Guilt – Revenge, Redemption, Shocks and Surprises in Final Series
The third and final instalment of Guilt – the award-winning comedy drama written by Neil Forsyth (The Gold) returns to BBC Scotland, BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.
Starring Mark Bonnar (Catastrophe, Line of Duty, The Rig and Unforgotten) and Jamie Sives (Chernobyl, Frontier, Game Of Thrones), the final part of the trilogy sees the brothers back together but enemies old, and new, cause them to seek ever more desperate solutions to their problems. Digging deep into their past, Max and Jake hope to finally find a future free of danger… and each other.
Joining Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives for Guilt’s final series are David Hayman (Help, Avenger), Amelia Isaac Jones (Beast of Burden), Tamsin Topolski (Slow Horses, The Diplomat), Isaura Barbé-Brown (The Gold, Toast of Tinseltown), Euan MacNaughton (Outlander, Bridgerton), Anita Vettesse (Mayflies, Vigil) and Anders Hayward (Life After Life).
Returning for the final part of the Guilt trilogy are series favourites Emun Elliott (The Gold, The Rig), Phyllis Logan (Downtown Abbey, Intergalactic), Greg McHugh (The A List, Man Vs Bee), Ellie Haddington (Motherland, Crime), Sara Vickers (The Watchmen, The Crown) and Henry Pettigrew (Payback, The Crown).
Guilt is written by Neil Forsyth (The Gold, Eric, Ernie and Me) and made by Expectation and Happy Tramp North for BBC Scotland and BBC Two.
The series launches on 25 April with all episodes dropping on BBC iPlayer. Episode 1 airs on BBC Scotland on Tuesday 25 April at 10pm and BBC Two on Thursday 27 April at 9pm.
Interview with Mark Bonnar (Max)
What has Max been through, and more to the point, done, to get to this point?
Max has spent the last year sleeping above the pub in Chicago, with the resident mice, wishing for better things. For him, it’s a pauper’s existence and that’s not something he’s used to. So of course, there’s always something on the back burner with Max. And it proves so – as we find out very quickly.
How has it been playing Max over three series?
It’s been an absolute joy, a total gift to play. I’ve said this before, but Neil Forsyth writes the words that I love to say. He’s not only an incredible storyteller, but a wordsmith as well – they feel amazing in your mouth. He has a knack of doing all these separate fascinating strands of a story and managing to tie them all together in a really funny and dramatic way.
When he first started out with the show, he said there was a lack of anything like this on British television, a ‘dramedy’ – like the Americans do so well, where the show is very serious, but has a lot of funny moments in it. Before, we didn’t really do that – a crime drama was a crime drama; a hospital drama was a hospital drama – there were very few jokes. I think Neil’s broken the mould.
Max and Jake were estranged for most of last series, having both been revealed to betray each other. How does Max feel about being in the same boat as Jake again and being forced to work together?
I think Max loves Jake and I think he wants better for him. Not for Max but for Jake, he wants Jake to just, bloody concentrate and step up to the plate! To get his head out the clouds! I think he finds it difficult but it’s a labour of love.
In his quest for revenge, Max went through somewhat of an emotional awakening in the last series. Has this changed him at all?
I wouldn’t say it’s changed him. I would say when he’s in the company of that particular person who got under his skin, then he changes but I don’t think it’s changed his behaviour on a daily basis. I think he’s still out for number one.
The three themes of Guilt are guilt, revenge and redemption… which one do you think is most befitting of Max and why?
I think if somebody does Max wrong, he finds it hard not to seek some kind of reparation, so I would probably say revenge. I think guilt is a bit too self-aware for Max. I think he needs something more sociopathic for revenge.
And do you think Max and Jake can redeem themselves?
Definitely – I think they’re capable of it. But I don’t think Jake needed to redeem himself, actually. Jake’s just caught from the word go. From the very first series, he’s caught in a situation that’s not really of his making. He’s gaslit and harried and herded into this corner that he doesn’t really want to be a part of. But Max has just got such a forceful and strong and quick personality that Jake goes along with it. So I think that Jake never really needed redemption. I think he’s just trapped!
