Kevin McKidd, 36, got his acting break in the 1996 cult film Trainspotting. He went on to play Lucius Vorenus in Rome, had his own US sci-fi show Journeyman and now stars in Grey’s Anatomy. He can be seen as Poseidon in Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief.
The director Chris Columbus sent me a letter saying: ‘I really see you as being part of this, I’m a fan of your stuff.’ In this business you’re so used to rejection it’s very flattering when someone says they want to work with you. I’ve also never done a family film before and I’ve got kids aged seven and nine so it was nice for them to be able to see something I’ve done.
What films did you like when you were a child?
Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Wars, ET especially. Something about that story broke my heart as a boy and really made me want to become an actor.
How’s Grey’s Anatomy going?
It’s still one of the top dramas in America and doesn’t show any signs of losing popularity. It’s nice to know your job isn’t going anywhere for a little while.
Do you attract any wacky fans?
It’s all about relationships on Grey’s Anatomy and people are fans of certain relationships. There’s a very strong fanbase for the relationship between my character, Owen, and Cristina, played by Sandra Oh. It’s interesting to see the passion people have for it.
What’s had the most impact on your career?
It built over 15 years. When Trainspotting did what it did I knew it wasn’t my time. I was way too green and needed to learn to be an actor. Some actors can hit it at 21 and have the ego to get through it but I knew I’d be chewed up and spat out. It built slowly but Rome changed the game for me. It introduced me to TV networks and studios in America who didn’t know who I was until that point. Then the phone started ringing.
What was doing your own show, Journeyman, like?
Hard but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had because I worked with great people. Actors are accused of not working very hard, and a lot of the time that’s true, but on that show I grafted my a*** off for seven months. Not just the shooting hours, which were unbelievably long because I was in every single shot and doing all the press too. When you’re trying to make a show gain traction in the US you have to sell it. I didn’t have a single lunch hour that wasn’t sitting in an office doing phone interviews with journalists. Which is fine, I’m not complaining but it was hard work.
Were you gutted when it got cancelled?
Yeah. It was mainly due to the writers’ strike, the show was gaining an audience and rising up the ratings. I called the producer and said: ‘It’s me, it must be my fault’, and he said: ‘Do you know how hard it is to get a pilot made, bought and picked up for 13 episodes? It’s a huge achievement.’ Statistically it’s something like 97 per cent of shows get cancelled. People just throw enough stuff at the wall and see what sticks, and what sticks aren’t necessarily the most interesting or best made shows. You have the moment you think: ‘It’s all my fault’ but it honestly isn’t.
Did you think of coming back to Britain?
We did. My wife and I both decided we’d taken the traumatic leap to leave, had got the kids into new schools, they’d had to say goodbye to all their friends, it seemed unfair on everyone to turn round and leave. We decided to stay and see what happened. I got offered a lot of science fiction shows and I didn’t want to become ‘the science fiction guy’. I’d done the Roman thing, the science fiction thing and I wanted to do something contemporary. That’s when I got the call about Grey’s Anatomy, which was a great fit.
What do you miss about Britain when you’re in LA?
The bread’s rubbish, it doesn’t taste as good as British bread and I miss pubs. They’ve got bars but no pub culture.
Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief is out now on DVD.