From Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword” to the time-traveling fantasy “Outlander,” this is Craig McGinlay. From Scotland, with ambition and determination, he is living his dream, but as he said there is still much to do and experience.
How was your relationship with acting when you were younger and how did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
I always wanted to be an actor but I suppose because none of my friends or family were doing it and I couldn’t see a realistic path into it I followed a career in rugby. I also was possibly scared I would fail. Fear is a very corruptive thing and you have to get beyond those fears to be successful. Culmination of many years of dreaming this dream and here I am. I now have no fear of trying anything, life is too short, and I am an openly ambitious actor working hard. I am a long way off where I want to go but it’s been a whirlwind of a couple of years and I am excited about the future and I am striving to continually improve. I am glad I have fallen into acting now and won’t look back.
My first obsession with films came from watching Christopher Reeve play Superman. It was a really important experience in my youth as I watched those films over and over, a sort of studying and it was really instrumental for me in crystallizing this dream of becoming an actor. Christopher played three characters in the third movie. He plays the empowering hero as Superman, the evil and dark Superman, as well as the geeky and clumsy Clark Kent. His nuances and mannerisms are exceptional in all of these and very underrated in my opinion. Director Richard Donner is quoted saying “he was the best actor” he “ever worked with.” A true hero for me on and off screen with all the charity work etc he did even after his accident.
“I also was possibly scared I would fail. Fear is a very corruptive thing and you have to get beyond those fears to be successful.”
What has been, for you, the best moment on set until now?
In a film sense, it would probably be breaking Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) free and saving him. That sequence took 2 or 3 days to film and I loved being a part of a really dynamic, energetic, scene. The adrenaline was sky high and to do this on such an incredible set with 1000’s of extras, and over 100 trained horses at Warner Bros Studios was epic.
However, the real defining moment for me when I knew that I was going to risk everything and quit my job and move to London was before this. It was when I was on set in the Haig Club advert playing one of 6 actors alongside David Beckham. I vividly remember looking down Glencoe and seeing Becks cruising on a motorbike, Guy (Ritchie) behind the monitor, John Mathieson (Director of Photography for the likes of “Gladiator”) behind the camera, and Mark Wolfe (known for filming aerial shots in “James Bond”) in his helicopter doing all the aerial shots. This was the moment I realized when I got home I was going to quit my job and get down to London and try to get my first film role. Thankfully I have been steady since moving down (“Bloodloss” RYAN, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” SIR PERCIVAL, “Knightfall” ALDRED, “Outlander” MACNEIL, now currently filming a prominent role as the leading British Soldier shooting in Mumbai, India… can talk more about this perhaps in our next interview 😉
I know as an actor there can be quiet periods so I am massively grateful first of all to Guy for giving me the initial opportunities and working with him twice within the space of a year. It has really opened doors and I am forever grateful to him and everyone else thereafter who has supported me.
Regarding “King Arthur: The Legend of The Sword,” how did you approach the role of Sir Percival?
I was not told to change my look for the role but after researching more about my character (Sir Percival) and the whole story of King Arthur I felt that Sir Percival would be a very dominant figure. Aggressive and empowering. I went to great lengths to learn to fight and create a much more robust sense of physicality so as not to feel inadequate. I was driven towards finding my inner barbarian and accessing this for the movie.
I decided to grow a very thick and long beard for the role and gain 25 pounds of muscle mass. I wanted to be considered by the audience as intrinsically mysterious but likable. After researching the character I stored in the attic of my head ideas of how I wanted to play Percival then I relegated something to a reservoir and used how I personally thought Sir Percival should be played. With my background having competed in elite level rugby and then training elite level athletes across various sports and disciplines I knew what I was doing to bulk up and although offered a trainer I decided to create a workout and diet/nutrition strategy personalized for me to gain muscle for the role. I put on a lot of weight very quickly so I introduced Muay Thai, boxing, and jiu jitsu so I wasn’t too ‘blocky’. I realised when we started filming I’d have to be able to move and swing a sword and jump on and off horses with ease like a Knight of the Round Table. It was a lot of fun training in the gym and also doing fight training with Mike Lambert and stunt training with Eunice Huthart both who work at Warner Bros Studios and both have massive amounts of energy and knowledge which I found hugely infectious. I loved training on and off set with them and all of the guys. It was a lot of fun. I also trained with A Devils Horsemen for horse riding training. They have worked on some major productions and all horses are well trained and looked after.
