THE X Factor, it’s long been recognised, can wreck lives.

After fifteen minutes of fame under the white hot spot light, contestants can spend years applying calamine lotion to their burned egos.

But what of those who are thrust into film fame, and then left to wonder what hit them?

William Ruane, now back on our screens with BBC soap River City playing ‘troubled’ Brian Anderson, was launched into film space in 2002 by film director Ken Loach.

But Castlemilk-born actor William’s appearance in cult movie Sweet Sixteen was very much a mixed blessing.

“My career in fact peaked on my very first acting job,” admits the 31 year-old in soft voice. “I’ve never been able to reach that height again.

“And like people who go on the X Factor, I wasn’t ready for it. I was a young boy from Castlemilk, I wasn’t educated in the acting world and I guess I never really took it seriously.

“It was too much too young.”

William adds; “I’ve thought about this over the years and if the Sweet Sixteen thing was to happen now I’d have been more mature, and at a different stage in my career and maybe I’d have done better with it.

“I was fortunate enough to get Angel’s Share ten years later (another Loach film) but it never gave me the same success as Sweet Sixteen.”

When Sweet Sixteen was screened William and co-star Martin Compston were vaunted as the new Scots stars destined to make it big. Compston has, recently starring in ITV’s Line of Duty, but William didn’t have the same success.

William went on to appear in River City for a year from 2002, but thereafter acting has been a long slog, of bit parts on television and small roles in theatre.

“After Angels Share I got little parts, but then I’d go for auditions for the next two and a half years and nothing at all.

“Before I got the call to go back to River City this time around I was pretty much done (with the business). For the past two and a half years I joined the real working world. At the age of 28, I was selling windows, cars, holidays, anything.”

Then the call came from River City producers. Deirdre Davis’s character Eileen is leaving, having taken on gangster Lenny one too many times.

Lenny, we learn, kidnaps her son Brian (William) in a revenge attack and all kinds of mayhem ensue.

“The River City reappearance gave me a bit of a boost,” William admits of his acting confidence. “And I thought going back was worth a gamble.

“But I’m not going to go back into the business for the tiny jobs that won’t lead to anything. I’m only going to go back in for the bigger things that may help my career.

“I don’t want to go back to the life of not knowing if I’ll be working the following week.”

The actor adds; “In my twenties I didn’t need the money. I didn’t really care when my next pay cheque came in. But when you want to buy a house and start a family it’s completely different. I need stability in my life.

“I’ve just moved into a flat with my girlfriend and we’ve just had a nice holiday. But that hasn’t come from acting.”

Is there a danger that River City could be the very attractive ex-girlfriend who once dumped you - and now wants to go out with you again – but only for four episodes?

“It can be a bit like that,” he says, grinning.

“As an actor you want to be a permanent. And I’d like to go back for a longer stretch. But it’s unlikely. With Eileen going I have no family left.

“I guess it would take Eileen to come back before her son reappeared. But I’d go back in a heartbeat.”

William at least has his occasional ‘girlfriend’ in perspective. And if more acting work doesn’t arrive on the back of it, he’ll be back selling. Something. Anything.

But does part of him regret the day Ken Loach arrived at St Margaret-Mary’s drama class and offered him an audition? William was a promising footballer.

“I really don’t know if I would have made it as a player,” he says, pondering the question. “I know I would have tried really hard. But the time, I didn’t get to think about it.”

There are actors who grudge others success. But William has nothing but congratulatory comment to make of his friend Martin Compston.

“I still keep in contact with Martin and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Of course, I’d love to be doing what he’s doing, but at least one of us is doing it.

“I like the interview he did recently talking about how hard it can be for working class actors. The Eddie Redmayne’s of this world do have a real advantage. If you come from somewhere like Castlemilk it does make it more difficult.

“Martin is showing that working class guys can be very good actors.”

William Ruane, who was brought up by his mum, may or may not make it as a top actor. But what’s undeniable is he’s hard working and balanced.

“The X Factor is tougher than acting,” he says smiling, returning to the opening part of the conversation.

“Careers are over in six months, but I’ve had fourteen years at this. It just may not continue, or it may happen when I’m forty five. And you don’t lose the skills.

“But I can deal with whatever happens.”

*River City, BBC1 Scotland at 8pm.