Edinburgh film extra Grant McGregor has a treat and a new twist in store for Outlander fans

WHEN Outlander, the historical TV drama based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon, premiered in 2014, it transported television audiences around the world to a Scotland in the throes of the Jacobite risings and made an international star of leading man Sam Heughan along the way.

By Liam Rudden
Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 7:30 am
Outlander extra and member of Paca, Grant McGregor
Outlander extra and member of Paca, Grant McGregor

Five series later, Leith-based Grant McGregor, who has worked for more than 50 days on the hit show as an extra, is set to share his love for the show through a new calendar featuring fellow extras from the drama. He has also used lockdown to complete the script of new TV drama set in the Scotland of the 1700s, one he hopes will be the "next Outlander",

A former off-shore geophysicist turned writer, Grant's career change came five years ago when he decided to make his dream of becoming a novelist a reality. At the time he also started working as a film and TV extra, which is how the first of his current projects came about; he teamed up with four of his fellow Outlander extras to form Paca, a group now known for their Outlander tours and kilt walks, all of which they conduct in full highland costume.

He explains, "We all met while working as extras on Season 2 of Outlander, we were part of 'Jamie's Army' being trained for the Battles of Prestonpans and Culloden. After boot camp, where we learned basic sword work, we decided to share a cottage in Crieff while filming up the road in Ochtermuthill as the 5am call times would have meant 3am starts for some of us.

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Paca - all met while extras on Outlander

"We continued working on Season 2 and then Season 3 amassing about 50 days in total - I filmed 55 days. There's a lot of hanging around as an extra during filming, so we got to know each other really well. After the first season we had all bought plaid, swords, full 18th century outfit, though we didn't know what we were going to do with it."

An invite to attend the first Highlander Fling, a fan event in Bathgate in 2016, set McGregor on the path he finds himself travelling today.

"By this stage we were loosely called The Pack by the other extras so I launched us as Paca, a modern Gaelic word for a mob of men."

As Outlander fans took Paca to their hearts at events around Scotland, the group released a calendar as a thank you in 2018.

"We've been asked over the years for another but never had time to do it. During lockdown I realised I could tell the story of how we all met and what happened after with archive pics of us giving a snapshot of our journey. That's what this new calendar will capture as well as being a bilingual showcase of Burns."

As the publicity blurb reads: ‘What happens after you're an extra on Outlander and you buy sword, targe and plaid then wander Scotland dressed as 18th century Jacobites? Four Scotsmen, our story, and inspirational quotes from Rabbie Burns all wrapped up in an English/Scots Gaelic calendar.'

Now reduced to just four members, Paca finds 49-year-old McGregor joined by Andrew Mcalindon, 42, Jon Dan Duncan, 51, and Jay Graham, 43. Recalling their days working on Outlander, he remembers, "There were lots of very early mornings, long days, hanging about then rushing around. All while it was cold, sleeting, snowing and, sometimes, blisteringly hot.

"I was initially one of Jamie's men but was also a Redcoat, a stand-in for Tobias Menzies who was Frank Randall in the series, and a hand-double for Richard Rankin who plays Roger Mackenzie

Proudly, he adds, "In season 4, episode 3, I even had a small speaking part as the Clan Gordon Chief at a Highland gathering in 1970's North Carolina."

The popularity of Outlander is a continuation of 'Scott-mania' and the Victorian's fascination for all things Scottish provoked by Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels, believes McGregor. "Add to this the enormous Scottish diaspora worldwide and the enduring love affair with Diana Gabaldon's books and the result is an endless fascination the world over with Scotland, especially that time period," he adds. .

"People want to hear stories about Scotland during this tumultuous period that ultimately delivered the destruction of the clan system and the Highland way of life."

All of which fed into McGregor's desire to write his own historic adventure set in that period, Clan: After Culloden. "I was inspired by being immersed in the time period and by the friendships I made on set. I wondered what it would be like to be one of those soldiers at the Battle of Culloden but with your own agenda and not there for the Jacobite cause. To be one of a group of Highland bandits forced to follow Bonnie Prince Charlie onto the fields of Culloden... but because of a man who betrayed them, who is now a redcoat officer hell bent on Jacobite gold, gold which everyone wants, the Prince, the Jacobites, the Redcoats and the group of friends."

Having gone through a number of drafts already, lockdown afforded McGregor the time to produce a finished script, which he hopes will now be picked up by Netflix and become the 'next Outlander' ."I'd been refining the story through various rewrites over the years but was always busy with work but with all day to day work stopping, I finally had the time to craft that final fifth rewrite," he says. "I've written it as a spec pilot for a 10-part period drama set in 1740's Scotland and it's now in a state where I can show it to producers. Netflix would be the dream to develop it."

As for his is other dream, the 2021 calendar, a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release is already more than half way to meeting its target of £2,000. "The first 100 calendars bought through the Kickstarter page will be signed by all the members of Paca," promises McGregor.

To pre-order yours, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pacathejourney2021/paca-the-journey-2021-calendar

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