Cover and 5 pages - 7 further photos including a superb new full page shot - 'I Still Can't Believe It When Fans Call Me McHottie' - Kevin McKidd on fame, fortune and having a face like a 'baked potato'
Yet here we are, in the infinitely less exotic location of a dilapidated ward in Glasgow's Western Infirmary where McKidd is filming BBC Scotland drama One Night in Emergency. Although bright sunshine streams through the window, there is something hugely unsettling about the disused space. The paint is chipped and peeling from the walls, the curtains grimy and black with mold while the unmistakable smell of hospital disinfectant lingers in the air. Sitting on a pair of rickety plastic chairs, our voices echo disconcertingly across the empty ward.
Despite a series of grueling night shoots McKidd is in sprightly form. His blue eyes remain impressively bloodshot free although, that said, he is holding onto a coffee like grim death. Casually dressed, a leather jacket slung over his shoulder, he has nailed the off duty actor look to perfection. Thick stubble studs his jawline, his skin defiantly pale despite months in the Los Angeles sunshine. His strawberry blond hair, still damp from a post-gym shower, is starting to go fluffy, but McKidd , producing a tub of hair gel from his pocket, tames it in five seconds flat.
Thanks to his role on Grey’s Anatomy, coupled with parts of Lucius Vorenus in BBC/HBO drama Rome and the lead in the US television series Journeyman (shown on Sky One), McKidd is en route to becoming a household name in America – although Hollywood hasn’t managed to get its claws into him just yet.
The one-off drama, which marks the TV writing debut of award- winning Black Watch playwright Gregory Burke, sees McKidd lead an all-star cast including Michelle Ryan, Igal Naor, James Cosmo, David Hayman , Gary Lewis and Ewen Bremner.
The actor plays Peter Forbes, a self-absorbed man who becomes caught up in a bizarre existential journey through an inner-city hospital as he frantically searches for his sick wife, Penny. As he ventures deeper into the labyrinthine-like building, he is drawn into a surreal, parallel world, encountering peculiar characters including a seductively beautiful nurse, a distraught widower, a gregarious mortician, a life-scarred laundry worker and a one-eyed security guard.
The juxtaposition between the stark settling of One Night in Emergency and the glitz of Grey’s Anatomy is not lost on McKidd. “When I read the script, I liked the fun of that” he says, smiling softly. “Seattle Grace Hospital is like a version of what a hospital should be , while One Night in Emergency is what a hospital in Britain is actually like”. Then, he hurriedly adds “although One Night in Emergency isn’t really about the state of the NHS today, it’s an allegorical tale about one man’s journey which just so happens to be set in a hospital”. Good catch.
Another lure was the opportunity to work with a host of familiar faces from the Scottish acting fraternity. Not only is One Night in Emergency the third time McKidd has worked with Bremner since their Trainspotting days, but he also worked with Lewis, Cosmo and Hayman in the past too. “I did the Acid House with Ewen and then 16 years of Alcohol. That was about five years ago and it’s the third time I’ve seen him since then. It’s been great seen Ewen and Gary. The last time I worked with Gary was on the Rocket Post [in 2004].
“I’ve done a lot with David, he is amazing. I have always loved his work. Jimmy Cosmo I have worked with a couple of times before, too. When I was doing Journeyman and Michelle was doing Bionic Woman, we were with the same network, NBC. While we never worked together, because we were both doing new shows that year  , we were at all the same press junkets, so I felt like I knew her already”.
With McKidd there is no cat and mouse chase. He has an easy openness with belies his star status (after the interview he asks, with endearing tentativeness, if the interview will be a double page spread. “It’s just I usually do these little things” – he uses his forefinger and thumb to indicate a slender number of columns inches- and the “American press just wants soundbites …. “)
Born in Elgin, McKidd comes from a working class background; his father, Neil, is a plumber and mother, Kathleen , a secretary. He fell in love with acting as a child, but went down in the parent-pleasing path of studying engineering at Edinburgh University, only to quit and switch to the drama course at the city’s Queen Margaret College.
Among his early professional acting roles was the 1996 Father Ted Christmas special where the plot centred on the hapless priests getting lost in “Irelands’s largest lingerie section”. The part of Glasgow hard-man and gang leader Malky Johnson in Small Faces followed and then came the infamous role in Trainspotting, McKidd character Tommy, a heroin addict diagnosed with HIV, dying alone in his flat from toxoplasmosis.
While Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle saw their careers take flight, McKidd found himself working as a cycle courier to pay the bills. Over the years much has been made of the fact he missed out on doing the iconic Trainspotting poster, option to go on holiday with his girlfriend rather than attend the photo shoot. Does he harbor any regrets?
McKidd sighs gently. “It wasn’t a conscious decision but I felt very green , young and out of place doing Trainspotting. I felt ill prepared. Everyone was saying” ‘ you have got to squeeze as much out of this as you can, this is your opportunity’ but for some reason I just knew – I was 21 and basically a teacher from Elgin – that Trainspotting wasn’t my moment. I knew that, as an actor and as a person , I wasn’t ready to jump into that”.
In the years since Trainspotting, McKidd’s career is best described as slow burner rather than meteoric rise, with roles in Hideous Kinky, the Acid House, Looking After Jo Jo, Dog Soldiers and 16 years of Alcohol. Then came a high-profile stint in Rome, for which he received widespread critical acclaim.
In 2007, he won the lead in NBC sci-fi drama series Journeyman, relocating with his family to Los Angeles. Despite Industry plaudits the show, about a time-traveling newspaper reporter, was canceled after just 13 episodes, a victim of falling viewer numbers following an unplanned hiatus during the Writers Guild of America strike.
After the demise of Journeyman, McKidd says he seriously considered heading for home. “It was tough” he admits. “Moving to LA wasn’t easy for my wife and kids, my son especially had close friends from home he was missing. He had just got over that and was starting to lay down roots when it all happened. It was like “What do we do now? Do we just pack up and go home? ‘ I sat down with my wife, who is an amazing woman, and she said: ‘ I feel like we shouldn’t turn tail, I think we should sit it out and see how the new few months play out’”.
While his family stayed in Los Angeles, McKidd flew to Bucharest to film action movie Bunraku alongside Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore. “I was in Bucharest and Jane was in LA, which is weird” he says “I knew then that if we were going to be in LA I couldn’t be off doing shoots everywhere. At least when my family was in the UK they had our own families around”.
Then in a near perfect synchronicity, came the call from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes to offer him a part in the hit show. McKidd debuted with a bang – his first episode saw him use a biro to perform an emergency tracheotomy – and has since seen his popularity reach epic proportions in America. McKidd’s character is the dashing yet enigmatic Dr Owen Hunt, a former army medic and Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Struggling to fit in with civilian life, he falls for the ambitious and prickly Dr Christina Yang, played by Sandra Oh.
Such is the screen couple’s popularity they have been dubbed – in the vein of Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) – “Crowen” . Likewise, with his co-stars Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane tagged “McDreamy” and “McSteamy” respectively, a similar nickname for McKidd has been widely debated on fan forums with “McHottie”, “McHunky” and “McBadass” all contenders.
“It is really odd because I have never seen myself as a good looking guy” says McKidd laughing. This is , after all, a man who once described himself as having “a face that looks like a baked potato”.
“My features are more suited to being cast as a boxer or a rugby player, although I think I have grown into my face as I have got older. It is flattering, but for me to be lumped in with all those people? “ He pulls an incredulous face. “It is a new thing for me”
Although experiencing regular pangs of homesickness (“When my mum visits she has to bring almost like a first-aid kit with oatcakes, butteries and rowies…”) McKidd and wife Jane, 33, are determined to make the most of like in La-La Land. Their children Joseph, nine, and Iona, seven, are thriving in Los Angeles, he says. “They are making lots of friends and go on, what do you call it? Ah, yeah, play dates. When I am not working I’m a taxi service for their play dates”.
The youngsters, he adds, have also developed something of an intriguing dual accent. “What’s interesting, is that it’s an unconscious thing”, says McKidd. “They are like the best actors I have ever met. They get up for school in the morning and will be talking in their little southeast England accents they have always had, then as soon as the classroom door opens and their American teacher says ‘good morning’ they go straight into the US one. Then, later, coming home in the car, they switch right back without even missing a beat. It’s amazing.”
