In Conversation with Grant O’Rourke ~ Actor: Outlander

Photo Credit: Robert Pereira Hind

Grant O’Rourke is a Scottish actor best known for his role as Rupert MacKenzie on the Starz hit show Outlander. Grant and I talked of his childhood in Scotland, his enduring love of the stage, all things Outlander – horses, swords, kilts, Stephen Walters etc. – the Gaelic and much more.

DB: You were born in Galashiels: what was it like growing up in Gala? That is what you say, ‘Gala’?

GO: Yes we do. The Borders is unlike any other place in Scotland in that it’s quite isolated. I always tell people this historical background of it: the Scottish Borders was the only place in Britain which was constantly at war for about 500 years, because every time someone went north they went through the Borders, and every time someone went south to attack, they went through the Borders, and they wrecked it every time. I think there’s a kind of psychological scarring there. The character of the Borders means that you are suspicious and cynical. Growing up there it was fine, but you’re kind of left with this ‘Borderness’, hard to get rid of because it’s so ingrained and I think it takes people by surprise sometimes.

DB: Rather than being suspicious and dour.

GO: Suspicious and dour, makes it sound so bad, because in some ways it’s a strength that, and a weakness. It takes a long time for me to get close to people but I like that level of suspicion, I think if I took everybody at face value, with an open heart, I’d have probably made a lot more mistakes in my life. We’re very blunt in the Borders – lovely people but blunt. We never really had any art or culture, it was rugby country down there and the textile industry was dying as well. I haven’t been there for 20 years now, I left when I was 18.

DB: What did you do as a kid?

GO: I grew up in the ‘80s, so completely unlike today, you would go out on your bike and just cycle over to the next town or something. It’s pretty rural in the Borders and you’d disappear until it was your dinner and you’d come home at night. That was it, mucking about, all day.

DB: Who was at home when you were growing up?

GO: My mum and dad divorced when I was three, so I had quite a large extended family and acquired family as well. I lived with my mum and my stepdad. My family side is really complicated because I have stepbrothers, I have brothers and sisters and family on my dad’s side – to be honest it’s exhausting trying to explain it to people sometimes. I was lucky in that, for the first 10 years of my life, I was the youngest of three boys and then my little brother was born (my other brothers had moved out by that point), so I went from being the youngest to the oldest. I think it’s quite a nice emotional grounding for a person to have both of those things, sometimes you tend to be characterised quite heavily by which sibling you are, so it was nice to have both of those roles. It was a nice shift and quite humbling as well, to go from the apple of the eye, to glorified babysitter! It’s hard sometimes, you tend to forget they’re not children, I mean, my younger brother’s almost 30 now, but I still think of him as much younger than he is. It’s a strange age difference, not quite old enough to feel like a parent but you sometimes don’t feel like peers.

DB: Anyone else in the family into the creative arts?

GO: My little brother is a musician. My little cousin started acting recently. I was the first person in my family, I think, to leave the Borders and go to university. There really wasn’t a lot of access to the arts in Galashiels, they didn’t even teach drama at school when I was there. I went to a careers’ guidance counsellor and said that I might want to be an actor, and they were like, ‘Well don’t bother, you don’t have any experience, so you’ll never get anywhere.’ I guess my access to the arts was when I was about 15, I got a job as a projectionist at the local cinema and that became pretty much my life. I adore cinema anyway and getting to be part of it, and to see pretty much every film that came in between 1995 and 1998, was an amazing experience. It was such an amazing time for cinema in Scotland because we had all these films like Braveheart, Trainspotting, Small Faces, all these great Scottish films, or films about Scotland, that were coming out.

DB: Do you think that was where you started getting the acting bug?

GO: I don’t know, because I remember, I did a nativity play, where I was playing one of the three kings – I must have been aged 7 or 8 – and I remember looking at the narrator just thinking, ‘That guy can’t even read, I should be playing that!’ And looking back now, realising that’s obviously what I’ve had in me the whole time.

DB: What was school like for you?

GO: Galashiels Academy, it sounds really posh but it’s literally the only school in the town. Up until the age of about 15 I was a grade A student and then, I don’t know, I got to the point of when I was doing my Highers (the final exam you take in high school) and I had this existential moment. I’d been doing Higher Maths, and I’m the type of person who always wants to understand everything, so they’d tell you about a mathematical principle and I’d ask, ‘Why is it that?’ and they’d say, ‘Just because it is.’ By that point I stopped caring and I asked them if I could just stop doing the course and they talked me into doing the exams. I remember – it was the most liberating thing – I just sat down in the exam, looked at the paper, turned over the page, and didn’t do a single thing, just put my head on the desk and went to sleep! So I got a ‘no grade’ for Higher Maths! I was always much more interested, and capable at Arts, English, History all those kind of things, but I chose scientific subjects that I wasn’t that interested in and where concepts were far too advance for me to understand. I’ve always enjoyed a level of subjectivity and interpretation, and because I was always naturally much more drawn to the idea of telling a story, or creating a character, that doesn’t lend itself well to scientific line of thinking.

You know everybody has their own levels of recurring dreams, well one of them is that I just go back to school. I’m me, a 40-year-old man, and teachers keep telling me to do stuff and I’m like, ‘I’m 40, I’m not going to do that. You can’t tell me what to do.’ I think that’s the element of school I came away with. It’s like seeing through The Matrix and just realising how pointless so much of it was at the time.

DB: Back to being in Gala, have you ever taken part in the Braw Lads Gathering?

GO: I guess we should explain if anyone reading this has no idea what it is. The Gathering is historically based on the idea that the local men in each town would get on horses, and ride around the perimeters of the town to mark their territory, and eventually this developed into a week long festivity for each town in the Borders. Gala’s one is pretty much made up, apparently, manufactured because the other towns had one. I didn’t take part in the actual riding but I did take part in the fancy dress parade around town though a few time. I haven’t seen it since I was 17-18 as I haven’t been back. It’s an amazing kind of thing to be involved in and if you’ve never seen one I would recommend it.

DB: What did you study at university?

GO: I did a community college course at Fife College, in acting, because I met someone who said that they pretty much accepted anyone. Once I finished it I just went back to doing jobs, having to work for a living, I realised, ‘I have to be an actor. That’s the only thing I’ve ever done that gives me that sense of satisfaction and purpose, and ownership.’ I applied to a couple of drama schools [university] and got accepted into them both. Having always been interested in being an actor trained in Scotland, who works in Scotland, I decided to go to the RSAMD [Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland] in Glasgow.

DB: What jobs did you do in between?

GO: More cinema, service industry, working in restaurants, bar work, as a roofer and chimney sweep for two weeks. I trained as a croupier in a casino which ended up being the most depressing job I’ve ever done, because literally while saving up to go to college, I was watching high rollers get a roulette table to themselves and basically waste my entire fees for the year in about 20 minutes! It seemed so unjust, so I left that after two months. From the point of view of being a croupier it was kind of a fun thing to do, the world is interesting, but it was too depressing on a deep, profound, moral level. I worked in a hotel up in the Highlands for 8 months, where I got free food and board, so I managed to save up enough money [for college] while I was there.

DB: How long were you at university for and what was the course like there?

GO: It was three years at the RSAMD. It’s a world class course – the RSAMD is one of the top drama schools in the world now – it gives you a great exposure to a lot of tools that you may, or may not, find useful but that are all useful. Looking back now I don’t necessarily think that everyone needs to train to be an actor. A lot of emphasis, is put on this idea of being classically trained; you know there’s lots of terrible classically trained actors out there. I was lucky to graduate, I never really got that professional ‘head’ on until I had to pay my rent, with my earnings. It was only once I realised that being a good professional is putting food on the table, that I started to work harder, and I think I learned more on the job than I did at college – but it’s an amazing course.

DB: What was your first professional role as an actor?

GO: My first professional role was in the Slab Boys, by John Byrne, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh; I got that job when I was in the 3rd year at drama school, so I was out of school for a few months. It was a big job, I mean it would be a big job now if I got it, in terms of scale or length of the job, 8 months. It was fun at the rehearsals, but then by the time we were on tour with it – I was still having to go to college, having these 60-70 hour weeks and was just exhausted. By the time I got back one of our teachers, my voice coach Ros, had a chat with me about it. She said, ‘Do you still want to do it, acting?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. Why do you ask?’ She said, ‘It’s very understandable for people to feel that kind of disenchantment for the first time.’ I had considered it but I think I’m just so bloody-minded, I was like, ‘No, I’ve made my mind up, I’ve decided I’m going to be an actor, so that’s what I’m going to be now.’ I wasn’t very well-behaved when I was at drama school, or in my first couple of years as an actor. Obviously your empathy levels increase a lot as you get older, and I think once you settle down, as I did with my wife, you realise the importance of just seeing it as a job. When I finish my day, I go home and don’t think about it. I’m not torturing myself and punishing myself, I do the work that I’m capable of to the best of my ability, and I always try and push myself enough so that I feel that I’ve expanded my comfort zone a little bit. I do want to develop but I don’t see the point of unnecessarily torturing yourself, or this self-flagellation that actors seem to do. That separation for me has always been important and it’s helped me a lot as well. Your social life isn’t tied up with it, you can have a separate world.

DB: Better for mental health as well.

GO: Oh big time, yeah! I just stopped going to premieres and press nights and screenings: I’ve never really enjoyed them but I always felt like I had to. To an extent it is an important part of the job, networking, but when I’m teaching students I always tell them to play to their strengths, and my strength is not networking.

You’re teaching students acting, it’s totally subjective, so what worked for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I think it’s more about teaching principles, a belief in a way to work, rather than an exact method by which you work. Everybody in the acting profession agrees that, really, just don’t be a dick and turn up on time – those are the only rules that everybody has to follow, everything else is just gravy.

Photo Credit: Alan McCredie The Venetian Twins

DB: You won an award back in 2015 for your role as twins in an 18th century play, The Venetian Twins, could you tell me a bit about that?

GO: It was great. I had an amazing time doing it because the director and writer, Tony Cownie, is someone who I have worked with a lot. He’s been such a great influence on me in terms of comedy on stage, and in a play like that where the script was so funny, because he had done this modern Scots adaptation. I was on stage pretty much the whole time, running off one side, right round the back and then back on as the other twin. I was so physically involved, and mentally involved because I had all these lines, constantly trying to make every single moment funny, finding all these beats, whilst still doing the job of finding the dramatic line in the story, of the character. I was so busy that I just did not think of anything else: I didn’t get a chance to complain about anything; I didn’t get a chance to get bored; it became like this current of water that just carries you through.

DB: When are you next on stage?

GO: I’m doing a remount of a one-man show that I did about Jocky Wilson, the darts player, in a couple of weeks.

DB: Are you going to take your front teeth out for that? (Both laugh)

GO: I met some women who had played on the Fife darts team with him, and they came up and said, ‘Ah tell you what, son, that was a great impression of Jocky, but one thing ye didnae do, that he did, he’d always take his front teeth out to give ye a wee kiss and put them in his top pocket.’ And I was like, ‘I’m not that method.’

DB: How does the process of delving into another psyche, factor into your process of preparing for a role?

GO: I’ve always approached it as dipping your toe into the water of something that might otherwise might not be permissible or acceptable. First and foremost, I guess I’m not that kind of popular idea of what an actor is, by staying in character the whole time, regardless of how that makes other people feel. I like to turn it on and off and I try to be considerate of the other actors as well, because if you’re making someone else uncomfortable you’re not creating the best work environment. In some ways it can be cathartic. You get to know these facets of yourself without the repercussions. It’s also about marrying parts of yourself with these reactions of another person. If it’s something well-written the intentions are always there anyway, you don’t have to delve too deeply into unpleasant places. I don’t tend to be cast as heavier, darker kinds of people, there’s always a sympathetic quality about them. I’ve been up for things before where you’ve looked at the scene and thought, ‘Jeez, this will be really tough… this might take a toll.’ But it just so happens that I’ve never really been cast in roles like that. There’s either a sadness or a tragic-comic aspect in a lot of the characters that I’ve played, that’s not emotionally distressing to play. I’m always interested to explore everything, finding the best way to do it, so I’m not saying that I don’t want to do that, but I don’t actively want it.

DB: How do the lines and writing merge with you ‘getting’ the character?

GO: It depends really. Some parts are written so clearly and vividly, that you don’t really have a choice but to play it that way, but the further you go back to things like Shakespeare, you still have the clues for the character in the script, but you have much more free rein. That’s when you have to be objective about it, as an actor, to see what your place is, how your character contributes to that story and how can you best serve the scene, the whole story. One of the things I enjoy most about playing supporting characters is that you’re given less time, less lines, to try and create the character, so you’ve got to be much more precise in output and your choices.

DB: You’re in a short film called Slingshot, with Sharon Small.

