Gary: Tank Commander, the Continuing Mission

Greg McHugh is the man behind the permatan of sashaying soldier Gary McLintoch. Ahead of the second series of Gary: Tank Commander, Greg gave a revealing audio interview to BBC Scotland.

Gary McHugh
Greg McHugh, A.K.A. Gary: Tank Commander, in the studio

Gary is born

Rene Artois

Sitting in a radio studio at BBC Scotland's Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, Greg recalls the beginnings of Gary McLintoch.

In 2005, during "a slightly unhappy Edinburgh Festival [Fringe]", Greg was approached by William Andrews, who was generating ideas for production company The Comedy Unit.

Greg wanted to create a character that "would be a surprise" and, observing an absence of comedy on Iraq, set about imagining "the most unlikely guy you would get in the Army".

Inspiration came, in part, from another "unlikely hero", central character of classic sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, Rene Artois. "I absolutely love 'Allo 'Allo" says Greg, "it's brilliantly written and a lot of fun".

To discover more about the origins and unexpected inspirations for Gary: Tank Commander, listen to the first part of our extended interview.

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Representing the east coast

In past decades the west coast has dominated Scottish television comedy. "It's certainly time to explore other parts of the country" says Greg McHugh and "Gary is very much east coast". To be precise he is a "Fifer from Dalgety Bay".

Greg developed Gary's voice on the move. "Edinburgh buses seem to me to be the best place to perfect an accent". Greg's natural speaking voice is "slightly middle class Edinburgh" and he admits some fans are "slightly disappointed" to discover this. "They just really want to talk to Gary, they don't want to talk to me".

Gary: Tank Commander has been shown in Australia, but has yet to go out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Greg believes the programme deserves a trial "down south". "I don't think the show's about Scotland, I don't think it's a parochial show".

To hear more about the development of Greg's comic voice and his ambition to take Gary: Tank Commander UK wide, listen to the second part of our special interview.

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Gary: Tank Commander
Gary with his comrades Charlie, Jacko and Adam

Friendship and camaraderie

Feedback from the Army "has been incredibly positive" says Greg McHugh. Many Scottish servicemen follow Gary McLintoch on Twitter and Facebook. One soldier recently invited Gary to his wedding, an invitation Greg gladly accepted.

Each episode of Gary: Tank Commander includes YouTube-style clips. Greg explains that he wanted to "show a camaraderie" and "a friendship side of the army".

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Series Two of Gary: Tank Commander opens in Afghanistan. These scenes were in fact filmed in Scotland. To discover exactly where and how, listen to the third part of this illuminating interview.

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Hail to the Chief

"I don't think Afghanistan has changed Gary" says Greg McHugh, if anything he "feels even more sure on his world view now", but Series Two does see development in the central characters' relationships.

Greg's favourite episode from the series has the boys auditioning for an Army advertising campaign. Tensions are frayed as the competition hots up. "I felt it was a kind of full episode that seemed to have elements of drama". In the final instalment of this insightful interview, Greg reveals a cameo performance by one of the most powerful people in the world. Listen to discover who.

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