WHETHER it's nature or nurture is hard to say, but if Tony Curran wasn't born a raconteur he has certainly become one.

In a precise, Billy Connolly-esque drawl, the Glasgow-born actor doles out anecdotes and recollections with the relish of a man who enjoys the sound of his own voice and assumes others will too. And that's meant in the nicest possible way.

A transatlantic divide and a glitchy telephone line don't stop him either. One moment he's impersonating John Cleese to run through that iconic sketch about the upper, middle and “lower” classes. Then he's telling me about his regular golf four (“When we tee up there's a Jock, an Englishman, a Welshman and an Irishman. It sounds like the start of a joke”). Then he's 18 again, living in a tough area of Brooklyn on an outdated visa, riding into the Bronx on a Harley with a guy called Bobby De Rosa and working shifts on a building site. “They assumed I was Irish,” he laughs. “I had red hair. So they thought I could build stuff. And I was a f***ing actor, you know? I wasn't particularly good at any of that. But they thought I was and they gave me an opportunity and I ended up becoming quite proficient.”

America has remained the land of opportunity for the 46-year-old, and 12 years ago he finally relocated to Los Angeles. Despite the prospect of a President Trump – “The madness coming out of the man's mouth!” – neither the city nor the country have lost their allure. But these days Curran is more likely to be found tearing things down than building them as a growing army of directors and casting agents turn to him as their villain-of-choice. Human baddie or alien, he isn't choosy. And if you see him on a Harley now, you're probably watching Sons Of Anarchy: Curran plays Nevada chapter boss Gaines in the Hell's Angels crime drama.

Mind you, the way he tells it the move Los Angeles came more or less on a whim. He met some Angelinos filming The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen in Prague, they said, 'Come on over, the weather's great', so he went, and they were right.

Either way, it was a spontaneous decision which has paid dividends both for his career and his personal life. In 2008 Curran met actress Mai Nguyen at a party and four years later they were married. They now have a three-year-old daughter whose Lego blocks Curran is warily stepping over as we talk.

As for that list of villains, to date it includes roles as a Russian mafioso's sidekick (in 24), a scheming alien (sci-fi series Defiance), an ally of Sherlock Holmes's nemesis Moriarty (in Elementary) and a power-crazy vampire (Underworld: Evolution).

“At the end of the day somebody has to play the role,” he says. “A lot of actors who play the love interest, friends of mine, say, 'I wish I could do some of the roles you play', because sometimes they can be a little more complex, a little bit more interesting. There are some villain roles which are very black-and-white, but some which definitely have some depth to them, some complexity.”

Two new entries will be inked into the ledger of baddies this autumn when Curran features in Crazyhead, the latest series from acclaimed MisFits creator Howard Overman, and a timely remake of Roots, the game-changing 1970s series about slavery in America.

Crazyhead was filmed in Bristol and premieres on E4 this month but the six-parter will also stream globally on Netflix, the on-demand service which is now a powerful player in the world of upmarket television drama thanks to original shows like Stranger Things, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.

The show's premise is that demons walk openly among us though only a few humans have the power to see them. Step forward bowling alley employee Amy (Downton Abbey's Cara Theobald) and socially-awkward Raquel (Susan Wokoma from E4 sitcom Chewing Gum), two young “seers” thrown together by circumstance and a possessed flatmate. Curran plays Dr Callum Weaver, the psychiatrist treating them for what he says are psychotic episodes but which he, as demon-in-chief, knows to be nothing of the sort.

“They say there's Buffy The Vampire undertones and yeah there might be that vibe, but it's much more British than that,” he says of the series. “It's much more cutting. The girls are sassy and it's got a touch of the absurd about it.”

Like MisFits, it's rude, funny and, while it plays along with the conventions of the supernatural genre, it constantly undercuts them too. When a confused Amy asks why a demon referred to her a “seer”, Raquel replies: “That's what they call us. It's so lame. I prefer demon-hunter. Or kick-arse-hell-bitch.” In another scene, Amy and Raquel kidnap Amy's flatmate Suzanne (Riann Steele) after she has become possessed and attempt an exorcism. This involves Raquel reading instructions off her smartphone and Amy squatting down to wee on her friend. “I can't go,” she yells. “I went earlier”.

So what attracted Curran to this part?

“The $1.5 million,” he says. “No, I'm joking. It was because I was giggling within the first 10 pages. The idea of someone urinating on another human being appealed to me greatly. And strong women have always been attractive to me. I think I married one.”

Mrs Curran, by the way, is in earshot.

Roots, which will air on the History channel in the UK, stars British actor Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte. Curran plays Connolly, a brutal overseer on the Virginia tobacco plantation where Kinte is enslaved, and they come together in a scene which was one of the most shocking in the original series and which has remained iconic: Kunta Kinte's whipping by Connolly after an escape attempt.