GO: Yes, she’s great! It was a really beautiful place in West Kilbride, a beautiful little place by the coast. We were there 2 or 3 days; I got incredibly sunburned. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m sure it will look amazing. I should look at it but I’ve stopped watching myself in anything now.

DB: Do you not like watching yourself in anything?

GO: I don’t get any pleasure out of it. I used to really like it when I first started but I’m just not bothered. Doing Outlander really kind of killed that, just overexposure to it. I have to, for my job, but it’s one aspect of my job that I really have to be pushed into; I sometimes get my wife to do it, if I have to pick a scene for a reel or something, and ask her what she thinks is the best one. I think sometimes I only see mistakes, or things that I did wrong, and you try to correct them, but you’re always going to make mistakes, in your own head, so a way to relinquish control of that (or the need for control) is not to look at it, and to just keep trying to do good work.

DB: And when you’re doing all your stage work you’re not watching every single night all over again thinking, ‘Oh that didn’t work,’ or, ‘That wasn’t right.’?

GO: You’re still thinking exactly those things the whole time, but you’re never going to see it. My mistake is not there forever. Well I’m saying ‘mistakes’, but they are more ‘choices’ that I might have done differently. I also understand that, as an actor, you change week to week, as a person. Even me on my best night 10 years ago, I would do that differently now and I think it would still have validity. Sometimes I just don’t like my choices and when you’re on stage it’s ethereal, and it’s live, a piece of art that just exists in everyone’s memories and therefore it’s this amorphous experience, that has different significance and impact. I love that.

We love to nitpick things, we love to take a piece of film or a TV show and we’ll all just pick all the holes in it, and we’ll all argue about the thing that we liked as well, but with theatre it becomes more about an emotional, spiritual experience.

DB: I think the other thing with theatre which doesn’t always happen with TV or film, is the emotional impact that it has on you and the relevance you can see to your life, or life in general. I think it becomes more internalised often than TV or film.

GO: That’s a great way of putting it, it’s internalising it, whereas a lot of TV and films seems to be an externalised, or eventually it becomes externalised. I went to see the new Avengers film the other day, with my son, and the feeling of watching that film, how exciting and entertaining it is, for the both of us, that moment was amazing. I had a similar feeling when I took my little brother to see Superman Returns. I hadn’t seen one of those films since I was a child and I had these moments when the music – you know the John Williams’ score – kicked in where you were just transported back to being a child again, you know, this kind of wonder. A couple of years later you look back and think, ‘Well, maybe it wasn’t that great, and it has these problems,’ and we analyse it and externalise it and then it just becomes tawdry. The writer John Byrne, who wrote The Slab Boys Trilogy, I remember someone telling me that he always said he didn’t like talking about what he was writing because as soon as you start talking about it it takes all of the air out of it, and you don’t want to write it any more. I’m going to keep that, there’s a lot just to be said for externalising a reaction to a piece of art, that completely goes against what is ultimately an internal, subjective process.

Photo Credit: Robert Pereira Hind

DB: I think, people are often desperate to make sense of everything straight away, rather than just relaxing (as you would as a kid) and going with the flow.

GO: Exactly, you let stuff wash over you. I remember when I started watching House of Cards I didn’t really understand a lot of the American political process, so it became like Shakespeare at one point, but I let it wash over me. I know a lot of people are put off theatre because they think, ‘How is this better than a film?’ There’s this really worrying trend in theatre (certainly in Scotland) where we have this idea that a ‘worthy’ play is one about an issue, where we can all sit and agree – you know like ‘war is bad’ – whereas actually I think the ones where you’re left discussing it and scratching your head and maybe thinking, ‘I don’t agree with that,’ those are the interesting pieces of art. I did a play last year called Ballyturk, by the Irish writer Enda Walsh that’s very absurdist theatre, so you see people behaving in an absurd way, a way that’s very disconnected from reality and talking about things that are very mundane, that people might claim make no sense. Every night after the show people would come up and go ‘This is what I think the play was about.’ It’s almost like they were looking to you for answers, but the answer was always, ‘I’m still not sure yet.’ I love theatre like that, you’re just given a lot of questions and you’re not given any conclusions.

DB: You have done some voice work as well on The Bards Tale IV [console game]. I don’t play games but I watched some videos on YouTube and thought I would actually like to play this one, because it’s beautiful to look at.

GO: The music is unbelievable. They actually had a concert with all the music recently. It’s traditional folk music, a lot of Gaelic mouth music and singing, so beautifully put together. Fair play, the guys who made it (all based in LA) wanted to get authentic Celtic accents, so there’s a lot of Scottish actors, friends of mine, and we all ended up doing it. I think I got cast for two or three parts and I ended up playing about 10 or 15. Sometimes I’ve been a little bit critical of some performances in games, looking back on mine, which was just a fraction of what some people do in games, I have way more sympathy for them, because it’s super-tough. I’ve got a lot of respect for guys who do the computer game voice work because it’s probably harder than general, regular narrative voice work, because there you just have one story whereas in this you have ten different branches of the same story that you have to explore.

DB: Are you given the scripts with the different characters and you just go in and record their parts?

GO: In this game, because of the way the game is played, you just record your lines. You might have to record a ‘medium hit noise’ three different ways, and then a ‘heavy hit noise’ three different ways. It’s a strange experience but it’s cool to get that off the bucket list, it was fun to do.

DB: Quite solitary compared with other performances.

GO: Oh yeah. Though you say that, I’m just about to do another one-man show, so… it’s not as solitary as that. I’ve done two one-man shows now and they’re super-lonely!

DB: And there’s no hiding place on the stage is there.

GO: By that point you’re just so desperate to be with people, you’ve sat in your dressing room on your own, left with your own thoughts and distractions, finding your focus, so actually being on the stage you’re like, ‘At least there’s people here!’ I did a show called The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which was a one-man show, and we toured it around the U.K. and I must have done a hundred performances of it, and by the end I just felt so isolated from people. It was me and another guy, Simon, doing that tour and I don’t drive, so he had to do all the driving. (Laughs)

DB: What was your first role on TV?

GO: I think it was an episode of Taggart – the Scottish crime drama which every Scottish actor had to do at some point. The thing in Taggart, I was playing a reporter on the TV in a scene, but my agent had managed to wrangle it – essentially 10 minutes of work – in such a way that I was doing them on two separate days over two weeks, so I got double the money that I would have got (it was great work on her part). I do remember a lot of my family seeing it and going, ‘Oh, he is a serious actor then, this is the real thing.’ It was kind of a non-event in terms of acting but, as a struggling actor, my bank balance was delighted.

