To people in Wales and beyond, Boyd Clack is that jovial giant on the telly. Writer, musician, actor, most will remember him for his cult BBC Wales comedy Satellite City, which went on to win a BAFTA Cymru Award for Light Entertainment.
But behind the laughter, there is much pain for Boyd, formed in his younger years when fear and separation formed a significant part of his life.
“My father emigrated from Barry to Canada when he was 18 in 1928. He joined the Canadian Army at the start of WW2 and came back to Wales on leave after training in Iceland. He met my mother, they married in Tonyrefail and he went off to fight. He was captured in the Dieppe raid and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. When he came home, he and my mother and sister Audrey went back to Canada. I was born there in Vancouver in 1951. My father died from war derived illness in 1954 and the family returned to Wales.”
But it would be his childhood that had an enormous impact on his later life – and his career.
“I had a nightmarish time mentally as a child. The first years were spent in the House of Death, then I was taken away, torn apart from my beloved brother and sister and frozen in the aspic of emotional terror. Ghosts and hobgoblins vied for my soul. I am a scarred puppet of a man as a result. I live in a constant state of inarticulable fear. This is the pit from which my artistic spirit rose and it is still horrifyingly close. I fear being sucked back into it every moment of every day and night. The edges crumble. Even the Virgin Mary cannot save me.”
For Boyd, acting is a necessity, not a choice.
“Hi Diddley Dee, it’s an actors life for me. I am too mentally and physically weak for anything else. If I could go back in time I’d be a priest or a monk working in the service of animals and hence seeking contact with the divine through their beauty and innocence. Either that or working in a door factory.”
Satellite City started out originally as a radio show on BBC Radio Wales in 1994 and evolved into a TV version, first broadcast in 1996.
“The idea for the show came from my knowledge of and love for the people of my childhood and youth. All of the characters are good and decent people. They love each other and forgive each other’s weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Its appeal lies in that very fact. It shows we Welsh in a true light. We are a funny, sweet and kind people. It highlights aspects of Welshness that are and have been disappearing for some time, the quaintness of our industrial and socially piquant past and our obsessive relationship with death. The acting was brilliant too and the mood of the production was one of affection and awareness that we were involved in something special.”
When questioned about his issues with depression, Boyd retorts: “I have never suffered from depression or any other form of mental illness and it breaks my heart that you think I have. Oh God why do people see me in such a terrible and demeaning light? Oh Christ help me! Free me from the relentless blackness! If you ever say anything like that again I will come to your house and burn the fucking place down. I’ll cut you into cubes and keep you in my fridge you demonic puppet from Hell! Aaaaaah! I know that you hate me, you and the lollipop sucking bastards you serve. ‘Seems like it’s haloes for some Mister Angels.’ ‘Hmm mister Angels!’
So we move onto music.
“Music follows me like a lost dog.”
“Is that it?”
“Ok. And the future for Boyd Clack?”
“My partner Kirsten Jones and I are developing a sitcom idea with BBC Wales. We are hoping to make a short film and I am hoping to get a grant to give me some time to work on a few embryonic, and Byronic, ideas over the next year. There’s a book of some of my Facebook postings coming out soonish and I am hoping to take up a position as a ballet dancer with the Kirov Ballet in Moscow on March the seventh. This is where I am at. Some other stuff in the writing world and bits and pieces of acting. Would love to play Shylock.
“Being Welsh is fundamental to all I do. The peculiar mood of the late sixties in Tonyrefail has shaped me as sharply as if I was a piece of wood and it was a knife. The romance and drama, the snow in winter, the blue skies of summer, the gentle hue of the mountains and the grey flat Atlantic sea are my guardians. I am visited by ghosts. I will die here. Listen, I am happy to answer these questions, my gratitude and affection for the people who have supported me ie. the Welsh public is endless. I am not a strong person but I am strong enough to plough my own furrow. I am not one of the self obsessed neurotics who seek celebrity; I don’t mix in their company. I don’t want to be better than other people.
“I am unhappy and frightened most of the time. I’m not proud of that. I don’t see it as being deep and enigmatic. I see it as a fucking bore but there you go.”
Picture by Rhys Davies
(Interview first published 2012 in Rhiwbina Living magazine)