The series kicks off with Max and Jake up to their eyes in… cow’s muck, what was it like filming that scene?
It was great fun. Who can’t enjoy crawling through muck? It was our Shawshank moment!
Guilt has been received so well by audiences and also won several awards. Are you proud to have been a part of this story, and specifically this Scottish success story?
Absolutely. The wonderful thing about it is Scottish people getting in touch and you can sense that feeling of pride that they have for something that is totally homegrown. And it still has that human aspect to it so it can cross borders, which is why it’s on in God knows how many countries: Sweden, France, Germany, Russia, as well as the Indian version that they did themselves. It’s a universal story but something that we made in Scotland with Scottish writers, Scottish crew. It was a bunch of Scots that made it and it showed the world what we can do. So I’m overflowing with pride about that. To be a part of that is incredible.
We’ll see lots of familiar faces returning to this final instalment. How was it reuniting with these actors on set?
It was really great. No spoilers! But I mean, it was fantastic. It was really nice to grind some old hatchets!
Will you be sad to say goodbye to Max and why?
Of course. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the show. But I think what Neil has done is absolutely right. It was time and I think the mark of a class act, as Neil is, is knowing to get out while we’re on top.
And finally, what can audiences expect from the finale of Guilt?
I think it’s the perfect meld of the two series actually. It’s got a very serious heart but it still retains its humour, so it’s the best blend of it all.
Interview with Jamie Sives (Jake)
Can you explain a little bit about what kind of guy Jake is and where we left him?
Jake’s gone to America. Basically all that Jake needs in life is just to be able to pay for things. That’s as far as his aspiration goes. He’s in love with Angie. He’s out of Edinburgh. He’s on a new quest. So I think he’s much happier than Angie and Max are at the lack of finance. He’s okay with that.
What is about his brother that you think Jake can’t let go of, despite being repeatedly conned by him?
Max is flesh and blood isn’t he and I think what transpires later, when they meet their dad [played by David Hayman], they’ve been at loggerheads, a lot, all three of them. But there’s something tight about all three of them, and I think Jake, and Max are just two elements of that sort of a triumvirate that has obviously been through lots of emotional psychological warfare, but have just remained connected somehow. And I think he just always remains connected. And because Jake is very compassionate and a trusting person. So I think he does see the good in Max, although he probably won’t vocalise that. He just thinks his brother’s gonna come good one day.
As this series opens, Max has been working with him for a year. Has Jake retained his natural naivety or is he wiser to his brother’s tendencies and more able to protect himself?
Jake just seems to be naive to his brother’s tendencies. I don’t think he’s naive in much else. He is a survivor. He’s had it tougher than Max and he’s been okay and looked after himself. He doesn’t need much to get by. He just seems to be very naive when it comes to the story of Max. But again, I think he’s just a trusting person. It’s his big brother as well. It’s kind of simple as that – it’s flesh and blood.
Is there hope for real trust to be established between the brothers? And does Jake hope that?
Well that’s a different question. I think Jake does hope trust can be established. Whether there is hope, that’s in the hands of Neil Forsyth!
The three themes of Guilt are guilt, revenge and redemption… which one do you think is most befitting of Jake and why? And do you think Jake and Max can redeem themselves?
For Jake, I think it’s got to be redemption. I think he leans towards that more than the other two. Looking at all three themes together, I think he’s redemptive rather than guilt-racked, or vengeful. The brothers are heading towards redemption in a very cack-handed way. They’re very good at that.
The series kicks off with Jake and Max up to their eyes in cow’s muck, what was it like filming that scene?
Up to my eyes in cow’s muck is my most natural state so I’m very comfortable with that. And Mark took to it like a duck to water, seemed to be at home!
How has the process been from start to finish on Guilt?