Photo Credit: Starz Entertainment/ Sony Pictures Television

DB: Moving on to Outlander, how did you get the role of Rupert MacKenzie and is that how you normally get roles?

GO: When you’re auditioning for TV and film usually, these days, it’s tapes that you send off to save people having to go travelling somewhere to do the audition in person. I prefer self-tapes because I feel like they just see the performance, and you can’t mess it up with your personality. I got asked to audition for it, my agent explained what it was, I’d never heard of it. I remember the script for that scene and thinking, you know, ‘Och, here we go, Americans writing Scottish characters.’ I say that thing about Americans writing Scottish characters, this was before they started filming and before they started working with everyone, the writers did a cracking job of getting the dialogue authentic sounding. We had a wonderful Scots consultant, Carol Ann Crawford, who helped. I’ve done stuff like that before where you audition for something that’s potentially a big part, and what happens is you send it away and then they decide they’re going to have someone with a high profile, so I just sent it off and forgot about it. I actually accepted a job, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and my agent had been calling me saying, ‘Oh I think they’re interested.’ I was like, ‘If they were interested they would call me in again, this is all nonsense,’ and then they offered me it.

I basically met everyone on the day of the read through [although] I had met people individually and been taken around the studio. I thought they might have made a mistake, and that I was going to get fired in the first couple of weeks. Then the actor, Stephen Walters, told me, ‘Don’t worry about it, once you’ve got about 13 days under your belt it’ll be too expensive to replace you.’ By the time I got to that I was like, ‘Oh good! They’re not going to fire me now!’ I started to relax more.

John Dahl, directed the first two episodes of Outlander, and we had a scene where I have to beat up Jamie’s character – it’s a punishment scene, and there’s lots of people gathering in this great hall – we shot that for two days and he shot it so many different ways, from so many different angles. I suppose I was kind of going into it expecting this, because this was in the first week or two. I was comfortable that it wasn’t my fault that we were shooting it so much but I kind of enjoyed that I never knew where the camera was. With John, he would just keep shooting, so you would totally just feel like you’re in the world of the scene.

DB: Prepping for the role of Rupert: how did you ‘get’ his character and his voice.

GO: The voice is interesting. We (the main Highlanders) all had individual meetings with Carol Ann Crawford, the Scots and voice consultant, and we were all doing Highland accents. I went into it thinking, ‘Maybe I can use a Borders’ accent, this is an international show, no one’s going to be ‘Hey! That’s clearly a Galashiels accent.’’ But she told us that we were all going to do Highland accents. We worked on it but the specific one we were aiming for, I didn’t really enjoy the way it sounded, or felt, in my mouth. I started putting a bit of the Western Isles in there, which is a much darker sound, and occasional little bits of Shetland, and moved it around until I found an accent that sounded like a Highland accent. I wanted to find an accent, and a voice, that was kind of surly and soulful because, like I say, I had a strong sense of what Rupert was as a character from the book and from reading the scripts, and I knew what sort of direction I might start going with it. The thing is nobody knows what an Invernesian accent was in the 18th century and also they all spoke Gaelic as a first language, so that would inform it. They’d mentioned that he [Rupert] was a storyteller and I could see where I was going with it in terms of the sullenness, so I wanted something that was melodic and surly, had the potential to be dark and masculine, but also lilting and comedic if I need it to be. I used to really enjoying doing the voice for that.

The character was pretty much there in the script and my ‘in’ for the character, because I was aware that I was going to be playing this character for a year of filming, I wanted to find something that was easy to hook into every day, ended up being the costume. Once I got the costume on, invariably it would be 6 o’clock in the morning, just standing, staring in the mirror, in your costume, being tired, was enough for me to be in character. Times were hard then and I just feel like they were always tired and miserable. You’ve got to find something that’s easily accessible, something close to yourself, so that’s why I made most of the choices about Rupert quite early on, and just allowed the script to build the character rather than me trying to push.

DB: The costuming is fantastic! Could you describe what your normal full costume was?

GO: I only had one costume for the whole three seasons; in fact there was an episode, “The Gathering”, where I had a different shirt. You had your plaid kilt, the shirt, the waistcoat, the jacket – all this thick, dark wool – but by end of it it was shaped to my body and was so comfortable. We had authentic ways to tie them together. A guy from one of the clans came to us and showed us how to make a ‘peasant’s brooch’ (because they would never take silver with them in case they got robbed) that’s basically a stone and a bit of leather thong to tie it together. I insisted quite early on, like after my second or third day, because Wardrobe come into your trailer and give you a hand getting ready, that I do it myself, because these guys aren’t going to be, ‘Hey could you do my wrist please, I can’t get the buttons.’ So if I couldn’t tie it myself it wouldn’t look or feel right. After a while it became like a tool, carrying your phones and everything in all these different compartments. I was fond of the costume by the end of it.

DB: What about the boots that you wore?

GO: They actually took really detailed measurements because the boots were specifically tailor-made for everyone. They were sometimes tough to put on when we had on the extra sock because it was cold. They were cool and I loved the soft leather. Early on in the process, before we started shooting, you went to all these meetings with all these different people, and I remember the costuming, having to get a separate person to measure me for my boots, and then the rest of the costume was just two Italian gentlemen – who were dressed beautifully – just talking, doing my measurements in Italian. It was like little things you have experienced before but just amped up to 9 or 10 on the crazy scale.

We also got to do photos of ‘the guys’ all standing in their kilts and everything but my beard hadn’t grown in yet, and we all looked really young. That specific day was when we were all supposed to get in our costume and then go down to the stables and ride around on a horse for some executives, so they could see that it ‘worked’. It was the most ridiculous thing. They literally said, ‘Just ride around a bit guys and now get off your horses and stand in a line.’

DB: Had you ridden before?

GO: No, I think by the time we started filming I’d had about 8 hours worth of riding experience. Literally the first time I had ridden a horse was about 10 days prior. I was doing another play at the time as well, so I couldn’t be there all the time, and I’m a beginner, I don’t think you can ride all day, it gets boring. My first big scene was actually on horseback, in the middle of the forest, trying to navigate this horse around whilst also filming. You know, if you’re going to start, start big, on extreme difficulty.

DB: What was that first scene you filmed?

GO: I think it was after the fight at Cocknammon Rock. Jamie and Claire are on the horse taking to each other and I make a toast. Sam and Caitriona were on a horse that was 16-20 feet away from me, so I couldn’t actually hear Sam say his lines, and I need glasses – I’m very short-sighted – and I didn’t have contacts, so I couldn’t see his lips move, it was all so unnecessarily difficult, but we got through it.

