16 April 2010 - this article originally appeared in Finch’s Quarterly Review Issue 7
Actor Kevin McKidd writes about his move from Scotland, via Rome, to Los Angeles, where he has now settled and introduced haggis
I moved to Los Angeles two years ago. I had finished the BBC series Rome and, for the first time ever, I had a whole lot of offers in my lap to play leads in TV shows. My wife and I sat down and talked at length about whether we should take the opportunity. Our kids were young and at a certain stage in their schooling, and we recognised it would be quite a big transition for them. But together the family decided, for better or worse, that we would move to LA and see where it would lead us.
It has been an interesting two years, let’s put it that way. The kids, who are seven and nine, are more settled now. One of our favourite LA haunts is 25 Degrees, the burger bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It’s right at the front of the hotel as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, which it isn’t far from where I live, and it’s open 24/7. It has red leather seats and red velour wallpaper and serves what I believe are easily the best burgers in town. They do nice cocktails too and the sweet-potato fries are amazing. Life in LA is very different to life back home and we are still just taking each step at a time. Touch wood, things seem to be going well. I feel very blessed with the opportunities I have had – to work with the incredible cast in Grey’s Anatomy and to be a key player in a feature film like Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
I was approached by the director Chris Columbus, who asked me to be involved in Percy. It was one of those things that happen so rarely in this business – where a director sends you a personal letter, nicely typed out. Chris said he enjoyed my work in Rome and on HBO and asked whether I would consider taking on this role. When you get a letter like that as an actor you jump at it, especially when the letter is from someone as accomplished as Chris.
Chris really created the Harry Potter franchise, directing the first two films. He set the tone for that and he seems to be somewhat of a franchise builder and that is the hope for Percy Jackson. The entertainment industry is always a gamble every single step of the way so I don’t hold any stock by anything any more. But with something like this you get a sense that you are in safe hands. Chris knows what ingredients it takes to create something that people want to come back to.
Most of my scenes are with Sean Bean, who plays Zeus. I had never worked with Sean and it was an interesting experience as, initially, he comes across as reserved. Our first scene was at the top of the Empire State Building and I had to walk up to him (we play brothers in the film) and say, “Zeus”, and he turns to me and says, “Poseidon.” For some reason, on the very first take, these two lines seemed to tickle us and we just couldn’t get through them – there was just something so absurd about Sean Bean and me pretending to be Greek Gods, so it took us quite a while to get started. He is much more of a giggler than I would have imagined! Sean is from the North of England so it was quite amusing to have a Scotsman and a Northerner playing Greek Gods in an American blockbuster shooting in Vancouver.
When you get a bunch of British actors together there is a feeling that you could all be doing a play in some dodgy theatre above the pub. Everybody falls back to that same attitude. None of us works behind a desk for the very reason that we wanted to do something silly for a living. It’s always a laugh, and you are not allowed to take it too seriously.
There is a Scottish tradition called Burns Night (on January 25). The first year we arrived in LA we celebrated it, and it was fantastic. But we all drank far too much whisky, obviously. We didn’t celebrate it last year, so I decided to host a Burns party this year. The problem with Burns Night is that you have to be pretty organised as New Year is over and the last thing anyone is in the mood for is another night of indulgence. But this year I cracked out the guitar and there was singing and poetry. I even put on my kilt. In Scotland I come from a place called Elgin, which is real whisky country. At Christmas I went back there to visit my Mum and Dad and I was able to load my suitcase with enough haggis to keep all my guests happy. That is one downside of being in LA – it’s hard to find a good haggis!
- Kevin McKidd is a Scottish actor who appears as Poseidon in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief