JAMIE Sives has had some cracking acting jobs over the years. There was his star turn as the lead in the multi-award-winning film Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself and a memorable role in the debut series of Game of Thrones.

Sives has also garnered parts in everything from Clash of the Titans, Valhalla Rising and Hallam Foe to Last Chance Harvey, Get Him to the Greek and Mean Machine, as well as big-name TV shows Chernobyl, Annika and Crime.

The list goes on. Yet, as the Edinburgh-born actor would be the first to tell you, few projects hold a place in his heart quite like that which has lit up our screens in recent years: Guilt.

With the hit BBC Scotland series set to return for a third and final outing this month, Sives, 49, describes it as a “bittersweet” moment to see the darkly comic and Hitchcockian drama, in which he co-stars with Mark Bonnar, draw to a close.

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“It was quite emotional doing my final scene with Mark,” reflects Sives. “He gave a lovely speech at the end of our final day working together.”

Guilt is the brainchild of Bob Servant and The Gold creator Neil Forsyth. When the show first aired in 2019, it instantly cemented itself as a modern television classic. The Herald’s TV critic Alison Rowat called it “the most impressive small screen debut since Tutti Frutti”.

The storyline centres around chalk-and-cheese brothers Max and Jake – played by Bonnar and Sives respectively – who, while arguing in the car on the way home from a wedding, accidentally run over and kill an elderly man on a dark road.

At Max’s insistence the siblings flee the scene, then set about trying to bury evidence of their involvement. However, things unravel faster than they can tie up the loose ends. The second series saw the continuing fallout from that fateful night.

As for series three? Sives promises that Guilt is going to go out in style. “By all accounts, people in the know have been saying this might be the best season of the three,” he says.

We are tiptoeing around any potential spoilers. When we last saw Jake and Max, they had been reunited in a Chicago bar.

In new publicity images released by BBC Scotland, the pair can be seen lying face-down in a barn, covered in what looks like mud and other farmyard detritus. Is it fair to deduce things haven’t gone exactly to plan in their new lives?

HeraldScotland: Actor Jamie Sives at Nobles Arcade in Portobello. Picture Gordon TerrisActor Jamie Sives at Nobles Arcade in Portobello. Picture Gordon Terris (Image: free)

“We do open in Chicago and things are not going as well as they thought they might go in this land of opportunity,” says Sives, cryptically. “Things very quickly get a bit messy. They do have to come back to Scotland – there is no option. And it goes from bad to worse …”

Is the aforementioned photograph of the duo an apt metaphor for how they find themselves up to their necks in the proverbial? “Exactly,” he laughs. “A bit of a chase goes on and we end up in a barn full of cow s***.

“Which is great. I am a complete dirt bag and so that is my most natural state to be swimming in s***. It took us a couple of days to do that entire chase. It was quite physical and slapstick and fun. Mark and I had an absolute ball. It was a hoot doing it.”

Sives is a gregarious interviewee. He has a dry sense of humour and isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. One of his favourite things about Guilt was the opportunity to work alongside Line of Duty star Bonnar who he first met, aged 11, when they were both pupils at Leith Academy in Edinburgh.

Not only did the show allow them to team up together on screen, but Guilt is set in and around many of their old teenage stomping grounds. That sounds like perfect serendipity, Jamie?

“Yeah, it is quite incredible,” he says. “Mark and I knew each other in school. We weren’t close mates – I had a group of friends, he had a group of friends – but we were in some of the same classes, including registration class in first year.

“We were also in drama class and English class together. We used to walk down the road together because he lived not far from me. I would see him on the way to, or from, school. Then we lost touch when we left school and real life kicked in.”

HeraldScotland: Sives as Jory Cassel in Game of ThronesSives as Jory Cassel in Game of Thrones (Image: free)

Interestingly, they both found a path into acting. “I think he went to drama school before I did,” muses Sives. “We left school at roughly the same time, and we were always aware of how each other was doing. I went to see him in the theatre a couple of times, and he came to see me in the theatre.