I’ve been very lucky with work, but this has been the highlight of my career, hands down. The quality of the script – it’s top-class writing. Neil Forsyth just has this amazing ability to just see that whole Scottish thing from a very objective angle. He changes the movements and introduces new elements at the perfect time. The dialogue’s sort of fizzy in parts and really touching and moving in parts. It’s very orchestral. It’s just right and it’s great. It goes a long way to the enjoyment of a job. I’m so so proud to be part of Neil Forsyth’s incredible piece of work, and a Scottish-made series. And working with Mark has been a dream. It’s incredible to think that we were in the same class at school all those years ago, running away together at Stirling Castle. And now to look at this, which I think is one of the best things Scotland’s ever produced, and arguably, Britain has, in a short-form drama. I think it’s absolutely amazing.
Has the series and its reception been what you expected? Is there an extra element of pride in it being Scottish?
Absolutely, but I don’t think it’s overtly Scottish. I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s not too Scottish, you could transpose that anywhere. And it’s done so well around the world.
You get things like Scorsese movies where they could only happen in New York and New Jersey and or other stories where it could only happen in London or Scotland because of the cultural aspect. But I don’t think this is one of them. There is a very overt Scottish reaction to certain situations, but Neil avoided that very cleverly. This could happen anywhere, it’s not particularly domestic. It’s just an intriguing, beautiful yarn you can transport anywhere.
In fact, it’s been remade in India, so there you go. I think that’s the stroke of genius.
What do you think would be Jake’s happy ever after and would he be capable of that?
What would be his happy ever after? He doesn’t want much. He just wants an easy life and to listen to his records with the girl of his dreams. I’m sure he’d want his brother to be nice!
And finally, what can audiences expect from the finale of Guilt?
I think it’s going to be a fantastic series. The viewers will probably have a yearning to see more but it’s a brilliant way to finish the trilogy. I think it could be shaping up to be the finest season yet.
Interview with Phyllis Logan (Maggie)
Are you happy to be back as Maggie in this series?
Yes, absolutely! Because I was a fan of the show from watching the first series. I wasn’t in it but I just loved it. It was so exciting to be asked to then come and play Maggie. And then for it to go to a third series and to be reprising the role was just a joy.
Do you like playing a criminal mastermind? What makes Maggie such an appealing character to play?
It’s quite out of my usual playing range. So yes, it’s always nice to do something different. I suppose she is a bit of a mastermind. For me, it’s nice to play a bit mean! That’s always fun to do. Also Maggie’s quite funny as well. It’s all in the writing, of course, because Neil Forsyth is just a bit of a genius. He just writes so beautifully and so you get the humour through of all the main characters. But it’s great fun to be a meanie.
With the huge critical success of Guilt, and your own BAFTA for your role, tell us a bit about how it’s been working on a Scottish production?
That was an added bonus to doing the job because it meant going up to Scotland. The first time I did it, there were still a lot of restrictions going on. So, it could have been quite bleak if it weren’t for the work! I was stuck in a hotel room when I wasn’t working, having to stay away from home so that was quite challenging. But because the playing this part and working with all the wonderful crew – a lot of whom I’ve worked with in the past – it was like a big old family. That was nice. And to come back and do the third series when all the restrictions were lifted, it just gave it an added boost. To be back in the role of Maggie and be able to go out and mix with everyone properly again was so nice. We had great fun on set.
What have the reactions been since your role in Guilt?
It’s been so positive. It’s been funny with my family seeing me and saying “you’re a bit of a b-word, aren’t you?” But, you’d like to think with each character you play, there’s something of yourself in there and I could also relate to characters back in my childhood, who had a nip to them. Some people are funny and sort of cruel but kind at the same time.
Did you enjoy returning to Scotland to film Guilt? Any memorable moments on set?
Being back up in Scotland was like a bit of a party. Like when I was doing Downton Abbey for example, and we’d all get back together after a gap of maybe six months. It was the same here. We were all back and it was mostly the same crew, so it was just like getting together with the family again, it was really nice. This time, during filming I was able to see my sister, who lives down on the coast and have dinner at friends’ houses in Glasgow. So that was a difference and it was lovely. And then of course, the BAFTA Awards happened in the middle of production so that was all very exciting.
