Edinburgh Bluestone 42 star Scott Hoatson finds himself confined to quarters as Washington locks down

Portobello actor and Bluestone 42 star Scott Hoatson in Washington DCPortobello actor and Bluestone 42 star Scott Hoatson in Washington DC
Portobello actor and Bluestone 42 star Scott Hoatson in Washington DC
The 'Third World War' siren emitting from his mobile phone was scarily disconcerting admits Scott Hoatson, even more so as he read the accompanying message warning of the violence erupting just half a mile away, as rioters invaded the Capitol Building in Washington, last Wednesday.

Then, concerned messages from family and friends back in Scotland began arriving as the eyes of the world turned on America’s capital city.

The 36-year-old actor from Portobello, best known for playing Rocket in the BBC comedy drama Bluestone 42, was at the end of a year-long contract in the States, where he’d been due to appear the Fringe hit Potted Potter, when things took that dramatic turn. Based in Washington, he was in the middle of packing ahead of his return home this weekend, writes Liam Rudden.

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We are talking a day after the attempted coup, as he visits the scene of the previous night's destruction.

Emergency AlertEmergency Alert
Emergency Alert

"It's fairly peaceful now, although the media are still being harassed by nuts with megaphones and there are still plenty of Trump supporters around, no Republicans interestingly," he observes. "There are plenty of police and they are building a seven foot high unscalable fence around the Capitol Building area, but I won't be staying around long as there's still a feeling of unease in the air."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Scott had been in his apartment, ten minutes away, when dozens of Trump supporters broke into the heart of America's democracy. Having spotted an influx of red MAGA - Make America Great Again - hats in the run up to the protest, he reflects the warning signs had been there.

"Earlier in the day I'd been out and seen quite a lot of the MAGA hats, which you don't see in DC at all, so they stick out like a sore thumb when they come to town. Also, DC has been really compliant with social distancing and mask wearing and suddenly there were a lot of people without masks. Again, that’s really unusual here where it's a head turn moment if you see someone walking down the street without a mask."

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He continues, "Then, when I used the Metro, there were groups of protesters travelling who took their masks off the minute they got into the carriage. It felt like an act of defiance, like they were daring us to challenge them. So there was something in the air – we knew a rally had been organised and thought there might be a bit of trouble but I don't think anyone anticipated it would be anything like it was."

Scott Hoatson as Rocket in Bluestone 42Scott Hoatson as Rocket in Bluestone 42
Scott Hoatson as Rocket in Bluestone 42

The alarm going off on Scott’s phone was his cue to switch on the TV, he says.

"When it sounded, I thought the missiles had been launched for World War III," he laughs nervously. “You can’t turn it off. The warning that accompanied it read:

‘Emergency alert. Mayor Bowser issues a citywide curfew for Wednesday January 6, starting at 6pm until Thursday, January 7 at 6am. Essential workers including health care workers and media are exempt’.

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He continues, “There's a hotel just opposite my apartment with a wee convenience store beside it. When the emergency signal blasted through on my phone I dashed downstairs to grab some milk for the morning. When I got there, the store was full of people who were staying at the hotel, all wearing Trump hats, American flags and buying booze. Obviously set for a celebration when they got back to the hotel.

Scott Hoatson as Aladdin in the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, panto with Colin Carr as Widow TwankyScott Hoatson as Aladdin in the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, panto with Colin Carr as Widow Twanky
Scott Hoatson as Aladdin in the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, panto with Colin Carr as Widow Twanky

"It was scary to see one of the most secure cities in the world, and one of the most secure buildings in that city, overrun. There was a sense that law and order had gone to pot. Seeing the police being overrun is worrying. The rule of law is a very basic principal of living in any city and psychologically it felt like civilisation had failed. Government had failed."

As Scott watched the events of the evening unfold from his apartment in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, he began to realise he was watching history taking place and he was there, in touching distance, as it was being played out.

"Once I realised it was limited to the Capitol Building and Mall, and that my apartment block wasn't going to come under siege I started to think this is momentous. This is a real point in history. As Trump's social media accounts were suspended and talk turned the 25th Amendment as a means of declaring the president unfit for office, it became incredibly exciting to be there at such a time."

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It proved a dramatic finale for Scott's year in America, during which time he never did quite manage to get on stage.

Scott Hoatson hosting the EEN Local Hero Awards 2015Scott Hoatson hosting the EEN Local Hero Awards 2015
Scott Hoatson hosting the EEN Local Hero Awards 2015

"I came out at the start of March to do a tour of the Potted Potter show and then a residency in Vegas but, with the pandemic, it's been a case of postponement after postponement, pushing it back a few weeks at a time in the hope that it might happen. I've been here a year and still never had a chance to get on stage and now I'm coming home on Saturday.”

He reflects, “One thing I will take away from this year is the impression that America is really a collection of 50 different countries, rather than one nation. They seem to come together on very few subjects, one being the armed forces and the protection of their realm. It's an achievement that they have managed to stay together as a nation for as long as they have.

"The other lynch-pin that holds them together is the Presidency and I think Joe Biden has a lot of work to do after four years of a very divisive president. Whatever you may think of him politically, he focuses on where people come apart rather than where they come together. Biden and Kamala Harris have a big job reminding everyone that they are all Americans under one nation.”

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