“But we hadn’t worked together until Guilt came along. Mark was quite instrumental in pressing Neil [Forsyth] – who had thought of me to begin with – to give me the part as his brother. He saw that as a match made in heaven.

“To come from sitting next to each other in techy woodwork to leading a BBC Scotland drama together is quite surreal.”

The stellar cast also includes Emun Elliott – who recently appeared in big-budget Prime Video thriller The Rig – as hapless private investigator Kenny, as well as a plethora of other Scottish acting talent, including David Hayman, Phyllis Logan, Greg McHugh, Ellie Haddington and Sara Vickers.

When Guilt was green-lit five years ago, it was immediately obvious to everyone involved that they were working on something rather special.

“Neil Forsyth is an incredible writer,” says Sives. “We knew that he always had one eye on doing a trilogy if that proved possible. Neil wanted to do guilt, revenge and redemption as the three themes for the three seasons and he said that early on.”

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Away from Guilt, Sives has enjoyed a busy few years. The actor, who grew up in the Lochend area of Edinburgh, has had roles in the ITVX adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Crime alongside Dougray Scott, as well as Alibi’s Glasgow-set police drama, Annika, with Nicola Walker.

Both programmes are returning soon for a second series. Is Sives back too? “Because I am in the second season of Annika and the third season of Guilt, I couldn’t do the second season of Crime,” he laments.

“I did those two in tandem and that exhausted me. To do a third one would have been almost impossible.

“It is such a shame because I really wanted to do Crime 2. Irvine is a mate and Dougray is a mate and I wanted to work with them again. But we just couldn’t make it happen. Hopefully if it returns … I will let them get their difficult second album out the way, then I’ll come back.”

He won’t be twiddling his thumbs: Sives has a guest star role in the upcoming series of Shetland. The long-running BBC Scotland murder mystery drama is set to return later this year with Ashley Jensen taking on the lead role as DI Ruth Calder following the departure of Douglas Henshall, who played DI Jimmy Perez.

Sadly, Sives won’t get to work alongside his old friend Mark Bonnar on this occasion (Bonnar is another absent name after his character Duncan Hunter chose to make a new life away from the islands). “I am getting scraps from the master’s table,” jokes Sives.

Is he a regular viewer of the show? “I have seen Shetland. I am not a TV watcher … I know that is a bit of a trope that people say. But I am at the age where I cannot invest in things as much as I used to. I don’t watch a lot of TV.

“Anything Mark is in I do watch because I then have to speak to him. I nip in and check it out. And if I don’t like it, I pretend that I didn’t watch it …”

Sives isn’t a big box set binger, then? “I used to be, Susan,” he says. “I watched the holy triumvirate of The Wire, The Sopranos and Mad Men. Then, after exhausting myself with all that, I have never been back to a box set.”

We’ve spoken at length about his work. What makes Sives’s prolific CV all the more impressive is that he came late to acting. As a youngster, he aspired to be a professional footballer – good enough to land trials with Dundee and Middlesbrough, but unable to forge ahead with it as a full-time career.

By his own admission, Sives found himself adrift for a spell. Through his late teens and early 20s, he did a variety of jobs: apprentice electrician, aerial rigger, scaffolder, paper mill packer, postman and a stint working for an insurance company.

“Oh gosh, yes, I had forgotten half of them,” he says, when I reel off the list. “I was kind of floundering around for a while. I could see my road in front of me and I didn’t like the look of it.”

At 22, Sives went back to school with the goal of sitting his Highers but, after falling in love with acting at an evening drama class, a new plan was hatched. “Figuratively, I ran off to join the circus,” he says. “It has been a good move. It has proved to be alright.”

He “blanket bombed all the drama schools in the UK” with applications and landed auditions for around a dozen, including the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

“I got a recall for RADA and f****** William Hurt was on the panel,” says Sives. “I crumbled and went to bits. I tried to sing a song from The Lion King all out of tune while William Hurt stared at me.”

In the end, Sives was accepted to the Drama Centre London. “I knew nothing about it,” he admits. “Had I been aware of the Drama Centre’s notoriety I probably would never have gone.”