There are definite shades of a modern-day Partridge family in the McKidd household. “My son wanted a drum set so I made him save up half of it” he says. “He saved up his pocket money, Christmas money and birthday money for a year. I used to play acoustic guitar but I bought an electric one and have started teaching myself Hendrix and Led Zeppelin songs. We practice in the garage and my wife was like “what are you two doing”? So now she’s going to learn bass guitar. What about his daughter? “She is feeling a little bit left out, so is going to start on tambourine and then, I think, become a pianist of may be a vocalist”
Asked to describe life in Los Angeles, McKidd ventures: “Very different…. Have you been?” I tell him yes, adding I found it quite surreal. McKidd grins. “It is surreal” he confirms. “Weirdly, we live quite a quiet life. The kids go to school and I go to work. It’s almost as close to an office job as I’ve ever had. Usually I’m living out of a suitcase and seeing my wife and kids infrequently because I’m off here, there and everywhere. Now, nine or 10 months out of the year I’m doing Greys, so it’s regular hours and I can actually pick the kids up from school. We live off Laurel Canyon. It’s quite green up in the hills and quiet compared to down n the flat part [of the city] which would drive me a bit nuts”.
So he’s not hanging out at hipster celebrity haunts such as Chateau Marmont or Mr Chows? “Occasionally we will go if there is an event” says McKidd. “Initially we were too shy to go out and do any of those things but then we realized ‘Hang on, we are probably only going to be here for a couple of year’ and you need to have some stories for your memories. Usually, though, we just go into the valley and onto Ventura Boulevard to the wee spit and sawdust places, the little neighborhood restaurants”.
McKidd smiles, a memory coming back to him. “Actually speaking of functions I went to one recently with my dad. It was a big flashy do and Jane couldn’t go because she was feeling ill. My mum and dad were over visiting us so I said” ‘Dad, do you want to borrow a jacket and come with me?’ Off we went and he got chatted up by this model. She was saying to him all this stuff like: ‘Oh my God, you have such amazing eyes’ and now my dad can’t stop talking about how he got chatted up at one of the big LA glitterari parties” .
Many Americans have been surprised to discover McKidd is Scottish; such is the authenticity of his US accent. “I have always enjoyed accents” he says. “ I put it down to the fact that in Bishopmill, the area of Elgin where I ‘m from, our council house was surrounded by an estate of RAF housing. I used to copy the accents of all these kids from Manchester, Birmingham and some who had spent time in America. I have always loved using accents”.
He is uncomfortable with the notion of being part of the “British invasion of Hollywood” , alongside the likes of Hugh Laurie and fellow Scots Dougray Scott and Ashley Jensen. “ I remember 14 years ago when Trainspotting came out. There was the whole Cool Britannia thing and we were all part of that” , he says. “It was very nice, don’t get me wrong, but I’m always reluctant to jump on a bandwagon. I don’t like the idea of a cliquey little set of people. It makes me nervous. I get claustrophobic in those kinds of environments.
McKidd has been outspoken in the past about the importance of Scottish-set films actually being made here, suggesting the Government should look at tax incentives to encourage filmmakers. “I am not a politician or lobbyist, so I’m speaking from a very naïve position” he says, carefully. “ the last time I was filming in Scotland was two years ago for Made of Honour, which was a big American film using Scotland as a location, as opposed to a grassroots Scottish production.
“the crews we have are fantastic and highly skilled, the infrastructure is great. We have talent and amazing locations. Patrick Dempsey [his co-start in Made of Honour] couldn’t believe more films aren’t shot here because he thought it was the best place on earth”.
McKidd latest’s big screen offering, Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief (“I’m playing Poseidon, god of the sea. It’s all about the Greek gods and how they still exists in modern day New York…”) opens on February 12. In the pipeline is a role as Dylan Thomas in a biopic about the Welsh poet’s life.
As for an ultimate role? “I have always wanted to do the play Macbeth,” he announces. Err, isn’t it considered bad luck to say the name of the Scottish play out loud? McKidd shrugs, grinning. “I know, but it’s ok, we’re not in a theatre, we’re in a hospital. I would love to do an all-Scottish theatre production of Macbeth and then take the same cast on location in Scotland to do it as a movie. That has been a big ambition, but it’s still slowly, slowly. I’m too young to play Macbeth”.
He is reticent, though, to have things too mapped out. “I try not to look too far into the future”, says McKidd.”There are moments when I think:’ I’ve not been on stage for six years. I’m going to drop everything and do that’. Then the next day I will think: “OK, I’m going to chase this whole thing in America’. I’m really indecisive and flighty. I have total respect for the actors who are driven and say: ‘I’m going to make myself an action hero’ or ‘I’m going to carve myself a romantic comedy niche..’, I’ve always liked variety in life. Being an actor is a bit like being a circus performer, you just have to go where the work is and pitch your tent”. And , for McKidd, life in Hollywood’s big top is definitely looking rosy.
(thanks to Betinad for transcribing this article for KMKonline)