“King Arthur” was a spectacular and majestic fantasy retelling of King Arthur and his knights’ rise to power: the scenography aspect was huge. How was being part of such a big project? And how was the mood on set?
Guy created a new accessible Arthur for the younger generation. Everyone likes superheroes right and that’s what Arthur is in this. It gave us all broad poetic license to take liberties as the story is a myth after all. It was so much fun working on King A. I had a blast and it was a cool movie. It had to be. It’s Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur.” It has a little bit of something in there for everybody. Guy made it a lot of fun on set and I think with Charlie playing the lead there are similarities to Sons (of Anarchy) but not the same. That show did well so why fight it… Guy would train with us on set between scenes sometimes and we’d do chin up or push up challenges. It made training a lot of fun and it was a fun way to bond.
You’re joining the 4th season of the time-traveling fantasy “Outlander” as a Scottish plantation owner in America: what can you unveil about the role? And what was the best moment on set, for you?
Yes, I play Plantation Owner Andrew MacNeil. He is a “meanie” as you may have read via the twitter messages from the “Outlander” Fanmily but the support from them all has been immense. The books are obviously a huge success so to be recognized by the fans in a positive light meant a lot and hopefully, I did the character justice in line with the books and the “Outlander” Fanmily’s expectations of mean man MacNeil.
You did a lot of History-bounded roles, from “Outlander” to “Knightfall” and of course “King Arthur: The Legend of The Sword”: what’s a historical period you would like to portray in the future?
Too difficult to say. So many great period pieces going on right now. I’m open to trying virtually any role. A lot of people were saying they couldn’t imagine me playing horrible characters like that of Aldred and Macneil, “Knightfall” and “Outlander” respectively, so hopefully I did those characters justice and I’d like to try something completely different in the future. Very open to challenging myself to play roles that people don’t expect from me. Having said that I do love playing the action hero roles and Superman and James Bond were two of my favorites growing up.
Moving to Sci-Fi and the future: what can you unveil about your upcoming project, “Tellurian,” in which you’re also producing? And what about your character?
“Tellurian” is a great passion project of mine and I am very pleased to be applying for help with producing the project and helping with stunt/fight choreography. The production company involved gave me an early opportunity in my career playing lead role Ryan in their first ever short film, “Bloodloss,” so I would like to think I can always help them if I can to get projects off the ground. They are great lads and super talented boys who all live up in Arbroath in Scotland. These things take time but I am convinced they will get the recognition they deserve soon. The director and writer is immensely creative and the Director of a Photography creates work visually that some of the top guys in Hollywood would be proud of. They are doing everything at a low budget so give them the resources and I’m sure they can produce some seriously special work soon. Behind them all the way.
What’s the last series you binge-watched?
What’s your Happy Place?
Golf course with friends or family. Don’t really care if I am playing well or not, just great being in the outdoors having a laugh and some banter with people close to you and catching up.
What’s your must-have on set?
A chin up bar. From King A, to the set I’m on now in India I have found if there is a chin up bar I can do a full workout between scenes with squats, push ups, leg raises from the pull up bar, and pull ups. If we are talking food or drink then I do like a carrot/orange/ginger smoothie and a green/vegetable juice. Keeps my immune system strong and energy high on set along with lots of water. Also banter and a laugh. Behind all the seriousness it’s important to have fun and get on well so bring that please, it can be long days.
What’s your dream project?
I believe that I touched on this earlier but I would have to say James Bond and Superman are up there. I also love the likes of Wolverine, Indiana Jones, Batman, all the DC and Marvel heroes are awesome too. The hero lead roles are the dream.
What’s next for Craig?
I can’t say I’m afraid… all I can say is I am in Mumbai in India as we speak playing a leading British Soldier. The feature film will release in 2020. I will keep you posted and we can discuss further in my next interview with you guys if you have me back.
Cover Photo by Laurence Dunmore for Hamilton & Inches
Photos by Michael Shelford