“It took two days to shoot and the bull-whip I use is the same one that was used on 12 Years A Slave, because it was the same stuntman,” he says. “But once we did the scene, it was very harrowing. The first time I pulled the whip back, without a word of a lie, there was a crack of thunder behind me. That was the first take. And where we were filming, what we were shooting was actually happening 150 or 200 years ago. So it was the quietest set I've ever been round.”

After the scene had wrapped, Curran went out for dinner with actor LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the original 1977 series. Burton told him about his own experience of the whipping scene and what happened after it had aired.

“He and the actor who played my role were asked to go on Good Morning America to talk about it. The reason was because it had such an impact on American society. Nothing like that had ever been shown before. As much as people might have known what the American past was in terms of history it was the first time it had ever been shown.”

But nearly 40 years on, with a swelling sense of anger among black communities across the US, the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction on an international level and a Republican Presidential nominee many brand a racist, have things improved that much since the original series aired?

“I don't know,” says Curran. “I haven't seen a lot of racism and I think things have improved, but I've heard stories from friends who have had situations to do with casting.”

But, he adds, “the field of play is changing … there has definitely been an awareness of how some people haven't had a shot or an opportunity that maybe they should have.”

Born in December 1969 in Glasgow's south side, Curran was educated at Holyrood Secondary but left aged 16 to work as a postman. After his teenage stint in the US (he also spent time in San Francisco), he returned to study acting at Glasgow's Royal Academy Of Music and Drama (RSAMD). He returned to Scotland from America, he says, “wearing a Givenchy suit and a white shirt hanging outside it, thinking I'm Tony Montana or something”.

After graduating from RSAMD he did a season at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, landed bit parts in Scottish productions such as Rab C Nesbitt, Shallow Grave, Taggart (of course) and then headed to London. It was there, in the late 1990s, that he was cast in This Life, the zeitgeisty TV series about a group of professional 20-somethings living in London during the Cool Britannia years. As well as handing an opportunity to Curran, the series helped launch the careers of Jack Davenport, Natasha Little, Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln and fellow Scot Daniela Nardini.

But the performance for which he's probably still best known in Scotland came in Andrea Arnold's Red Road, set in and around Glasgow's iconic Red Road flats and the first in a mooted trilogy of inter-connected films. Curran plays Clyde, a former prisoner stalked by the woman whose husband and daughter he killed in a car accident while high on crack. He and co-star Kate Dickie both won BAFTAs for their performances and the film itself was a prize-winner at the 2006 Cannes film festival.

Today it's the only film poster Curran has in his office at home in Los Angeles, which is telling enough. So does he regret not being able to take on more parts like Clyde?

“He'd done a bad thing but he didn't mean to do it, so he was a victim himself in many ways and I love playing characters like that. People who have been downtrodden,” he says. “I don't deny that if I was still living in the UK then maybe there would be more opportunity for these types of roles.”

In effect, many of these types of roles went to that group of Scottish actors who continued to work in Scotland and stayed at the grittier end of the film-making spectrum. Peter Mullan is the chief example.

Meanwhile the canon of socially-concerned Scottish films they produced in the decades since Lynne Ramsay's 1999 debut Ratcatcher are often described as “miserabilist”. So when Curran looks back at Scotland from his vantage point in sunny California, what sort of a country does he see: confident, modern – or miserable?

“There are some parts of Scotland which have changed [for the better] but there are some areas of Glasgow which don't get the funding, don't get the money to improve, and frankly it's that sort of money which appears to be kept around central London,” he says.

Curran isn't a US citizen so he doesn't have a vote there, meaning he'll miss out on the upcoming US Presidential elections. But he can't vote in the UK either, so had no say in either the recent EU referendum or the Scottish independence referendum. Being disenfranchised doesn't stop him having strong opinions, though.

“I was frustrated when the vote was No,” he says when we get on to the 2014 plebiscite. “A lot of my friends who work in finance and economics were saying they didn't think it would be a smart move if Scotland became independent and I was saying, 'Well what are your facts?'”

His friends would wheel out the economic case made by the vested interests from the financial world and Curran would counter in kind. Similar exchanges played out in homes and workplaces across the country.

Ultimately, he says: “Scotland is an independent country. Why can't it work? I think it would change our outlook on life if we became independent. And for me it was never about being anti- anything. It wasn't about being anti-English. It was about being anti-Westminster in many ways. It was about getting the opportunity for education and other areas within society in Scotland that haven't had that opportunity.”

Warming to the theme he adds: “If you don't fuel the fire in any walk of life, if you don't give it the opportunity to breathe, to aspire, to learn, then nothing's going to change and that's true of coming from Scotland or the south of America or Compton or places like that – anywhere that's sort of downtrodden and doesn't have the opportunity.”

There's that word again: opportunity. It certainly came chapping at Tony Curran's door and continues to be a regular visitor, enticed back by the villainous twinkle in his eye and – who knows? – by the prospect of a good yarn too.

Crazyhead starts on E4 on Wednesday, October 19th October, at 9pm; Roots will screen on the History Channel later this year