On set, my abiding memories were how much of a joy it was working with everybody. Just getting to say those words of Neil Forsyth was amazing. I can go on too much about this, because it’s just a gift. What he gave us all from these scripts was incredible. Also watching Mark and Jamie at work was brilliant. They have great fun together. They are like brothers – naughty brothers. They’re just terrific and you can tell they just love each other and take great joy from playing these characters.
Being on set with everyone was just brilliant fun. I do remember with Jamie and Mark, when I’d have to exit out of a scene, I’d be in the background, watching them continue with it. I’d just be stifling laughter really, because they’re so funny, the pair of them together. And the dialogue is so great, and they perform it so well. You do have to control yourself not to burst out laughing and ruin everything.
Does it feel like an exciting role – having turned the initial image of Maggie on its head in the last series?
I was quite stunned, because I felt that at the end of the last series, Maggie’s probably going to be banged up in prison by now! So when they asked me to do the next season I was so surprised! I was imagining all sorts of scenarios and it wasn’t like that at all, which was great. It’s always nice to shock people or surprise them, at least.
What is it about Max and Jake which makes them Maggie’s arch enemies?
I suppose because Maggie just sees them as being idiots. The idea that this pair of idiots could get one over on her is just doing her in. It just doesn’t compute.
Maggie gradually emerged as a real force in this story. Now she’s firmly in the seat of power, what can the audience expect from her?
There are quite a few surprises to come. As far as Maggie is concerned, many a person might have just hung up their boots in the underworld of crime in Edinburgh and said, I’ve had enough. But no, she’s game for everything and she’s in a position where she has to do something about it. Things aren’t as rosy as they might have been for Maggie and she wants to carry on the legacy of her crime family, as it were. I think the audience can expect another few shocks along the way. Don’t rule her out altogether. She’s not down and out entirely!
Interview with Emun Elliott (Kenny)
Is it nice to be back playing Kenny again?
If it was up to me, I would play Kenny for the rest of my days. I was so lucky to be invited into the world of Guilt initially in the first series. Kenny really wasn’t the type of character that I’d ever played before. Before, I was always like a goody baddy or a baddy goody character, who was right on the line of morality. But with Kenny, he’s a follower, a real innocent and he’s vulnerable. And I have such an affinity for him. I really like him and that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to play characters that are questionable. But with Kenny, it’s just a case of exploring the deep well of humanity that comes with a character like that.
Where do we find Kenny when Guilt returns and what awaits him this series?
At the beginning of series three, Kenny’s in a good place. He’s still with Yvonne. Things are going really well. They’re living together and trying to get pregnant. Even though Kenny has had children before in a previous relationship, he’s worried that he might be unable to conceive. He’s read somewhere, that the key to successful fertility is almonds. So we first meet Kenny in a place of great hope and also cramming as many almonds down his throat as possible.
Kenny is long-suffering when it comes to his relationship with Max and Jake – why do you think he keeps on getting drawn into their chaos?
I think with Kenny, there’s this mad duality to his relationship with Max in the sense that he knows Max isn’t good for him. But he’s always looked up to Max, who’s this unlikely hero for Kenny because they both came from the same part of town. They both went to the same school, are from the same sort of working-class background. Kenny watched as Max went on to become this really successful lawyer. He got a big house and got married and was able to get out of the estate and have this great successful life. So in a way, even though Kenny knows he’s poison, there’s this morbid fascination about how Max was able to get out of where Kenny still finds himself. The reason Kenny still gets drawn in is that inkling of curiosity that he can’t get rid of. Also Kenny’s relationship with alcohol is not that dissimilar to his relationship with Max. It’s something that he can’t resist but will always get him into trouble.
Do you like playing Kenny and are there any similarities between you both?
