STUART Bowman is a man who needs little introduction. The Scottish actor has been popping up in film and television roles for years. You'll have seen him in Taggart, Rab C Nesbitt and River City to name but a few.

He was martinet Sergeant Thomson in hit comedy Gary: Tank Commander and most recently played Bontemps – valet and right-hand man to King Louis XIV – in Versailles, the big budget (and raunchy) period drama which bowed out after three series earlier this month.

With barely time to draw breath, Bowman will return to our screens in Bodyguard, a new BBC political thriller written by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio set in the corridors of power, which begins tomorrow evening.

He joins a stellar cast led by Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague and fellow Scot Richard Madden who plays David Budd, a war veteran working as a specialist protection officer for the Metropolitan Police. Bowman portrays Stephen Hunter-Dunn, the shadowy director general of the Security Service (MI5).

When we speak there is a momentary wisp of hesitation in his voice, choosing his words carefully to avoid giving away any crucial plot spoilers about the six-part drama.

"An incident happens that necessitates a potential increase in surveillance which is something that the Home Secretary is pushing for," he says, cryptically. "The relationship between her and my character is key. We are not quite sure what they are up to, but they are up to something.

"Throughout the second episode and the third, you get the gradual feel that there are underhanded dealings going on between the head of MI5 and the Home Secretary. What the political manipulation machinations are, we are not quite sure until later."

Bowman, 52, admits that he was late to the party with Mercurio's acclaimed Line of Duty. He only started watching it six months ago and binge-watched all four series. "It is utterly compelling writing. Jed knows how to get you on the edge of your seat."

He adds that while Bodyguard has a different feel to it, being a political-themed drama, there are parallels. "It is brilliant thriller writing. That is the similarity between Line of Duty and Bodyguard."

Bodyguard is packed with fast-paced action scenes. Did Bowman have to do any stunts? "No, that was left to other people," he says. "I think generally the head of any organisation doesn't tend to get their hands dirty. It is all manipulation and dirty dealings."

He wrapped his final scenes on Versailles only a week before joining Bodyguard. Bowman had spent three years living in Paris while shooting the historical drama which charted the decadent and turbulent early reign of Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, in the late 17th century.

Versailles was such a big part of his life. How did it feel to bring the curtain down on that? "Totally fine to tell you the truth," he says. "I never imagined we could get more than three seasons. As far as storylines were concerned and what happened with Louis XIV, it felt like a three-season show."

Bowman was content with how his character arc panned out. "They were lovely and gave me a fabulous storyline," he says. "With Bontemps I don't think there was much I would be able to do with him beyond season three.

"So, for me, it felt right and natural that it was finishing there. What was lovely was to go into Bodyguard straight afterwards. Having a job makes not having a job a lot easier."

Some viewers were less sanguine about Versailles coming off the air. There has been a vocal social media campaign with the hashtag #SaveVersaillesSeries in the hope of attracting other big broadcasting names, such as Netflix, to pick it up.

The final episode contained tantalising loose ends which left many fans desperate for closure. "I think it was a very good way to go out," says Bowman. But if a reprisal were to happen? "Then you cross that bridge when you come to it.

"I would be curious to see what somebody might do. Say Netflix did pick it up, they would have to do something quite radical to make it a different show.

"Always in our heads was a possibility of the show jumping a hundred years forward and going to the revolution and joining the court of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. That was the most likely thing to happen, in which case they would be re-casting and getting different people in."

Will he miss the £3500 wigs and the opulent costumes on Versailles? "I use the phrase 'If Carlsberg made jobs …' probably too frequently. I was riding horses in the courtyard of Versailles and dressed by Madeline Fontaine, one of the greatest designers on the planet.

"The wigs were magnificent. We felt like a million dollars and were in some of the greatest palaces in the world as our locations. There was nothing not to like. It was wonderful.

"I wouldn't turn down a chance to do something like that again lightly. But as an actor you want to keep moving on. What Versailles has done is put me on the map in a way I wasn't beforehand."

His profile has certainly mushroomed with Versailles shown in 191 countries. "It is extraordinary," he admits. "The thing about 191 countries is that you have no sense of that other than Twitter followers. You get a follower from Brazil and think: 'Oh, it must be on in Brazil ...'

"That is nice because you feel connected to the world in a way that perhaps Gary: Tank Commander didn't do."

One of the best parts about doing Versailles, says Bowman, was that he and his family – partner Candida Benson and their children, Tavish and Sholto – were able to immerse themselves fully in Parisian life.

"What an opportunity to experience another culture properly," he says. "When you have the school run and are making friends with the parents of your kid's friends, you are really getting to see proper Parisian life.

"The most magical thing is that Tavish, my oldest one, is properly bilingual now. When speaking French, he has a slightly different way of being. From what I have read about bilingualism, it increases empathy. They don't see 'the other' in a way that people with one language do. Of all the things that the three years in Paris has given us, that is my favourite thing."

He is pensive when asked if living and working in France has given him any strong views on Brexit. "Where do we start? The world is complicated at the moment," says Bowman. "It was a major factor when we were thinking about moving back.

"We did think: 'Do we want to live in an England that is self-immolating?' But London is a bubble. It is still a liberal part of the world. London is still a very nice place to live as far as that is concerned.

"Paris was growing in its confidence and that was attractive too. I see Nicola Sturgeon as, certainly in Britain, the most sensible leader of any political party and that is attractive as well.