Looking back over his career to date, what roles is he most proud of? “Guilt is my Sopranos – I am deeply proud of that,” he says. “I was in Chernobyl which, I think, was masterpiece television.

“I am proud to have been part of the first season of Game of Thrones too. There is a small alumni of first-seasoners from Game of Thrones. Most of the adults got killed off in that first season.

“There is a nice little coterie of actors who got killed off that I meet from time to time – not all together but I bump into them – and we talk about how we didn’t go on to get £350,000 an episode like the kids did. It is nice to be a part of that.”

Away from work, Sives can typically be found running or boxing. “I train a lot. I go to Lochend Boxing Club five times a week when I am in Edinburgh. I love doing that.

“A couple of summers ago I got bitten by a dog as I was running over the South Downs. It crushed a nerve in my elbow, and I couldn’t do any training.

“Then I got an injury to my leg. I was running too much to compensate for not being able to do any upper body work. I overloaded my leg and injured it. There came a period where I couldn’t do anything at all because my lower half and top half were both out of action.

“I was overweight and under-trained and tired. It affects me mentally if I can’t train. I do a lot of mental spring-cleaning when I am out running. I like getting in and punching the bag and letting off a bit of steam.

“Not being able to do either of those things put me in an unfortunate state. But I am back training again and it helps my mental situation.”

When did he return to training? “January this year. The injury went on and on. It has been great to get back and I find it very therapeutic. I never listen to music when I run. It is just me and my thoughts.”

We move on to some Smash Hits-style questions. What’s the book, TV show or film that changed his life? “My favourite book and the best yarn that has ever been written is Treasure Island [by Robert Louis Stevenson]. I have that in my lavvy.

“It is an incredible book and I have bought it so many times because I keep gifting it to people. I like trying to find lovely, little hardback classic copies to gift to people on jobs. It is amazing. I can’t wait to read it again.

“On The Road [by Jack Kerouac] was my bible when I was a huffy teenager and wanted to get out of town. I always had a well-thumbed copy doon my jukes.”

Another big passion for Sives is playing the guitar. We touch on some of his musical heroes, including Welsh singer-songwriter Ren (“a creative genius”) and the late great David Bowie (“it is just so sad he is no longer in the world – I feel that he is missing”).

“When I did Chernobyl, the director was a guy called Johan Renck,” says Sives. “He was brilliant. He directed all the David Bowie videos from that last album before his [Bowie’s] death.”

We press on with the rapid-fire round. Ideal dinner party guests? “Gosh, you should have warned me – I would have come out with cool and obscure people that no-one has heard of,” groans Sives. “Instead, I’ll just go for corny people …

“John Lennon and Paul McCartney – I don’t like all the Paul McCartney bashing that goes on. George Orwell is a fantastic writer. Jimi Hendrix. I am sticking to music and literature, aren’t I? There is probably some very worthy Nobel Prize winner that I am omitting.”

What about a motto or philosophy for life? “Without hope, without fear. I love Caravaggio – he would be at my dinner table. His wee gang used to daub ‘nec spe, nec metu’ in Latin, which means ‘without hope, without fear’. I think that is great. Fear can be debilitating; hope can be misleading.”

Sives has a raft of interesting nuggets in this vein. He must be a handy man for Trivial Pursuit or pub quizzes? “I go up and visit my ma and she will be watching The Chase. I will answer a few questions and she will say, ‘You should get on that, Jamie …’

“I reply, ‘That would be great, wouldn’t it? Me rocking up on The Chase …’” Wait, isn’t there a celebrity version? “No thanks, don’t start that,” he laughs.

It is almost time to go. But we can squeeze in one last reflection on Guilt. “It was brilliant. I feel fortunate,” says Sives. “We were working on what I think is one of Scotland’s best ever dramas. It was a dream come true. To see it end feels quite sad, but we went out swinging when we were on top.”

Guilt returns to BBC Scotland on April 25, with all episodes available on BBC iPlayer that same day. The new series will also be shown on BBC Two from April 27