Here's when and where to watch River City's emotional farewell to Edinburgh panto favourite Andy Gray
"Nearly everyone at River City knew dad well and it is such an honour that they wanted to do a tribute episode for him."
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Clare Gray, daughter of much loved Scottish actor Andy Gray, is speaking ahead of a special episode of River City, which finds the residents of Shieldinch gathering to give Pete Galloway, the role Andy played from 2016 to 2018, an emotional send off. However, it’s as much a memorial for the King’s panto star who died a year ago this week, at the age of 61, after contracting Covid, as it is to his character.
Clare recalls, “When producer Martin McCardy called to see how I felt about it, my initial thought was, ‘Absolutely, dad would be thrilled’, and I knew it would be done well, Martin would make of that.”
Peppered with little nods to Andy, the episode includes three relevant billboard posters as set dressing; one depicts Clare in last year's Edinburgh King's panto.
The 31-year-old, explains, “They have a mock up King's poster with just me on it. It's in the background, behind a picture of dad during the memorial and I was delighted.”
She continues, “The tributes were really special to see because, in reality, the cast were all dad's friends and not everyone could get to his funeral because of restrictions. For many it was their opportunity to say goodbye.”
Actor Clare, who has also appeared in River City, adds, “I count myself lucky people wanted to do this for him. It’s something I'll have to look back on and that my daughter, Anna, can watch when she’s older to understand how precious her ‘baba’ was. Not everyone gets that.”
The episode finds Andy's best pal and King's panto colleague, Grant Stott, arriving to pay his respects dressed as Batman; in life Andy was a huge Batman fan.
Clare laughs, “Dad would have thoroughly enjoyed the sight of Grant in that costume, there’d have been a lot of laughter.”
Stott also laughs, “There are little tributes to Andy throughout that some will get and some might not. It's lovely on so many levels. If only they could have found a Batman costume that fitted, but it brings a bit of comedy that is very deliberately placed; that they allowed me to dress as Batman for him was lovely.”
For Stott, however, it proved a challenging and emotional shoot.
“At first I couldn't read the eulogy without breaking down,” he says. “I said it over and over but it still took my breath away during filming. There’s one moment, a shot, which is very much me speaking to Andy. It catches me out because I can see it.”
The 54-year-old adds, “This episode was made because Andy wasn't just a friend to the cast, he was a friend to everybody, the crew, wardrobe, make-up, production team. That was his gift. When you worked with Andy Gray he made sure everyone around him had a good time. That is why this episode is as brilliant as it is. Every department pulled out all the stops for him because he a brilliant actor and a wonderful man.”
Watch River City's tribute to Andy Gray on BBC Scotland, January 17, 10pm, BBC One Scotland, 18 January, 7pm, then BBC iPlayer on demand.