Photo Credit: Ed Miller/Sony Pictures

DB: What was it like getting on and off the horse with all the plaid and weaponry?

GO: You get used to that after a while. One of the things, as a courtesy to the rest of the crew, we all wore cycling shorts to preserve our modesty. In a lot of the early episodes there was a lot of us having to look tired because we’d been riding all night, for me that was some of my best work, looking tired on a horse; I feel I was the most consistent ‘looking tired on a horse’ of all of us. I do like animals but I think, when I’m working, I just want to get off the horse and go and do something else, I don’t like having that thing out of my control. One of the reasons I don’t drive is because a car is a dangerous thing and I don’t want the responsibility of being in control of that.

DB: Did you have one particular horse?

GO: Yeah, he was a horse called Marbles; the stable used him to train little kids. They used to joke about him just being a depressed horse because his head would hang so low, and when I’d get off him I could go away for lunch for an hour, and come back and he’d be standing in the exact same position. Like all horses he would get a little bit rowdy sometimes and would try and throw you, but he never threw me off on-set. He was a lovely horse and then I lost him in the second season because a family had bought him, I believe. When they told me that I was like, ‘Did they put him down? Is he dead?’ But apparently a family bought him. I had various horses after that.

DB: You mentioned the Gaelic a while ago: did you have any Gaelic at all before you started the show?

GO: No, none at all. When we turned up all the other guys had way more Gaelic than me but Àdhamh Ó Broin, who was the Gaelic instructor, saw us all privately and told us what the intention was, and we had our lessons with him. He’d said, I think rather cheekily, ‘Oh yeah, everyone’s thinking about becoming fluent with it, so all you guys can just talk to each other, you know, have conversations in Gaelic.’ I was like, ‘Oh, if that the case I suppose I probably should be a team player,’ and turned up on set – no one had agreed to do that! I enjoyed having the Gaelic because I’m used to hearing it, so I have a rough idea of how it sounds, but I just learned it by rote on the day. I didn’t have these massive speeches like Graham (McTavish), or Gary Lewis had at one point, which were just huge. The thing about Gaelic, and I have to admit I was pretty cynical about the language when I went into filming Outlander, and having had many discussions with people who speak it, people who are interested in the language and also the associated culture, it has given me this renewed sense of how valuable it is. There is a feeling in Scotland sometimes that we’re having it pushed down our throats, when it’s unnecessary, but actually now I see value in that because of the culture and how the people actually relate to each other. I’m glad that there’s a renewed interest in it as a result of that.

DB: Have you kept it up?

GO: No, not at all. It’s just a really hard language to learn. The thing about Gaelic, and one of the things that put me off learning it, was we were doing a scene where Gary was delivering this massive speech to the Gathering, there were lots of Gaelic speaking supporting artists in the crowd, and in between takes they’d all start talking to each other about ‘that’s not how you pronounce that word’ and they would all start arguing about how it’s actually pronounced, and I remember looking at them and thinking, ‘They can’t even agree how to speak Gaelic, and they all speak it, how are you supposed to teach anyone?’ For me, who has to understand everything, I felt like it wouldn’t have been a good choice, but it’s very cool in the show when you see your culture being reflected, and there’s a lot of Scots in there as well. The writers would come up and ask us, ‘Are there any words you would use in Scotland for this, or that?’ We’d think about it but Carol Ann Crawford would be the one to give them the actual Scots words for certain things – I loved being able to see that on screen. Not even the old Scots, there was a lot of improvising and reactions, in one scene I told Duncan to, ‘Away and shite!’

DB: Had you done much stage fighting before?

GO: Yes, I had done some at college but there’s not as much call for it as people think. Violence has to further the story or it’s just not interesting, for me, or it has to tell us something about the characters. The great bar room brawl [Outlander S1] which is this great demonstration of what these guys are like, how they feel about Claire – and all the Culloden stuff as well. I filmed two different battle scenes for Culloden but I wanted to be able to see the difference in Rupert between those two battles. In the first battle you see them quite up for it and they have a very powerful intent about them, whereas the second, I wanted to be exhausted by that point, I wanted him to look tired.

DB: How did the choreography of the fighting, and the stunt performers as well, work in practice?

GO: They would get you in maybe two days before and choreograph a little fight for you to do, and then you’d turn up on-set on the day, and they’d just change it all! But Dom (Preece) the stunt director, he did a lot of the Marvel films said, ‘This is just how it works, you tend to just do it all on the day.’ Obviously so I’ve done stage fighting with actors before, and there is an element of you always accidentally hurting each other and being, ‘Oh, was that me? I’m so sorry darling. Did I hurt you?’ And being, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ or getting like, ‘He’s bloody dangerous!’ Whereas the stuntmen, their job literally is to throw themselves about to make you look as good as possible. In the bar room brawl I threw one of the guys, who was on the table, and he threw himself six feet across the ground. It really helps to see the stuntmen do it, they are so good at what they do, you have to up your game a little bit and it’s like they are saying, ‘This is the level you should be at!’ You can’t ever use inexperience as an excuse, you were literally having it demonstrated to you. They were great fun, always guaranteed it was focused and happy when we were doing a fight scene, because you’re only doing one or two takes.

DB: What about the weapons that you have, the big swords and dirks?

GO: We all went for accuracy. We picked our swords, Graham McTavish got in there very early, ‘I’m having that one, that’s mine!’ He picked a really cool one but I just took whatever they gave me. By the time we got to Culloden, I had a bit more confidence and said, ‘Can I have an axe? Just because everyone else has got a sword.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I had my dirk (dagger) on me constantly. I actually spent a long time learning to do tricks with it, throwing it around and getting comfortable with it, but we never really used any of it because there was just never any call for it.

DB: That’s a shame because that would have been pretty cool. They got Sam to do one balancing and twizzling his around on his hand in one of the scenes.

GO: When he’s doing his best Steve McQueen in the Magnificent Seven. Most of the stuff that I did didn’t make it in anyway because nobody’s going, ‘I wonder how Rupert’s getting on in this fight?’

DB: Oh I don’t know, Rupert and Angus have a big following online.