"Then you see what is happening in America and realise we are all suffering the consequences of a very massive shift in the political framework." Or as Bowman neatly sums it up: "I think we are shafted wherever we are in the world."

Ultimately, he says, it came down to finding the best school for Tavish, seven, and Sholto, four, and it was Hackney, East London, which won out. While Bowman says he has no immediate plans to move back to Scotland, he doesn't rule it out.

"It is always there in the back of my mind," he says. "It is a lovely country. I think politically it is going to be really, really interesting what happens in the next couple of years.

"I have made no secret about my views. I very much hope that independence happens. An independent Scotland within Europe is something that is very attractive for me. Living within that will make a difference and will be a much happier place to be than an isolated England.

"Once the boys go to secondary school and we make the big decision about that six-year period and where they are going to be educated, Scotland becomes increasingly attractive every year."

Bowman was born in Dundee and grew up in Newport-on-Tay until his mother died when he was 12. He then became a boarder at Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire.

"My mum was divorced from my dad when I was four, so we – my brother and I – lived with her," he recalls. "When she died we had nowhere to go, but her life insurance gave us the ability to go to boarding school."

That must have been tough at 12? "It wasn't ideal, no, but you just deal with it when you have no option. It gave me an independence quite early on and a thick skin. There is not much going to scare you after that which has probably stood me in good stead for this industry."

It was at Dollar Academy that Bowman fell in love with acting, although his English teacher who ran the school plays suggested that he might not have the work ethic for the profession.

"I was quite a naughty boy and he said I would need to knuckle down an awful lot more," says Bowman. "I put it out of my mind and did business studies for a couple of years. But it was still there, an itch in the back of my head."

He got a job as an assistant manager of a precast concrete firm in Monifieth, Angus. They offered him a promotion in Dundee. "I thought: 'No, this isn't the life for me …'" And in Bowman parlance he ran away "to join the circus".

Said circus was the Edinburgh International Festival. "I went around all the theatres asking for a job," he says. "The Lyceum gave me a job front of house." It was there he met the late Billy McColl who was playing Jimmy Boyle in a production. McColl encouraged him to give acting a go.

"He came in an hour early every day to help me with speeches for drama college." There's a crack in his voice, Bowman sounding choked up at the memory. "I will always be appreciative of Billy McColl for all the time he gave me. I got into the college that he went to – Mountview Theatre School."

In the three decades since, Bowman has garnered a packed CV that includes a fruitful stage career, a raft of TV parts (everything from The Bill and A Touch of Frost to Case Histories) and a healthy smattering of film roles in the likes of Young Adam, Slow West and Sunset Song.

Taggart is a rite of passage for any Scottish actor and a quick glance at his IMDb page reveals that Bowman has appeared in the police drama no fewer than five times.

"I played a policeman, I was a gang leader – Brian McCardie and I had battles on the mean streets of Glasgow – then was I a drug dealer? God, I can't remember. It is a while back now," he laughs. "They kept me in gainful employment with Taggart."

How has Bowman seen the roles he's offered evolve over the years? That's a good question, he muses, reflecting on a time when the procession of parts came very much from one mould. "Scottish actors did gangsters," he says. "A lot of my television career was doing stuff like that. Theatre-wise I had much more varied parts. But on TV it was certainly like that."

However, he has noticed a marked sea change recently. "Playing a monster or a gangster is a lot of fun, but it feels like a new thing for me, certainly on screen, where I am getting to play more detailed roles," says Bowman. "Playing the head of MI5 feels like the next natural progression from the court of King Louis XIV to the court of Westminster and British politics."

Bowman isn't resting on his laurels. He has a few irons in the fire, including an upcoming episode of Amazon Prime Video horror anthology series, Lore, shot in Prague and due to air in October. "Burke and Hare is the storyline for the one I'm in. I was a graverobber who took bodies to them. It is a great show. The production values are fantastic."

He signed with a Los Angeles-based manager last year with an eye to breaking into US film and television. "I'm up for big American projects," confirms Bowman. "I am working quite hard at doing self-taping and sending things over there.

"The stuff I am up for is quality and interesting. There are big blockbuster movies I'm up for. All of that is possible now in a way it wasn't two years ago. Whether any of that sticks or not I don't know, but it is lovely to be in that wider game."

Away from work, family life looms large and Bowman is looking forward to settling into London. "We are next to tons of green space with the Hackney Marshes. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is five minutes away by bike, so we have facilities such as the velodrome, pool and tennis centre.

"I was a bit of a tennis player when I was a wee boy and got taught by the Scottish national coach and could have been a contender. I still play and the facility built for the Paralympics is brilliant.

"It is like being in the country where we are. We are five minutes away from forests, open green spaces and water. We hadn't really realised what we had when we moved here. It is a lovely thing to discover that we basically live in the country."

Bowman became a capable horseman while working on Versailles and equestrian-themed fun is high on the agenda. "I would absolutely love – if I could afford it and we did come back to Scotland and bought some land – to have stables with a couple of horses. That is a wee pipe dream of mine.

"One of the loveliest things about Versailles was learning to ride and getting an understanding of horses. But that is for the future. We are not doing that in Hackney."

Bodyguard begins on BBC One, 9pm, tomorrow (August 26) with episode two airing on Monday (August 27) and thereafter on Sunday nights.

In Sunday Herald Life tomorrow: an interview with Bodyguard star Richard Madden