Interview With GRAHAM MCTAVISH | Honor and Hope
Even in our darkest moments, we can try to give our best. By finding and seeing beauty in the world, we will always have Hope which means Honor who we are. It is interesting how actors have the opportunity to understand and share the feelings of others through the process of portraying different personalities. Scottish actor Graham McTavish says, “(…) We are all fascinated by darkness because it lives, to some extent, in all of us. Not as murderers or psychopaths, but as human beings who through weakness make mistakes. (…)” McTavish is aware of this, as one of his roles is Saint of Killers in AMC’s adaptation of “Preacher,” which will premiere its Season 3 on June 24th.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Graham McTavish?
I’m Graham McTavish, I’m an actor who fell into this business by accident, I identify as a Scot but have lived most of my life outside of Scotland, in Canada, England, America and New Zealand. But first and foremost, I’m a father to two beautiful girls, Honor and Hope.
- Do you remember the moment you fell in love with acting? If so, please describe how you felt.
The moment I fell in love with acting was on the stage of my school drama studio. I was asked to take over a part, three days before the performance by the school drama teacher, Des Margetson (Thank you, Des!). To this day I have no idea why I agreed, other than perhaps there was a girl in the cast I might’ve liked. It was a comedy, Sheridan’s “The Rivals” and I played Bob Acres. When the audience laughed, for an unconfident adolescent boy, it was a delicious moment of connection and belonging. When they applauded at the end, well, I was hooked! That one day changed my life.
- You are originally from Scotland but currently, live between New Zealand and the U.S. What inspires you most about these countries?
I live between New Zealand and the US. New Zealand is like the Scotland of the Southern Hemisphere, (many are descended from Scots folk). If you have ever read Peter Pan, it is like J.M. Barrie’s vision of Neverland, where you are never far from an adventure. It has volcanoes, fjords, lakes, mountains, beaches, tropical vegetation and alpine passes. New Zealand IS Neverland.
America is energy to me, belief, and forward momentum. It is as if America carries within it a fire that burns especially brightly. You cannot help but be affected and inspired by it.
- With an extensive acting career in the UK, you also have been successfully making your way to Hollywood. The entertainment industry in the UK must be different from the U.S. How did those differences help you grow as an actor?
I think I was lucky to begin my career, and work for many years, in British theatre, especially Scottish theatre. There is a strong sense of egalitarianism in Scotland in everything including the arts. It gave me the opportunity to play leading roles in such a variety of drama from farce and comedy, to Shakespeare and American drama. I sometimes performed Death of a Salesman in the afternoon and a French farce in the evening. That is a powerful learning experience for an actor. You have to be versatile and tireless, and quick!
America, where I have done most of my film and TV work, has inspired me in a different way. They are willing to embrace “the new guy.” I have been given opportunities here I don’t think I would’ve had in the UK Film and TV industry.
- In the last few years, the entertainment industry has changed tremendously, opening a vast international exposure through online streaming channels such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, to mention just a few. How does this affect you professionally?
The new platforms have only been good news, as far as I am concerned, professionally. I believe the change to the studio system here has forced EVERYONE to creatively up their game. In Television, there has never been a better time for telling provocative, difficult and challenging stories.
- You have portrayed several complex and dark characters such as Dwalin in “The Hobbit” film trilogy, Dougal MacKenzie in the Starz TV series “Outlander,” and one of the darkest roles, Saint of Killers in AMC’s adaptation of “Preacher,” which will premiere its Season 3 on June 24. Is it fun for you to play those characters? If so, why?
Playing “dark” characters is fun. As the saying goes, “The Devil has the best lines.” We are all fascinated by darkness because it lives, to some extent, in all of us. Not as murderers or psychopaths, but as human beings who through weakness make mistakes. That is what I love about them. These are people who point us towards the nuances and contradictions in the human experience.
- Before becoming part of the “Preacher’s” cast, you were already a fan of the books the TV series is based on and you mentioned that Saint was one of your favorite personages. How does it feel to play him and what fascinates you most about this character?
