Kevin McKidd talks about EIFF judging role

Kevin McKidd. Picture: Lloyd Smith

Kevin McKidd. Picture: Lloyd Smith

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He’s best known for his roles in Grey’s Anatomy, Rome and Trainspotting, so it’s hardly surprising that staff and students at Edinburgh’s Bedlam Theatre were rather shocked earlier this week when a ring to the back stage door buzzer revealed award-winning actor Kevin McKidd, politely requesting a trip down memory lane.

The actor, who is now based in LA, was in town judging the selections for this year’s Michael Powell Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and took the opportunity to visit the theatre which gave him his first taste of treading the boards.

Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus in Rome.

Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus in Rome.

The 39-year-old explained, “I was round the corner having lunch with the other jury members and thought I may as well nip in.

“I was really pleased to see the place hasn’t changed one bit - it’s still a complete tip! In the best possible way, I should add. It’s such a vibrant space. They still have posters up from plays I did back in the day, so it was really nice to reconnect with my past. I also had a chat with some of the students, who were a bit shocked to see me, but I did just turn up!”

McKidd, who was raised in Elgin, first came to the Capital as a student of engineering, but the call of the stage proved too much, and it wasn’t long before he had switched to studying drama at Queen Margaret College.

“I dreamt of being an actor since I was a little boy, but I didn’t know where to start. In Glasgow and Edinburgh there’s more access to youth theatre, but when you live in rural places it can feel like there are fewer ways in, which makes me feel even luckier to be where I am now.”

While visiting his old stomping ground, McKidd also took some time to see the man who helped him pay his way through drama school - by scaring the living daylights out of tourists.

“I always like to see Robin Mitchell, the man who co-founded the Witchery Tours. Being a ‘jumper-outer’ on the ghost tours was a brilliant job. You made really good tips, especially from Americans, and it certainly keeps you fit, running about in the freezing cold!

“Some people did get very caught up in it. Sometimes you would be a bit worried - you don’t actually want people to collapse in fright! I really do feel that experience - doing three tours a night, an hour and a half each - helped me build up skills that helped me later in my career.”

McKidd got his first big break as doomed addict Tommy in the film version of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, which was based in the Capital. And while plans for sequel Porno are now well underway, he knows it’s unlikely he’ll get to join the reunion...

“Nope, he’s dead and you can’t bring someone back! If they asked about doing a flashback sequence? Well, you never know!

“I’m still very proud of Trainspotting, it was an amazing start. I was mainly recognised as Tommy for a very long time, and I think he will always be a bit of a calling card for me, especially in Britain, but mostly people seem to associate me with Rome and Grey’s Anatomy now.”

It was his role in Grey’s Anatomy that prompted McKidd to move to LA with his wife and two children, where he is still based.

“I like it but I do get homesick for Scotland. LA is a very long way away and there’s no seasons there, it’s sunny all the time. That may seem like an odd thing to complain about but after a few years you’d actually enjoy a bit of rain! But it is great there, we’ve got lots of friends and my kids love it.”

But he’s still managed to combine Hollywood with home, taking the voice roles of both Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, father and brother to unconventional Princess Merida, in Disney Pixars Brave, set in Scotland.

However, the actor, who has a daughter of his own named Iona, said he was unaware of recent controversy over changes made to Merida’s appearance in the run-up to her official induction to the Disney Princess collection.

Nearly 250,000 people have so far signed a petition protesting a redesign which has made her ‘skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance.’

“I hadn’t heard about that and as I’m not involved in that side of the business I’m not sure that’s something I can comment on, I’m afraid.”

McKidd’s musical tastes also keep him close to home and he does hint that a follow-up to his 2012 folk album The Speyside Sessions could be on the cards. The album, which McKidd instigated, involved collaborations from well known folk performers on traditional songs and raised money for charity Save the Children

“There are no plans at the moment, we’ll just need to wait and see. It’s all about trying to get a lot of different people in one place. We were delighted with how the first one turned out, it sold well and raised a good sum of money for Save the Children, so we should do something again soon.

“I’m very passionate about traditional music. I nipped in to Sandy Bells bar while I was back, I love to hear their sessions. I used to live in a flat above the bar when I was at drama school.”

But no hints as to who is likely to pick up the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film this weekend, unfortunately.

“We’re not allowed, they would kill me! What I will say is that there was a really high standard of work and it’s exciting to see so many Scottish films included. Three of them were based in rural communities, and many Scottish films tend to focus on Glasgow and Edinburgh it’s good to see projects where stories are being told about those communities.

“Outside of the judging, I would have really liked to have a wee look at some of the Korean films showing this year but I didn’t get a chance - the Festival people keep you pretty busy!”

Though he did manage to escape long enough to check out a bit of the Champions of Tennis event in Stockbridge over the weekend.

“It was quite rainy but I did get to see John McEnroe play. He was quite well behaved - he did shout a couple of times but I think he does that more to please the crowd these days!”