I think we both have an appreciation for bold facial hair! Kenny has a gentleness and an empathy and an understanding when it comes to his emotional intelligence and I hope I’ve got a bit of that too. We’re both from Edinburgh and grew up in and around Leith. So there are similarities in those things, but there are probably more differences than similarities.
When it comes to enjoying revisiting him and playing him, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun with a character.
With the huge critical success of Guilt, tell us a bit about how it’s been working on a Scottish production?
When I first started out, I always leapt at the chance to get as far away from home as possible and just, get on a plane. Go somewhere for months to do a film or TV show and that was the dream. But now, as I get a bit older, and as the industry changes, something seems to be happening up in Scotland. There’s so much going on. If it was up to me, I would just work in Scotland all the time. Because there’s a great sense of place here, I think there’s so much to be explored up here that we haven’t seen on screen. There’s a camaraderie every time crews get together. Because it’s such a small industry up here, you tend to know at least half the crew on every production you do, so really feels like a family and like coming home. So I think the more work going on up in Scotland, the better. I’ll jump at the chance to work up here.
What have the reactions been since your role in Guilt?
Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to have this great affection for the series. Not just the series, but especially for this character. People really seem to relate to Kenny. People want him to succeed and want him to be okay. Everyone who I’ve spoken to in the street, or even within the industry, friends and family just seem to love it. I find it quite hard to believe that it’s all coming to an end.
Did you enjoy returning to Scotland to film Guilt? Any memorable moments on set?
Well, every moment on a Guilt set is a memorable moment. The best thing about it is working at home in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We also went up to the country, up to Loch Lomond. Scotland has beautiful people who are generally up for a laugh and friendly, don’t take themselves too seriously and that very much carries through onto the set. I so enjoy working here and with the Guilt cast and crew. As we say, it’s like one big happy family. I love being up here with Mark and Jamie and also with Greg McHugh, who’s come further into the series as Teddy and is fantastic. The four of us being together – because we’re all Scottish lads – we have great camaraderie and we just have a laugh. It’s quite hard to believe that we’re being paid to be at work.
You’ve been in Guilt from the very beginning, what can fans expect from the third and final instalment?
I think to start with the most exciting thing about this series, is the fact that Max and Jake are finally back together on the screen, because obviously that’s where Guilt began. To have those two together again, I think, brings real heart and energy to the storytelling. Also, all of our favourite characters from series one and series two are built into this final push. So we see people like Ruth Bradley coming back. And actors like Greg McHugh are given much more scope, to do their thing. There’s just a wealth of talent on screen. The storytelling, I think, is better than ever. As Neil Forsyth’s star has ascended, he’s just unstoppable. I think you can really feel that in this series, and it feels like a real development in terms of his intricacy and level of storytelling. It’s for sure the best one yet.
What will you miss most about playing Kenny?
What I’ll miss most about playing Kenny is just being part of the story. I think the show’s done so much for Scottish television. It’s really sort of raised the bar in terms of its aesthetic and storytelling, that just being part of Neil Forsyth’s world is something that I will miss hugely. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to work on other shows with him and there’s something so special about this one. I’ll also miss the people. I’ll miss Neil. I’ll miss all the directors that we’ve worked with over the years. I’m especially going to miss Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives, because they’ve both become really good friends. We’ll definitely stay in touch as we’ve had the opportunity to form these beautiful friendships whilst making this wonderful, wonderful story.
Interview with Neil Forsyth (Writer and Executive Producer)
How do you feel about Guilt coming to an end?
I definitely feel sad, and already nostalgic, if you can feel nostalgic for something that’s not quite finished. But at the same time I’m very happy with the decision to bring the show to a close with this series. I think the story has come to a natural end, and we are finishing strongly without outstaying our welcome.
Did you know from the start where the brothers would end up and where their story would go?
I didn’t even know what was going to happen after the opening scene of episode one, let alone 12 episodes later. But I knew the characters and the worlds I wanted to send them into, so hoped the story would come. And the ending that I reached felt both surprising and inevitable, like all good endings should.
