Paul McCarthy played Tommy Watson between 1980 and 1985, in both Grange Hill and its spin off series ‘Tucker’s Luck’. Grange Hill Gold interviewed Paul, who told us about life as Tommy, how he started on Grange Hill as someone else, and what he’s doing now.
How did you get into acting?
I met a girl in Leigh On Sea. She was in a commercial for Wagon Wheel chocolate. She gave me her agent’s details and the rest is history.
Were you nervous about joining such a popular programme as Grange Hill?
No it was fun. I had done a lot of TV shows before I did Grange Hill so it was just another job. It turned out to be a lot bigger than I imagined. Here is a bit of GH trivia for you. I started as Anthony Underwood. I did the first series and left to play The Artful Dodger in Oliver for Macintosh productions in London’s west end. The BBC asked me to come back and offered me the part of Tommy.
How similar was the character of Tommy to yourself?
Did you get much response from the public?
Lots. Some good, some bad. I had a lot of fights because of kids thinking I was after their girlfriends!
Did you get on well with the rest of the cast and are you still in touch with any of them?
We had our ups and downs. I saw George (Alan) a while back. Todd (Tucker) I haven’t seen for years. I played a part in The Bill, but he wasn’t in on the days I was working, so I never got to hook up with him. I would love to hook up with the guys. I wrote to Phil Redmond about doing a one off drama based on friends re united and doing a reunion of all the Grange Hill characters so who knows it may happen. Do you think that would be good? If so make some noise!
Was Grange Hill an enjoyable show to work on?
It was great. We were all very young and had a fantastic time.
How similar was Grange Hill to your own school?
I went to stage school, so it was totally different.
How did Tucker’s Luck come about after Grange Hill?
Tucker was the best character that Phil Redmond thought up. He made the show what it was. A brilliant job of the part was done by Todd Carty. They couldn’t stop Tucker after he left Grange Hill. Lucky for me Tommy was Tucker’s mucker.
How did working on Tucker’s Luck differ from working on Grange Hill?
We were older and wanted to grow. The stories were coming of age, as were we.
Which was your favourite Grange Hill or Tucker’s Luck?
Can’t remember. We did so much.
Do you have a favourite moment from Tucker’s Luck?
Tommy was the one who fell off Tucker’s motor bike into a canal, got covered in sh*t from a sewer pipe, had a tin of paint thrown at him and got beaten by Passmore all the time. I had a ball!
Did you expect that Grange Hill and Tucker’s Luck would be so highly thought of, 20+ years on?
Have you watched any of your episodes recently? What did you think of them?
I’ve seen one episode. It was okay. I am a bit old for it now.
Has Grange Hill / Tuckers Luck been a help or a hindrance to your career?
Dunno. I hope a help
What have you done since you stopped playing ‘Tommy’?
Too much to go into. Many, many , many things. Some good, some bad. I have been married, divorced. I have played in loads of bands. I have written a film and I am still trying to get it made. I went back to drama school, I have a young daughter called Matilda she was born 10th Oct 2004. Smashing Time have just finished their debut album (make some noise). Check out www.whatsyourreflection.com the website for Through The Looking Glass ; crazy film I play the lead role in. Hopefully it should be released soon.
Besides acting, it’s clear that music is a great love of yours. Is it easy to balance the two?
How do you know that? Yes I love music. Check out www.smashingtime.com, my band’s website.
How would you describe Paul McCarthy in 2005?
Bloody old, not too wise, happy always, got his own teeth, kept his young looks, In love. Still acting, although it was easier when I was a kid.
Would you like to see your series of Grange Hill and Tucker’s Luck released on DVD?
Yes I could do with the money!
Are you proud of your work on these two series?
My acting has got a lot better. I saw some old footage recently. It was terrible. I stank.
How do you look back on your time as ‘Tommy Watson’?
It’s hard to say. I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. We all grow from what happens to us. Tommy was a gift. Can I have another one please?!
www.smashingtime.com – Official website for Smashing Time, Paul’s band.
Thanks to Paul McCarthy
Interview © 2005 – Grange Hill Gold- Not to be reproduced without permission.