GO: The fans have been really kind about it, and obviously they weren’t really in the book as a double act. I know myself, from watching things like Star Trek, that it’s fun to have the comic relief double act in there, so it’s nice to be given that responsibility. I suppose we were generally ‘keeping the husbands’ interest’ characters. After a while it felt like every scene was us sitting together, having a laugh, and then Claire would come up and give us a telling off. We had this joke, for a while, about Claire just basically being ‘Captain Buzzkill’, she’d just go out of her way to find us and tell us to stop having fun, and then go away again.

DB: What was it like working with Stephen?

GO: Oh he’s amazing! He’s a brilliant actor and he’s super creative. He’s also one of the most socially gifted people I’ve ever met because he has a huge interest and enthusiasm in talking to people. We spent hours and hours on set just chatting away to each other about anything. We bonded over football and the fact that our sons are about the same age. He’s a lovely guy, really easy to get on with, it makes it really easy to work with someone like that.

DB: Is he the one that you hung out most with?

GO: After a while it was Finn Den Hertog (Willie) because he and I are from the same background in Scottish theatre, so we’d known each other quite closely before the show. Steven and I ended up hanging around a lot by virtue of the fact that we were in virtually every scene together. It was a year filming the first season and wherever we were, we had a little semicircle of chairs that we all just went and sat in… and complained about something.

DB: You filmed in some really fantastic locations: do you have a particular favourite amongst them?

GO: I always liked riding at a new location, but essentially these are all just fields in the middle of nowhere. When we up near Aviemore (in the first season where we’re collecting the rents and Claire is talking to Ned) that was a sensational location, it was stunning and so beautiful, and it was also the coldest I’ve ever been on-set; I had to put a jacket on at one point, that’s how cold it was.

DB: Which for a Scot is saying something!

GO: (Laughs) I know! All I remember is being very cold that day and being very bored because we were there for a long time, and the toilet was miles away from anywhere. The locations are all amazingly scouted, and what’s also incredible was they didn’t look for the traditional locations we’re used to seeing in things like Rob Roy, they tried to find new, cooler places, and I think they did a fantastic job with that. My favourite location? Any of them, all of them, they were all great. I love how it looks though, it looks incredible.

DB: Visually stunning!

GO: Actually there was one, where we were filming the final episode of the first season, where they go away on the boat… I think that was near Troon, where they play golf. I remember we were staying in this nice little hotel, next to the beach, and me and Finn went for a wee walk along the beach and got some fish and chips. It was nice to be filming on a beach on a sunny day, to be honest, I never thought we’d do that.

DB: The set designs, as well, are absolutely fantastic, especially some of the reconstruction sets.

GO: We went up to just outside Aviemore, where there’s a historical village, so we actually filmed inside a lot of the huts that are already built. You can actually go onto those ‘sets’ up there (I think it’s Newtonmore). In general when you walked on set, especially in the studio when you see the inside of a castle built, it was incredible, and certainly at a scale that I had never experienced before. It was exciting to be a part of that, the world all these people have realised for you, in order to help you do your job and make it look nice – it was very impressive. You’ve got literally hundreds of people who are working towards making the show look good, making the script great, helping you, to make your job easier, as an actor. I don’t read anything about Outlander, I don’t know whether there’s any critical response or backlash to it, but my feeling will always be how proud I am to have been a part of it because of seeing how many people have come together to make something so incredible – something that admittedly at first I was cynical about, when I got the audition – how authentic, and to be very proud of this image of Scotland that they put up on the screen and showed everyone around the world, and increase tourism in Scotland, adding millions to the economy.

DB: And of course the focus always tends to be on the actors, because they are on the screen, but they are just cogs in this enormous machine.

GO: We’re more like the hands on the clock, everybody thinks that’s the point of the clock, and that must be the most important part because that’s the thing we use to tell the time, but actually, no, it would be useless without everything else behind it.

DB: Popping back to Stephen again, as Angus and his death scene, how was that, both on and off-camera?

GO: We’d filmed the end of that scene over a couple of days, so I’d spent the last two days just lying, with my eyes closed. It was kind of weird because it was the first time that we all had to accept that it was going to be ending, at some point, for most of us, the Highlanders. It was a bit dark and weird but it’s a funny thing because I think, personally, that’s my favourite episode out of all the episodes that I did because I think it’s the best piece of ensemble work; every character in that has a little story that resolves itself and changes them somehow – and it’s a beautifully written episode.

DB: Do you think because that was his last day that it feeds into what is on-screen as well?

GO: Oh undoubtedly it does, like I say, that thing when you want to find parts of yourself to use that can be cathartic, you use that, it was easy for me to draw on it. Also Rupert didn’t really say goodbye to Angus, didn’t really acknowledge that he was dead, he just sort of kept that promise to take his sword, which I felt was something really ‘practical’ about him, beautiful, and really Scottish about that idea of ‘I don’t really know how I feel about this, I’m going to act, do something.’ It was a really nicely written scene and I did get a little lump in my throat when I read it the first time, and that’s very rare in a script.

DB: The very final section, after Culloden, is very emotive, what was your experience filming that?

GO: I suppose we had a bit of gallows humour about it, at first. I was always joking that everyone else got these dramatic death scenes, and my scene was a close up on Sam. It ended up being much more effective because of it and it was a beautifully realised piece of visual storytelling. It was a great end as well, in terms of being the best written ‘Rupert’ episode out of all because it was nice to be a bit more active, to have a bit more agency and get to show this side of Rupert. The director was very sensitive towards the fact that it was a very dark situation for them to be in, and it was the last day, so it was easy to summon up that feeling of saying goodbye to Jamie, saying goodbye to everybody on set, saying, ‘This is the end for me,’ and metaphorically speaking they were taking me outside and shooting me in the street! (Both laugh)

DB: How did you feel, leaving a character like Rupert behind, after playing him for such a long while?

GO: He’s the only character that I have played for that length of time, but I’ll be honest, we had loads of great scenes but we also had some things that I just wasn’t that enamoured by. I didn’t really enjoy playing Rupert much after Angus died because I felt that there were a few scenes where all he seemed to do was talk about Angus, without really saying much at all. Obviously there were loads of great scenes after Angus died, beautifully written as well, some of the most satisfying things to play, but I was happy enough to say goodbye to him. There was nowhere else really for him to go, as a character. I was a little disappointed that we never really got him to go bad, I always felt that he could have just rejected Jamie and Claire – just to say, ‘You know what, you guys are poison, I’m off, I hope you die!’ I’m always looking for the next part, the next character, it’s always the next challenge. I’m not the kind of actor who could sit and play the same character for 10 years on a TV show.

DB: If you went back in time through the stones to the 18th century what modern things would you miss the most?

