Roisin is back in Shieldinch and making waves on Montego Street – and Aberdeen actor Joyce Falconer is loving every minute of it.
“It feels fantastic… like putting on old pair of comfortable slippers,” she said about returning to River City and back into the shoes of the fiery Doric character she last played in 2008 in the popular BBC Scotland soap.
“I’m surprised how easy it was to slip back into it. I was thinking ‘will I remember all the protocol and terminology’ but I am thoroughly enjoying myself.”
And Roisin McIntyre fans will enjoy it too – but this isn’t quite Roisin as they might remember her when she was part of the original ensemble of characters, with memorable story lines from winning the lottery to her reunion with secret love child Alanna.
She’s no longer the loud, brash nail technician from the Lazy Rays tanning salon who left for a new life in the States with her new man, Sonny. You can see a teaser for her return here
A fiery River City clash in minutes
“She returned from America and went back to Aberdeen and retrained off her own back. Now she’s a counsellor-stroke-therapist,” said Joyce.
Some things, though, haven’t changed.
It’s a matter of mere minutes into her first episode before Roisin is having a fiery clash with her old foe, Scarlett O’Hara, who’s not happy the counsellor’s first client is her son, Stevie.
“I know Sally Howitt, the actress who plays Scarlett, so when we had that major ding-dong it was good fun to play.”
Before she has her set-to, the episode sees Roisin visiting old haunts, now changed, and meeting new faces who she doesn’t know – and who don’t know her.
The establishing trip down memory lane was pretty much like Joyce’s own return to the purpose-built set in Dumbarton Studios where River City is filmed.
It was interesting for me thinking ‘oh, that use to be this and this used to be that’ and trying to remember where everybody stayed.”
“The Lazy Rays is now a community centre,” she said. “It was interesting for me thinking ‘oh, that use to be this and this used to be that’ and trying to remember where everybody stayed.”
While the exterior set hasn’t changed much – “it’s still typical Glasgow tenements” – Joyce said the studios where interior scenes are filmed are far larger to accommodate the many different characters now in play.
“I have lost my bearings in the studios… it’s a big shed.”
But she hasn’t lot her bearings as Roisin, despite the character’s gear change in career.
Hearts poured out to Roisin… and Joyce
“Roisin when she was in it originally used to have a lot of people coming up to her and pouring their heart out,” said Joyce.
“I don’t know if it’s her interest in the human condition or just nosiness.”
Folk pouring their heart out didn’t just happen on the telly. Joyce found people doing the same with her in real life.
I always felt very loved by the public. But saying that, there’s still some folk that cannae stand you.”
“That’s the nature of soap. People feel like they have a personal relationship with you. But I always felt very loved by the public. But saying that, there’s still some folk that cannae stand you.”
It’s a measure of that affection and the impact of both Roisin and Joyce that she still gets fans of River City coming up and chatting to her, even in the intervening years as she has carved out a path as a stage actor and writer.
“I find it quite amusing when you are theatre acting and come out, thinking you have completely transformed yourself, that folk are still calling you Roisin. I just accept that and take it as a compliment.”
Fan forums asked for Roisin’s return
Joyce reckons it was fan power – Roisin is still a firm favourite with fan forums constantly asking when she is coming back — that led to her return.
“This part of the counsellor-therapist was going to happen anyway and it was suggested was there any reason it couldn’t be Roisin? So I got a call out of the blue from the now producer Martin McCardie,” she said.
She might have been in America, but Roisin’s accent hasn’t softened. It’s as pure Doric as the day Joyce walked onto the set for the launch of River City in 2002.
That unmistakable voice was what etched Roisin into the public’s memory and affection, she reckons.
At that time people were unused to hearing real broad Scots tongues on telly, as they hear in everyday life. I think it blew a lot of folks’ minds.”
“At that time people were unused to hearing real broad Scots tongues on telly, as they hear in everyday life. I think it blew a lot of folks’ minds, hearing that strong accent, that wasn’t of the Central Belt.
“I did consider coming back with a Doric drawl,” said Joyce, adopting a mid-Atlantic accent, “but that might have been a bit funny peculiar.”
Better by far to go with the mither tongue she learned at her ma’s side growing up in Balnagask in Torry, an upbringing that fed into her portrayal of Roisin. “We are both worldly-wise,” she said.
Torry days led to Joyce’s career
And it was her Torry days that led directly to her career as an actor, she said, singing the praises of the music and drama departments of Tullos Primary and Torry Academy.
“I think I did my first show in Primary 3 in Tullos. I was a wee old wifie and these wee monsters dropped me on the stage. I mind all these wifies in the audience gasping: ‘What have they done to Joyce!’
“I remember thinking then about the power of pretend.”
Outside of school, too, there was plenty of opportunities to enter the world of make-believe and fire up the engine of imagination.
“We play-acted as kids. We didn’t have a telly in my house until I was in my teens and we had no gadgets, then. Our entire childhood was spent out playing and role-playing and making your own costumes and props,” she said.
We used to produce our own shows and make our own tickets to entertain one another. I suppose I was just particularly good at it. It was simples as that.”
“We used to produce our own shows and make our own tickets to entertain one another. I suppose I was just particularly good at it. It was simples as that.”
Her love of theatre was further cemented when as a teenager she started going to Aberdeen Arts Centre and appearing in amateur productions in the days of the doyenne of Granite City arts, Annie Inglis.
‘Going into arts is crazy… go into oil’
Although she nearly took a different path, courtesy of a teacher at Torry Academy who recognised she also had a gift for physics.
“I mind him saying ‘you don’t want to go into the arts, that’s crazy’. He suggested I be a female engineer in the oil industry. I would probably have been minted,” said Joyce, laughing.
“But I have had a very exciting life, although it’s never been easy. I have never regretted the choices I made.”
Now, she’s looking forward to being back in people’s homes as the larger than life Roisin.
“Prepare to be entertained. She‘ll mak’ ye laugh, she’ll mak’ ye greet.”
Joyce Falconer will return as Roisin in River City on Monday August 30 on BBC Scotland HD and on Wednesday September 1 on BBC One Scotland HD.