DIVA spoke to the iconic DS Simone “Monty” Montrose
BY SAM GRIERSON, IMAGE BY BBC
Having casually clicked on BBC Scotland’s police drama Granite Harbour, I turned to my girlfriend and said with a raised eyebrow.
“Who is that…?”
Cue instant internet search whilst we determine the essential information. The actor in question was Michelle Jeram, who plays DS Simone “Monty” Montrose, the resident data expert at the fictional Aberdeen City Police. The character of Monty is complete with a waistcoat, shirt, tie and trench coat, with an analytical and direct delivery style that is immediately head-turning, unique and iconic.
Michelle is no stranger to police drama, I discovered when I caught up with her to discuss her role and career. “I joined the police in 1991 and served as a constable for 23 years in roles as varied as “Bobby on the beat”, CID and SOIT officer (Sexual Offences Investigative Trained),” Michelle tells me.
Michelle recounts “being out as gay at the time wasn’t easy” the “banter” and “bullying” that was a part of everyday life in a culture where no one wanted to stand out. “I was already female, I didn’t want to be different again by being gay”.
Her police career came to an abrupt end following a difficult arrest that left her needing five operations and a total knee replacement. After recovering she realised that she needed to do something more with her life and turned to a passion she had gained from watching Bugsy Malone as a child, the desire to be an actor.
Having completed various training courses at Pinewood Studios and online, lockdown provided Michelle with the opportunity to respond to a Twitter request for LGBTQIA actors to make a 60-second video for Pride, Michelle recorded “Coming Out Again” which was well received and she was contacted by an agent and later landed roles on Eastenders and The Split.
Michelle’s next role as Monty on Granite Harbour allowed her to use her direct police experience to shape the character and also the opportunity to develop the back story for Monty. “Monty was originally written for a man to play but they changed it for me”, she reveals. “I had auditioned for the role of the DCI, but they were keen for me to play the analyst. I imagined her being high-tech, geeky and gay. I worked with the costume designer on a vision we had as to how to bring this to life. It’s funny we have had feedback from viewers on Monty being their ‘fashion icon’ now and that Granite Harbour has the ‘best-dressed cops on TV’.”
I ask Michelle about Monty being gay, a theme that wasn’t directly explored in season one. She replies, “In my head, Monty is gay, absolutely gay. I knew her characteristics when I first read the script and it affects how I play the role – absolutely gay”.
I ask Michelle about her experiences of being out when she was younger and how that informed her acting. “When I was younger things were more rigid on how you had to be and look. I remember being told outside a nightclub ‘This isn’t a club for you’ as the bouncers looked me up and down, so I was working out how to belong,” she says. “I didn’t come out at work until I was 27 as it felt like I might somehow lose my job. It’s always been with me, the ‘coming out thing’ and now I just think – what’s the difference, we all have the same bills to pay?”
Michelle’s latest project also draws from her police experience, acting alongside Juliette Binoche in Queen At Sea where she plays a SOIT officer (Sexual Offences Investigative Trained). I ask how important her previous career was to shaping this. “It was invaluable,” Michelle says. “The writer/ director Lance Hammer wanted us to use improv to build out the script, therefore it’s very authentic. I was able to help them understand timelines of how things would happen in real life.”
While we wait for Queen At Sea to be released via the film festival route, I ask Michelle what can we see her in next.
“I’m filming season two of Granite Harbour in October in Glasgow and Aberdeen, so Monty will be back on the screen shortly and maybe even on a street near you…”
If you haven’t seen DS Monty yet you can catch the first season of Granite Harbour on BBC iPlayer.
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