A comedian who was born and raised in Perth has spoken about how his huge YouTube presence helped him land a celebrity film role.
Bruce Fummey, now based in Blackford, plays Hamish in the re-release of The Lost King, written by and starring Steve Coogan.
The film, directed by Stephen Frears, fictionalizes the discovery of King Richard III’s remains. in 2012 under a car park in Leicester.
It is currently in cinemas across the UK.
Bruce, 58, was in Edinburgh for five days to film his role and in the final version he speaks regularly with Coogan’s co-star Sally Hawkins, who plays Philippa Langley.
Bruce was a stand-up comedian and tour guide before Covid lockdowns hit.
He then spent the next two years building a YouTube audience of up to 436,000 viewers.
This gave him an unexpected break in acting and he now has other projects in mind.
Bruce has since performed a 10-minute monologue for BBC series The Wedding.
But he said: “It’s not something I was looking for. I became an actor by accident.”
In this feature, Bruce talks about his background in Perth, life as a mixed race Scot and his ‘accidental’ successes.
Bruce says his background was an advantage in his career.
His father Vincent came to Scotland from Ghana in his early 20s to work for ACS Flight Training at Perth Airport.
The intent was for residents of former British colonies to develop skills – in Vincent’s case, aeronautical engineering – to help develop their newly independent homelands.
But he met his future wife, Valerie, and stayed in Perth.
Growing up in the city, Bruce was initially a physics teacher before working in the financial sector at Scottish Amicable Insurance for 14 years.
“I hated it towards the end,” Bruce said.
He became a stand-up comedian while returning to the classroom as a teaching assistant in Perthshire and Argyll and Bute.
He spent three months on the Hebridean island of Islay trying to learn the indigenous language.
“I was a half-Scottish, half-African stand-up comic teaching math to learn Gaelic at Islay High School,” he quipped.
Local Comedy Awards
Bruce ran Just Laugh Comedy Clubs in Perth, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling for over a decade.
He was named Scottish Comedian of the Year in 2014 and his Edinburgh Fringe shows were nominated for Scottish Comedy Awards in 2013 and 2014.
He was also nominated for a Comedy Award at Perth Fringe Western Australia in 2015.
Bruce launched into the International Burns circle after an acclaimed fringe show About Tam O’Shanter, which culminated with a stirring rendition of the poem.
In 2017 he performed at Burns Suppers in the European Parliament, Bangkok and Jakarta before taking his History of Scotland show on a three month tour across the world to Australia and New Zealand.
That same year he performed “Macbeth…without the Shakespearean b******s” at the Fringe.
“I realized I could take people to places I knew Macbeth had been to,” Bruce said.
“So I started doing Macbeth tours and became a tour guide.”
Lockdown ends career
But everything changed when the first Covid lockdown was announced in March 2020.
“I was a tour guide by day and a stand-up comedian by night – when Covid hit both jobs were unprofitable,” Bruce said.
“Some of my friends got jobs stacking shelves at Tesco but because Covid was targeting fat middle-aged people my wife told me I wasn’t allowed to leave the house.
“So I had a year to do something and I figured I can’t take people on tours so I’m going to do videos.
“I will go everywhere and tell stories from Scotland’s history. I started doing it and it started taking off.
“It changed my life.”
The kilt video is viewed 437,000 times
The first videos on his Scotland History Tours YouTube channel were made from his home or on his only walk allowed each day.
When restrictions were eased he visited Stirling Castle and the Trossachs where he told stories about Rob Roy.
“In the beginning, you’d be hooked with 400 views,” Bruce said.
“If I don’t get 20,000 views now, I’ll be mad!”
The channel currently has 158,000 subscribers and its most viewed video – What They Don’t Say About the Kilt – has amassed 437,000 views in five months.
“People watch my videos from all over the world,” Bruce said.
“You get a lot of Americans, Canadians and Australians looking back to learn more about their ancestors and you hear the story from a mixed-race Scotsman, which is a little different.”
Zoom chat with Stephen Frears
It was this combination of a history buff and a cosmopolitan background that landed him the role in The Lost King.
He was contacted by a member of the production team.
“They said they were looking for a Scotsman with an ethnic background and an interest in history,” Bruce recalled.
“I had to speak to this guy I had never heard of and they said I was perfect for the role.
“If I had been a shabby white Scotsman, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the part.”
That “guy” was Stephen Frears, who received an Oscar nomination for directing The Grifters and has directed other notable films such as My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity, and The Queen Has.
They talked about Zoom.
“I don’t really get to watch movies, which was good because I was naïve about the whole thing,” Bruce said.
Become a “real actor”.
In The Lost King, Hamish plays a member of the Richard III Society who encourages Philippa Langley to follow her dreams and do her own research into the former monarch’s burial site.
Off-set, Bruce was pushed by one of his “real actors” – as he calls them – to find an agent.
“The next week someone asked me if I would do a radio play about Cowdenbeath Football Club called Black Diamonds and Blue Brazil,” he recalled.
“So I figured I’d better get an agent.”
He was soon contacted to star in The Wedding, a six part BBC Scotland series about a black Scottish wedding.
Bruce’s monologue can be viewed here.
Inspirational message to children
Reflecting on his career, Bruce thinks he’s been on a chance journey.
“I was a tour guide during the day and got up at night, but when Covid hit both were unprofitable, so I accidentally became a YouTuber,” he said.
“And then people asked me to do movies, so I just happened to become an actor.
“I have a new career. And throughout my life I keep getting these new careers randomly.
“You never know when something will come your way, but at the same time, as a YouTuber, you need presentation and business skills.
“You also need historical knowledge for my channel. All of these things have built up and come together over the course of my life.
“If I were still teaching, I would say to the kids, ‘keep working hard and follow your passions.’
“Because with the skills you develop, you never know when fate will present an opportunity to work for you.”
“If I can do this until I die, I would be happy”
Bruce has a simple philosophy for future work commitments.
“I will continue to make YouTube videos,” he said.
“Whenever someone asks me if I want to take on an acting role, I might do it.
“I’ll just keep enjoying life and doing things that I would love to do, even if I’m not getting paid for it.
“If I can do this until I die, I would be happy.”
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[YouTube videos win Perth’s Bruce Fummey role on The Lost King]