The three themes of Guilt are guilt, revenge and redemption… can you tell us a little more about that?
I like running that unifying thematic thread across characters and stories, though you have to be careful not to overdo it. Specifically those three themes felt like natural progressions within a trilogy, each one reactive to what came before.
The last series was complex and layered, with several different storylines interwoven. Can the strands all be tied up for last in the Guilt trilogy?
I like to think that this series ties up strands from both the first and second series, which was hard work but hopefully I managed it. I definitely think you have to give a viewer who has stuck by you over three series a satisfactory ending for as many of the characters and storylines as you can. Knowing this was the final series, and that being my decision, helped a lot. I didn’t have to leave anything open to hopefully get another series, I could concentrate on closing things down.
Jake and Max are treading water as this series starts. Without giving anything away, do they both begin to get a sense of purpose other than survival?
Yes, they both reach a stage where they don’t just want to stay alive, but they want a better and different life. They are old enough to realise that something needs to change – whether that’s something they can choose or is foisted upon them. They also realise, I think, that they can operate independently of the other – physically and psychologically.
The first episode opens with a high-octane scene, where a young woman puts herself in a dangerous position. It doesn’t end well. Have you introduced new blood to this series?
Yes, one of the really fun things with Guilt is bringing in new characters and finding brilliant new actors to play them. There are some fantastic new actors in this series who I think have blended in seamlessly with the quite specific tone we try to hit with the show.
There are returning favourites coming back for series three. Which character/s do you have a soft spot for? All of them have shades of grey but are there some you root for more than others?
I was delighted to bring a number of characters back, but the prospect of Ellie Haddington (Sheila) returning was in my mind from the moment I started writing the story of this series. The important thing is that you are not bringing people back for glorified cameos, you need to bring them back with a real narrative purpose accompanying them.
The last series unravelled the story behind gangster Roy Lynch and that his (supposedly ex) wife Maggie wasn’t who she seemed. Now with Maggie at the helm of the organisation, how will this new relationship with the brothers develop?
I love watching Maggie and the brothers together, there’s an oddly maternal aspect to their conversations, despite the subject matter. They both seem automatically cowed in the presence of a stern older woman, which I think is quite an East Coast Scots thing.
With a raft of awards behind Guilt, was there a certain pressure to deliver on the promise of this final series?
No, I couldn’t think like that or I’d risk second guessing myself. I just had to take my usual approach, which is write an entertaining story driven by interesting characters. My test with any script is, why is the viewer still watching this after 10minutes? While I like to think I write stories with a bit of craft in them, I don’t forget that television should ultimately be entertainment.
How important has humour been in the writing? Dealing with dark subject matter doesn’t always lend itself to comedy. Was this a difficult balance to strike?
I see humour as a vital part of the dramatist’s armoury and I’m always confused when it’s not used. A drama that runs for six hours without anyone saying anything remotely amusing is, for me, completely unrealistic. Humour is one of the main ways that human beings react to pressure, threat and fear and if it’s absent then I think that detracts from the show. I never force it, and I don’t make story choices to set up funny lines, but if it feels to me that the character in that moment would say something that is funny, then that’s great and in it goes.
What do you think Max and Jake really want from each other in the end?
I think they both want the other to let go of whatever hold they have on them. I think they want to be respected by the other, for their qualities to be occasionally recognised – to go with the very regular appraisal of their flaws. I think they want to see more of what they love in the other, and less of what they detest. I think they want to find some peace and, at some level, they both think the secret to finding that peace lies with the other.
And if you had to be one of the brothers, which one would you be and why?
Jake, but just for the hair.
What can fans expect from the third and final instalment of Guilt?
I hope they can expect a good story, a chance to see the characters be driven to new depths of emotional discovery and desperation and an ending to the Guilt story that they are happy with. And over the years I hope we’ve offered some entertainment and escape from life’s travails.
Thank you for reading this post.