I grew up watching Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and every other Gerry Anderson show I could get my hands on. So it was an honour to talk to Shane Rimmer, actor, writer, and voice artist who gave life to Scott Tracy on Thunderbirds as well as writing a number of episodes of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Rimmer is still working with Jamie Anderson (our interview with him can be seen here). With Thunderbirds 1965, Firestorm and more on the way, it’s a busy time for the 86-year-old actor, but we were lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with him.
There was a bit of an audio issue for the first minute or so, but the rest is fixed. For those that prefer, I have also transcribed the interview below.
Correction: according to the Thunderbirds 1965 twitter account, Jamie and Shane are not directly involved in Thunderbirds 1965 – apologies, we were misinformed and got that wrong.
JC: I asked him initially about his experiences working with Gerry Anderson…
SR: It was always interesting because you never quite knew what was going to pop up next. He had an amazingly prolific career, just went from one series to another. And I think they got better as they went along. They started off with some fairly innocent stories. But the experiences and the people who came into the organisation really backed it up.
For Thunderbirds, he had heard my voice on a BBC series, and thought it might suit Scott Tracy. You still had to come in and put your voice down on audition, which happened, and two weeks later I got a call asking would I like to do the part of Scott Tracy. I thought it was going to be quite a brief exercise, but that was fifty years ago! So it sure outdid my expectations.
It was always a joy working there because the product was so good. Gerry would never allow anyone onto that situation who wasn’t pretty top notch. The great thing was most of them graduated to Star Wars and Star Trek and a lot of the space big names. So it was a successful run for just about everybody. It was great!
JC: You also wrote a number of episodes not only of Thunderbirds but also of Captain Scarlet; how did you get into the writing?
SR: I worked a lot of times with Tony Barwick who was one of the script editors – we were two gold nuts so we got off to a good start. And just being around him and doing the scripts, reading them, you learned how to maybe put some of it down yourself.
I got a phone call from Sylvia Anderson saying they wanted a script fairly rapidly on the Captain Scarlet series. Tony Barwick filled me in on what the outline was – you’ve got to have something to work with – and I ended up doing four of the Scarlet episodes – quite a cast of characters. So again that was something you grew up with – not up all the way, but certainly just with your proximity to a lot of Gerry Anderson’s stuff.
The writing came fairly easily. You learned how to get your characters placed properly. The difficult thing with a series like this is you had to go into what are called ‘semi-climaxes’. So that they would have time for a commercial break. And that was the most difficult part of it. You got the story lines alright, but then you had to make sure that the commercial breaks happened at about the same time that they were needed.
JC: You’re now working with Jamie Anderson on Thunderbirds 1965, can you tell us a little bit about how that’s been going?
SR: Well, it’s still in the beginning stages now. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out. I think it must be okay because a lot of the original members of the series of Thunderbirds are involved in it so they’re old hands and they know how to roll these things out.
Jamie is a breath of fresh air. He’s certainly the son of his father. He grew up with it! Since he was – what? – six or seven all he heard was Thunderbirds around. So, so far so good, I think. He’s drawing a lot of people into his production team, so hopefully it’ll go well.
JC: I believe you’re working on Firestorm, the TV series at the moment.
SR: I think I am! You probably know more about it possibly than I do! Yes, it’s an interesting concept, we’ll see how it works out. But you never know. As I said with Thunderbirds, I thought I’d be involved for a couple of days, and that was fifty years ago.
JC: Since you did the original and now you’re doing the 1965 version, how has the industry changed over all those years?
I think it’s grown – and I can only judge on what happened on Thunderbirds and the rest of Gerry’s stuff – I think it’s grown up a lot! It’s not dedicated just to the very young it covers the whole family. So when a writer is given a contract to write, he’s got to keep that in mind. You don’t talk down to anybody. You know, there’s the whole family involved so your mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and all that sort of thing. And it’s very good to keep that concept going because you’ve got the family there and they all enjoy it. So we’re lucky.
JC: Well thank you very much for talking to us, it’s been an absolute pleasure, and an honour!
SR: Thank you.