One of Scotland’s oldest-working actors has revealed that he asked to be written out of Scotland’s hit comedy series Still Game after a 45-year career - and that its creators tried to talk him out of quitting.
Jimmy Martin, 87 who has appeared as Eric in every series of Still Game, has admitted he was finally feeling the strain of working on the show.
The Musselburgh-based actor took up acting after suffering a leg injury as a firefighter. He also starred in Taggart, Monarch of the Glen, Doctor Finlay and Rab C Nesbitt.
He bowed out of Still Game in style after Eric was put under an apparent curse by Craiglang’s sinister new undertaker, played by Scottish comedy favourite Bruce Morton. The Clansman regulars were stunned to find Eric slumped over a fruit machine after a greeting from ghoulish new character Sheathing.
Martin, the only actor to play his real age in the show, created by Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill, said: “I just said to the boys: ‘Listen, how about writing me out. I told them my wife Christine and I felt it was time to retire from the show. Six weeks of filming was just too much. Ford and Greg tried to talk me out of it, but I think they realised it was really down to my age. They’ve always been really kind to me.
“It was surreal doing the final scenes. They kept me lying dead on the fruit machine for a bit. When I looked up all the cast and crew were there and they presented me with a clapperboard they had all signed. I had a tear in my eye.
“I’ve been in it all the way through. The only one I wasn’t in was a Hogmanay special when the other characters were in their thirties. They coudn’t get Robert Redford to play me. It’s true that I didn’t need any make-up. I was introduced once as the character who brings reality to the show.
“I gave up theatre on my 80th birthday. It was more rewarding than TV, but too much like hard work. I loved appearing on stage, but I’m only really known publicly for Still Game. Its popularity is really simple. It highlights problems old people come up against in a very humorous way. But it’s suitable for all ages. Kids aren’t supposed to watch it, but love it.
“But I’m only semi-retired. If anything else comes up I’ll have a bash at it. It people are looking for a greeting-faced old bugger they know where to come. I don’t like watching myself on Still Game. Most actors are critical of themselves on TV. I liked the theatre because you only got one crack at it. But I hope it continues as long as possible. The standard is incredible. When Ford and Greg get their heads together they make the magic.”
Kiernan said: “We would never just get the knives out and kill off a cast member. It was Jimmy who initiated the conversation. He’s a fair old age. It’s hard work being under the lights all day. We were all very sad to see him go. People were in tears at the end. It was very poignant.”