Interview with Craig McGinlay

Interview: Ekaterina Spiridonova.

Editor: Andrey Adadurov.

Cover photo: John Russo.

Craig McGinlay is a Scottish actor, best known for playing Sir Percival in «King Arthur: Legend of the Sword» and other roles in popular projects such as «YOU», «Outlander», «Shamshera» etc. Read our big interview to find out about his acting journey, preparing for a roles, hobbies and preferences.

Hello, Craig! We're glad to see you at our interview. How are you doing? 


— I’m doing great, thank you. How are you? 


Me too, thank you. We are always interested in the beginnings of actors' careers. Could you tell us please how started your journey into the cinema world? When and why did you decide to become an actor?


— I always wanted to be an actor but my school wasn’t big into drama so never really got the opportunities there that I needed. Looking back I wish that I’d looked into outside clubs etc but I was doing a lot of different sports to elite level including rugby, athletics, and tennis so I was a busy youngster being active and I think these sports have helped me today so no regrets. Just happy to be acting now. I was an S&C coach for elite Olympic athletes when I was spotted to be in an advert for the games and from that was asked to audition for a short film. I’m very grateful that I was given this opportunity into the industry and our short film won best thriller at the LA and Calgary film festivals. 


Your filmography includes many popular projects. You've played roles in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, YOU, Outlander, Knightfall, Shamshera and others. Wow, that's really awesome. Do you probably have any favorite roles?


— Playing Sir Percival in King A will always have a strong place in my heart as it was my first feature film role working with an amazing cast and crew I learned a lot from everyone in 4 months working on that job. It was an unforgettable experience. That was my second time working with Guy Ritchie and it was brilliant to work with him. He’s a lovely chap and I hope we can work together again some day. 

Photos: Sonja Blietschau, Jose Sarmento Matos.

Have you ever had a role that was more challenging than others? If so, what role was it?


— I’d have to say playing Colonel Freddy Young in feature film Shamshera. Around 50% of my dialogue I speak in Hindi in the film and I worked extremely hard daily to make sure my Hindi was clear and understandable for the audience. I also hired a vocal coach to get my RP English accent nailed for the rest of my dialogue. On top of the dialogue I was contracted to be bulky for the role so I trained and ate like a beast for the role to get in shape as well as working hard daily on my fight and stunt training. Now, while I say it was a challenge it was a lot of work but I love it that way. For me there is nothing better than being busy for a film or tv job. The prep, the research, it’s all part of the process and I loved every minute of it when filming in Mumbai in India for this job. Busier the better and you feel like you’re really contributing and collaborating with everyone to make this beast of a machine work and be the best it can be. It was a fantastic experience. 


What genre do you like to shoot in?


— I think at the beginning of my career I was being given more period roles but it seems to be shifting a little that I am being given the couples role or Detective/Cop/Policeman role. I’m definitely up for playing roles like this that’s for sure but to be honest I’m very open to virtually playing anything within reason. That’s the greatest thing for an actor when a director trusts you to work with the material you’ve been given and create a character they want you to deliver for them on screen. I love the challenge of playing something different so let’s see what’s next. 


Do you watch the projects which you were involved in?


— Yes I do, not again and again but definitely once or twice. Some actors hate watching themselves back as it can interfere with their process but for me I find it hugely helpful for learning, particularly at the beginning of my career but I’m realising now that you’ve got to trust that you have the tools to deliver and you’ve got to pull it out the bag. You don’t always get the luxury of time on a film or tv set so if you’re being asked to deliver something on screen then find that tool from your back pocket and go there. Trust that you can deliver and give it a go. 

Photos: Stuart Williamson, Yash Raj Films production company.

If you could play any existing character, who would it be and why?


— I would love to play Superman or James Bond. They have always been two of my favourite characters growing up. 


What is your process like, though, when you prepare for a role?


— I enjoy preparing for a role with the director to get an idea of what they want. They’ll always have their vision for what they want so it’s great to collaborate. I love researching as much as possible about my character. If I’m preparing for a role where I have to be physically in shape for then I’ll spend hours in the gym getting in physical condition for the role as well as spending time working hard with the stunt/fight choreography team. 


Do you have playlists with songs for the roles you play?


— I love Hans Zimmer music from the likes of Gladiatior, Man of Steel, or Dark Knight Rises. These playlists are epic and I like epic tracks to listen to when getting in shape for roles. 

Photo: 1881 Slazenger Heritage Sean Connery James Bond range campaign.

Is there a location that you enjoyed shooting in the most?


— Mumbai was an incredible experience. One I will never forget. How many times will you film in the jungle with monkeys walking on set and a possibility of lions walking on too?!! It was amazing. I also enjoyed shooting in Prague too but always enjoy shooting in Scotland and London. 


Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time?


— I love walking my golden retriever dog, Skye, on the beach. I love playing golf and keeping fit in my spare time. Or drinking coffee with friends or drinking coffee on my own with a good book. 


In which projects will we see you in the nearest future and could you tell us about them?


— I played General Stilicho on History channel series COLOSSEUM. This was an amazing experience working in Morocco. Lots of filming is happening there right now. It’s a cool place to film. Amazing costumes and sets. I filmed a scene where they shot one of my favourite films, Gladiator by Ridley Scott, over 20 years ago. I love everything about that film and it was good inspiration for my character General Stilicho. I also just played a security agent called Hugo McNamara in Netflix series YOU. I really enjoyed working with actors such as Greg Kinnear, Ed Speelers, and of course Penn Badgley. Penn has been doing this show for a few years now and it’s been so successful so it was great to play a small cameo role in this. He was very welcoming and fun to work with as was everyone including director Harry Jierjian who was excellent to work with and I’m so grateful to him for bringing me in. 

Photos: Laurence Dunsmore, Greg Williams.

Your favorite movie?


— I don’t have one… Gladiator, Christopher Reeve Superman films, James Bond movies.


Favorite TV series? 


— Succession right now.


Favorite book?


— Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman autobiographies.


Your favorite quote?


— ‘A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles’. - Christopher Reeve.


Your favorite singer/band?


— Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, John Williams.


Your favorite song?


— John Williams Superman theme or Hans Zimmer when bulking up for a role such as ‘What are you going to do when you are not saving the world?’. 


How many languages do you know?


— I don’t speak other languages fluently but my French is ok and having learned some Hindi for a role I know some Hindi now too. 


Marvel or DC?


— I mean Christopher Reeve Superman is my all time favourite character and I love Nolan’s Batman movies as well as Michael Keaton back in the day so I guess that’s DC but I do love the Marvel Avengers films such as End Game and Captain America Winter Soldier… tricky question….. 


Do you have an idol and if you do, who is it?


— Christopher Reeve on and off screen. No question.