End, for the Play, Pie And A Pint series.

He is starring in Operation Phantom Fury, an account of a soldier's experience during the Iraq War.

Set in 2003, the reflections are "funny – but deeply shocking."

The Fife-born actor says: "It's a monologue. It's a story about the legacy of war in Iraq that will remain in that area for a long time.

"It is about asking if we will ever have the sense to learn about these conflicts, about trying to raise awareness of an issue. It is disturbing and tragic – and full of gallows humour."

The play is written by Paul Laverty, the Glasgow writer who has penned a series of Ken Loach films, including the recent The Angels' Share.

"I am raring to go," says Michael of the play. "I have never done a stage monologue before, only on screen.

"This has been quite hard, but I have been helped a great deal by Stasi Schaeffer, the director, who is a North American with a fantastic eye and a great imagination."

Michael does not mind being cast as the cop or the soldier.

"It's a bit bizarre," he says, grinning.

"In Durham County the character was both. He had been in the Army before he joined the police.

"But I loved playing him because he was so different, really dark and gritty.

"The storylines have also offered an insight into human nature. When you get parts like that you don't care if he is a cop or not."

Michael has a balanced overview on acting life. He is entirely appreciative of the work that comes his way and endeavours to put as much into his performance as he can.

"It is hard out there right now," says the father of four. "I am glad to be working.

"And the job does have its bonuses. I got to travel the world with Black Watch and I was in Morocco recently, playing a Roman again, for the American History Channel in the story of the Bible.

"I played a centurion called Cornelius, the first Roman to convert to Christianity, and it was a great trip."

Michael's acting work, however, is not limited to playing life's warriors. He worked with Jean Reno recently in Paris, playing an informer.

And he picked up powerful reviews for his performance at the Royal Court in London last year in Remembrance Day, a Russian political thriller.

This summer he filmed feature movie Wayland's Song, while his performance in the Citizens Theatre's reprisal of bleak tenement drama Men Should Weep was inspirational.

"You've got to keep your palette broad," he says of the work. "I tend to think no matter the job you do, you should invest the same amount of sweat and tears."

But haven't his fortunes changed on the back of playing a Canadian cop that has been sold to the world. Or at least most of it?

"Awards are one thing, but at the end of the day it was just another job," he shrugs. "You come back and look for the next one."

Or, in Michael's case, create the next one. He reveals he has started a production company with business partner Alex McSherry, developing film projects.

"And I have started to write a screenplay," he says proudly. "It's a fantastic experience – it is making me ask what I have learned in the past 25 years in the business."

And what has he learned?

"More than you think," he says, smiling. "It's incredible how much you absorb without even realising it."

l Operation Phantom Fury is part of a double bill with new play Loyalty by Mike Gonzalez, featuring Harry Ward and Dan Boyd. Oran Mor, lunchtimes, until Saturday.

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