GO: All of it! Like, everything! Everything that I own, all the stuff that I have. I’m happy that I live in this time and not then. The technology that we have at the moment is amazing! Netflix and Amazon Prime, all these streaming sites, amazing! This is a Golden Age for television viewing. Cinema looks incredible! Phones… having a personal computer in your pocket that you can phone people on. I’m only jealous of people who live in the future, and who are going to get to experience an apocalyptic landscape, sure, but also have some really cool gadgets, or memories. I don’t think I’d last long if I went back to the 18th century, I’d be dead within a week, if I wasn’t murdered, I’d just give up; I’d lie down, on a hill, give up and hopefully die of exposure. I love the fact that right now I can communicate with people from all the continents of the world if I want, just by sending a tweet. I love that we can watch TV whenever we want and work it around our schedule. Capitalism is ruining the planet but it would be nice if we could find a happy medium, where we could all look after each other, but still have the stuff, because the stuff right now is amazing!

DB: As a Scot, what were your feelings when you were actually taking part in what were originally real, historic events in your nation’s history such as Culloden?

GO: There’s a lot of people, they do put a lot of focus on Culloden. My feelings about it are: it’s frustrating that we don’t learn the lessons of history. I don’t particularly respond well to this idea that I’m supposed to feel an emotional connection to Culloden because, as far as I’m concerned, that was just a bunch of people being fucked over by rich people. It generally was about people being exploited – as most wars and most battles are. It’s a complex issue and I certainly don’t feel there was any romance about it, I certainly don’t feel like it’s something to be honoured in any kind of romantic way, and I certainly don’t feel any connection to it in that respect. When people go to Culloden they talk about feeling an atmosphere – I don’t relate to it, at all. There’s the idea of mystical places and mythical locations, and if you point big arrows to it saying ‘This is a spiritual place’ people will go there and they will feel spiritual because they have been given permission to feel spiritual. It’s okay, if you want to be spiritual about something because you’ve been given permission, absolutely, please do, but in regard to battles… battles just sadden me.

DB: Your surname isn’t traditionally Scottish is it. Do you know the story behind that?

GO: No, it’s an Irish surname. I remember my dad telling me, when I was younger, we were actually Rourkes, but they went to get the birth certificate and they said, ‘What’s the name?’ and he went, ‘Oh, Rourke.’ So no idea and I’ve never explored my Irish lineage, it’s just a name. I feel more Scandinavian, if anything, because I’ve got the blue eyes and the blond beard, so I’ve definitely got some Viking back there. There’s a Scottish and Scandinavian way of thinking, I think, which I relate to a lot more than I do with any sense of Irish lineage or Britishness. One thing I’ve learned about the clans was essentially what they did, if you wanted to be in a clan, you just went there and asked if you could be in their clan and they said ‘Yes, sure!’ because they were pleased to have you. That really rang true for me, this idea that, why can’t we just decide what we want to be. We live in an age now where young people are saying, ‘Look I identify as this.’ We’re still working out what works and trying to find the best way forward, and I really like it. I love the way that we’re just going, ‘Hang on we don’t have to be defined by traditional roles anymore, traditional senses of identity. Why can’t we just decide to speak how we want to speak, or call ourselves whatever we what to be called?’ I’ve never been a big fan of tradition, but I am of progress.

DB: Would you ever wear a kilt and, if so, which clan tartan do you wear?

GO: Yeah I do sometimes, I just wear whatever. I’ve got a black kilt, which is the one I’ve worn the most. There’s a huge amount of rules and expectations of people when wearing kilts, because it basically keeps an industry afloat, and that’s great, if you want to find out what your roots are and say, ‘Well that’s my clan, I’m going to wear that tartan…’ It’s well known that in Scotland all the tartans are made up anyway, so I wear whatever I think looks good. My advice has always been, you either look good in a kilt or you don’t, and if you don’t, spending £1,000 on a kilt isn’t going to make you look any better, you’re as well to just go and get a cheap £40 kilt from a gift shop and just get the one that you think looks nice. The last time I wore a kilt was at my wedding, it was a rental though, I can’t remember what it was called but it was a blue tartan, a lovely blue and lilac tartan – me and my son had matching outfits.

DB: Are you waiting for your call for the James Bond role?

GO: Who me? James Bond. That would be a James Bond who’s so traumatised that he’s just absolutely given up. He’s not been a spy for ages and he’s exhausted. It’s funny, people sometimes say to me that I look a bit like a Russell Crowe, and my response to that is that I look a lot like Russell Crowe if you took all the anger out of him and replaced it with sadness, just given up on life. I don’t think a James Bond type would be the right casting. Although, saying that, I think I would be great casting for a spy, because most spies are actually just middle-aged men with normal dad bods, not running about fighting people, just doing elaborate administration.

I do get asked a lot, ‘What kind of part do you want to play?’ or, ‘Is there a part you want to play the most?’ Half the joy of being an actor for me, is the surprise of not really knowing what I’m doing next, so I’ve never been someone to go, ‘I want to do this and I’m going aim for that.’ I’m more the, ‘Oh this’ll be fun, I hadn’t thought of it.’ A director told me he’s thinking about doing a Noel Coward play, at some point next year, and asked me if I would be interested in doing it, and I was like, ‘Oh I’ve never thought of myself as being in a Noel Coward play,’ because in Scotland you don’t tend to get to play those parts because they just ship up actors from London to do it.

DB: To quote Charles Dickens ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’: what have been your best and your worst experiences as an actor?

GO: There’s lots of lows of being an actor. I don’t think I’ll shock anyone by saying the constant, crippling fear of not knowing when your next pay cheque’s going to come, or when you finish a job thinking, ‘Is that it? Am I going to get anything else?’ I had a massive bout of stage fright, once, which you could say is a real low, but it ended up with me taking great strength from it; I became a better actor because of it; I became much better at mastering what I feel about acting. The high is always those moments when you just lose yourself in front of an audience on stage, when you nail these moments, or when you feel connected emotionally to this bunch of strangers, or you feel like you’re tapping into something that you didn’t know about yourself. The ethereal nature of doing work in front of an audience is, I think, the only reason I’m still an actor.

DB: There’s always that frisson of danger with live theatre as well, isn’t there.

GO: Exactly, it’s like you’re riding on a horse and you don’t know whether it’s going to throw you off. Every play that I do you have this moment where you’re like, ‘Agh, why am I doing this?’ It’s a bit like where you’re rearranging the furniture in your living room, you know when it’s all in the middle and you’re just like, ‘This is a huge mess and my living room will never be right again! How am I going to do this?’ And then that feeling when you’ve got everything rearranged and you’re like, ‘This is amazing! I’m so glad I did this.’ I get that feeling in every single play that I do.