Playing the Saint of Killers is literally a dream come true. And as someone who grew up on westerns, especially Clint Eastwood ones (who was a direct influence on Garth Ennis’s creation of the Saint), I never imagined I’d ever get to play one. So, donning that duster and Stetson for the first time was a daunting experience. I carried the expectations of all the fans of those comics, including myself, on my shoulders. I’m doing this for them!
- Have you encountered any challenges as an actor during the process of studying and humanizing Saint of Killers?
The Saint is a man deeply scarred by his time in the Civil War who has had the redemption of a loving family snatched away from him. The oath that sets him on is dark indeed, but as a father I understand him. Whenever I have to find the reason for the Saint to do something, I only need to conjure my children in my mind and that fierce parental need to guard and protect them, always.
- What excitement can fans expect to see on “Preacher’s” Season 3?
In Season 3 the fans are in for multiple treats. Not just from established characters like Tulip, Jesse, Cassidy, myself and Arseface but from new fan favorites from the comics: AllFather, Grandma, T.C. and Jody, (Jesse’s terrifying extended family) and a new vampire for Cassidy to interact with. The storylines separate but eventually converge in a way that only Preacher could allow.
- Any highlights you could share with us about your experience in being part of the cast of Warner Bros. highly anticipated film “Aquaman,” which will premiere in theaters December 21st this year?
As for Aquaman, I can tell you Jason Momoa plays mean guitar! Also, my costume was only marginally lighter than my one in The Hobbit. I think it was 60lbs…
- Just one week after arriving in Los Angeles, you landed a leading role in Lionsgate’s “Rambo,” your first film with Sylvester Stallone. Since then, you worked non-stop in television and film playing a diverse array of roles. What is your formula for success in the entertainment industry?
My only formula for success in this industry is to follow my father’s advice to always try your best. You need self-belief, almost absurdly so, but you need a thick skin, and an overwhelming “need” to act. Acting cannot be a choice for you. That will see you through a lot.
- Have you discovered anything new about yourself during the process of creating your voice performances as Dante Alighieri in the animated film “Dante’s Inferno,” and several other animated TV series and video games characters?
Voice work has introduced me to a new discipline in acting and given me huge respect for those actors who work in that side if our industry day in day out. It is like all acting in that it is about discovering truth in a moment, but it relies solely on you breathing life into your performance through your voice, that extraordinary instrument we all share. It also means you can wear whatever clothes you like to work!
- You played from comedy to romance on stage, appearing in leading roles in prestigious theatres such the Royal Court and the National Theatres in London and the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. What is the biggest lesson that performing in theater has taught you as an actor?
The biggest lesson theatre has taught me is to think on your feet. There is no “cut” or “reset.” Once that ball starts rolling there is no stopping till the end. You need to be prepared for everything from losing props in the audience, forgetting crucial props, people forgetting their lines for whole scenes and having to do their lines as well, audience members shouting at the stage, trying to get on the stage, suffering medical emergencies, falling lights, and actors deliberately trying to make you laugh! It’s like an arena where ANYTHING can happen. It’s an adventure out there and I miss it.
- Are you involved in any charity or humanitarian organization you would like to mention? If so, which one?
I support Action for Children as my chosen charity.
- What is your biggest desire at this moment?
My biggest desire at this moment is to see an improvement in the rhetoric we hear from so many quarters. I want to see co-operation and enlightenment in a world that is sometimes sadly lacking in both. To embrace always what we have in common, and not to look for more reasons to keep us apart.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the process of creation affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
Joy during the creative process comes through the freedom that creativity gives you. Creativity is fresh and vital and possessive of only a fleeting moment. Joy is made up of fleeting moments, so I hope to create as many as possible through my work.
- Our mantra is “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
For us to be, do, and have anything you want, I believe we must foster a society of opportunity, and of fairness in all things. We must learn not to be afraid of the shared essence that we all have, which is to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life. That is not to say we cannot experience hardship. We will, but we must have the tools at our disposal to navigate through difficulties and remember that life is wonderfully unpredictable and, in that knowledge, find true happiness.