Intriguing Facts About Actor Mark Bonnar and the TV Show Guilt

If it feels like you have seen actor Mark Bonnar from, well, everything, you aren’t far off. The Guilt star is widely recognized for his roles in Catastrophe, Line of Duty, Shetland and on MASTERPIECE in Unforgotten, Home Fires and The Paradise. In August, 2021, Bonnar sat down with MASTERPIECE to reveal some intriguing facts about his career and his new series, Guilt.

  1. 1.

    Bonnar had a twisty road to his acting career

    Child acting prodigy to celebrated star? This wasn’t the path for Bonnar, who left school at age 16 for a youth apprenticeship. Given a choice of being a mechanic or library assistant, Bonnar went the literary route. “In one of those sliding doors moments, I chose library assistant, Bonnar said. “I don’t know why, still, just instinct. I suppose I thought I’d have more in common with books than I would with cars at the time.”

    Along with jobs in the library and town planning departments, Bonnar had a surreal (and short) career in sales. “There was a gap in between…where I was a door-to-door salesman which was horrific. I sold burglar alarms for four weeks, which wasn’t very long, but it was long enough.”

    Meeting new friends who were in the theater community led to his unusual first on-stage role. “I was the back end of… a cow first… I’ve skipped over that rather neatly.”

    As his theater work progressed, and people started urging him to consider acting as a career, Bonnar pursued drama school. “I decided to take a risk and go and do a one-year foundation course just to check if I could it. And then, when I found out I could, I was okay. And I went and did a full three years training.”

  2. 2.

    Bonnar and his Guilt co-star Jamie Sives have a long history

    Although they didn’t move in the same circles, Bonnar and Jamie met at Leith Academy (Edinburgh, Scotland). “There was kind of another little category for him (Jamie),” Bonnar observed. “ I’m not sure what it was, but nobody messed with Jamie, the bullies didn’t mess with Jamie and he was a really good laugh at school.”

    After Bonnar was a professional actor, he heard from a friend of Jamie’s own venture into acting. The two ran into each other on an audition, and struck up a conversation. “Because acting circles are small in this country and because Scottish acting circles are even smaller, we found our paths crossing…a couple of times a year….we were always in each other’s orbit.”

    When Neil Forsythe, the writer of Guilt, sent the script, Bonnar was hooked from the start.  “Two days later, Neil phoned me and said, “Can you see anybody for Jake?’ And the only person that had been in my head was Jamie because I just knew he was totally right for it. Before I could even say his name, Neil said, “Have you ever heard of an actor called Jamie Sives? And I said, ‘Oh well, let me tell you a wee story.’”

  3. 3.

    Bonnar has mastered roles that are both very funny and deeply human

    Bonnar’s character Max in Guilt is simultaneously darkly comic and disarmingly genuine, not unlike his role as Chris in Catastrophe. “The thing that Neil said when he wrote this script, and one of the reasons he wrote it I think, is because he was tired watching serious drama that had no humor,” Bonnar noted. “And his thinking behind that was that it’s again, a universal truth that people use humor in difficult situations or in grief or in situations where it’s life threatening…As long as the situation is written truthfully, I think you can get away with being funny but also being emotional because we all are. We’re all funny, we all crack jokes in opportune moments and we all feel deeply. So if a script is good, it will reveal these human truths. And Guilt and Catastrophe were the most sublime scripts.”

  4. 4.

    Bonnar still hears from fans about his role in Unforgotten

    Fans are still finding and resonating with Bonnar’s character in the second season of the acclaimed mystery series, and the abuse storyline so central to his role. The emotional story rang true for Bonnar, who has people in his life who were abused as children. “It really opened my eyes in a way because I hadn’t quite realized how much of an epidemic it is and how it affects people in later life when they haven’t disclosed. All that research stayed with me.”

    To this day, Bonnar gets emails or Instagram DMs from people catching up with the series who were abused as children and say ‘Thank you for telling the truth about this.’ “I always refer to (series creator) Chris Lang because it was his idea in the first place to write about it. And in fact, I texted him just a few weeks ago because I got another message from somebody, and he replied saying, ‘I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve ever done.’”

  5. 5.

    The surprising truth of working with actor Emun Elliot (Kenny in Guilt)

    MASTERPIECE fans will remember Bonnar and Elliot from their work together in The Paradise, and it turns out that on set, Elliot is a master of surprise.  “The choices he makes when you’re on set with him, when you’re filming with him, are just like, yeah, bonkers,“ Bonnar said. “He can do something in almost every scene that you don’t expect. And I love the bravery he has. It’s a thrill working with him. And to be honest, it’s very, very difficult because he makes me laugh so much.”


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