DB: How’s being a husband and a father changed your approach, if at all, towards your life and your craft?

GO: Oh massively! I feel that my whole life had been pre- and post- that. ‘Me and my wife’ gives you a huge sense of empathy, patience, forgiveness – all these things I never had, I learned from her, because she’s so patient with me. I learned so much about compromise, and that sacrifice doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think that we grow up with a sense that ‘romance is perfect’, you know when it happens, and it’s not – it’s an organic thing that happens while you’re thinking about other stuff. ‘Me and my wife’ gives you the sense of what life is, to quote John Lennon, “It’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. It’s like a microcosmic version of what life is, I think, you are just gradually progressing, just changing for the better, and that’s enriching enough as it is. Having a kid gave me that vital ‘the world does not revolve around you anymore’! I remember someone saying, when I had a kid, that they assumed I’d be going down the super ambitious route, and actually it was the complete opposite, everything seemed really small and insignificant, and I was like, ‘I’d be happy if the three of us were in a cave right now.’ I think I’ve always like the idea of being a parent but I didn’t realise that being a husband would be so good for me as well.

Photo Credit: Robert Pereira Hind

DB: When you’re not working what hobbies or passions have you got?

GO: I always need to be creative, somehow, so I just started last year, for the first time, writing music properly and I’ve started to build up a catalogue; I don’t know, maybe I’ll release an album. I don’t necessarily have the right mindset to be a professional player, yet. When I’m not playing guitar, or video games, or hanging out with my family – watching TV or whatever – I’m always trying to be creative. I’m always just trying to find the next thing that I’m interested in – maybe I have an attention deficit issue…

DB: Thinking about music, can you remember the first single or album that you bought?

GO: The first record that I ever bought, with my pocket money, was “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” by Dream Warriors which samples that Quincy Jones thing that you hear in Austin Powers. I’ve never done anything that interesting since.

DB: Do you listen to a really wide range of genres?

GO: I think ‘cinematic’ is the way to describe what I like: every time I heard a song in a film or a TV show, when I was growing up, and I still do it now – because I have that context for it, it’s a way into the song for me; I start to appreciate it more. With classical music it’s harder for me to appreciate it unless I’ve heard it in the context of something else. That can be a way of opening up the whole thing, like I was mad about Harry Connick Jr. when I was a kid because when I was 10 or 11 I saw When Harry Met Sally and just got really into his music. The ‘in’ for me is always cinematic or televisual.

DB: Is there a particular song that leaps to mind, that brings back a certain time in your life?

GO: If I’m going to pick one it would be “The Touch” by Stan Bush, which was the song in Transformers, that’s the one thing that always makes me think of being a child. Music in the cinema, for me, is a big, a huge trigger, emotionally. That was the first time I was allowed to watch on my own, me and my friend were dropped off at the cinema, so it was pretty exciting to see, and that song specifically always hits me in the feels.

DB: Do you dance?

GO: I don’t dance. Dancing for me is just being trapped in a glass case of self-awareness, to the point that I don’t even know how to breathe properly. If I have to dance in a play, and someone choreographs me, I’m fine with it but, as a form of self-expression, I’m not keen on dancing.

DB: What about singing? Do you ever sing?

GO: I sing but I don’t think that I have a singing voice. When I sing in plays I sing in character, so I’m happy enough with that. When I do recording at home I’m deliberately choosing to sing it in a specific way because it’s about trying to find my voice, but it’s also slightly character-driven; I always try and sing in a Scottish accent. I have quite a big voice on stage, so when I’m recording in the house it’s kind of quiet and contained, and you can hear the tension. I do enjoy singing and I’ve always sung but never in a musical theatre way.

DB: If it was a karaoke would you get up and have a sing?

GO: Yeah, but my rule is, on the karaoke, you should never do the same song twice – half the fun is seeing whether you know the song. I discovered this for myself, I did the song “Mr Boombastic” by Shaggy, and I didn’t really know it that well, but I enjoyed the challenge, and when I got through it I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m never doing the same song twice again. Always new songs for me from now on.’

Final few questions:

DB: Imagine it’s your final meal on planet Earth, what would you choose to feast on and what would be your preferred tipple?

GO: Am I about to die? Am I going to be executed, or am I dying? If I was just dying I might just want some boiled potatoes. If I was about to be executed I would go for sheer volume, so that when I die and evacuate my bowels they have more to clean up. But honestly, right now, I’m all about chicken wings, I would quite happily eat nothing but chicken wings if I could, and we always have to have buffalo sauce in the house or I just can’t function. I’d pick lager, probably. I stopped drinking about a year ago, but if it’s my last moment I might as well. So beer and wings. I’m so basic!

DB: Is there a certain book that you return to again and again?

GO: Non-fiction obviously, being an actor, books about acting, and every actor will go back to the complete works of Shakespeare at some point. As far as novels are concerned though they are so narrative-driven I do just move on to the next one. I never really go back and read them again because there’s so many pages. At least a film you can watch that in two hours, but you’re talking ten times that amount of time for a book, I feel like I would be wasting time going back and reading something again, when there are other books to read.

DB: Could you tell me about the book you’re currently reading?

GO: I’ve got two or three books on the go right now, one is about creating a solo performance. I haven’t read much fiction recently but the last thing I read on its own was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes’s book. Don’t get me wrong, I love fiction more than anything, I don’t want to create the impression that I’m one of these guys who only reads non-fiction, but at the moment, just the way my life is, I’m finding myself reading more non-fiction because it’s easier to pick up.

DB: How would you describe your perfect day?

GO: Any day where I spend the exact right amount of time with my family, and on my own, where you get the balance just right. Generally just anything with my wife and son is going to be good, just hanging out together. Another example though of a perfect day, for me, would be those days where I don’t even unlock the front door. When you go, at night, to check to see if the door’s locked and it’s still locked from before – that’s a great day – I always celebrate those days.

DB: I can completely empathise with that because it feels slightly decadent because I haven’t even been outside the door!

GO: I know, it feels like an achievement in this day and age. Ironically it feels like you’ve achieved something by doing nothing, and it’s quite hard to achieve that.

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This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Any opinions or views expressed within the interview are the subject’s own and publication does not imply endorsement of any such opinions or views by Absolute Music Chat or its personnel.

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