Saturday, September 9, 2017

From Culloden to Catalyst - a follow up interview with Ryan Ralph Gerrard by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage Originals By Susie Brown

Whilst in the grip of season 2’s ‘Droughtlander’, Outlander Homepage spoke to actor Ryan Ralph Gerrard, a supporting artist during season 1 who was portraying a new character in season 3. At the time, he was sworn to secrecy and apart from a couple of promo photos, fans had been left guessing about his role. Ryan promised that he would chat with us again when he was allowed to reveal more - and he is a man of his word! Without any further ado, here is Ryan Ralph Gerrard unmasked! 

“So. Who is my character?” Ryan teased, as our interview began.  “Ok. I play the role of Giles McMartin; a sixteen year old Scottish Highlander who finds himself thrust into the Battle of Culloden. Although my character’s appearance in the novel was quick, the way it’s told on screen I appear throughout the majority of the episode.”

Since his identity had finally been revealed and knowing that the filming of the battle was a monumental task, we asked Ryan to tell us a bit about a typical day on set. 

“If I was shooting in Cumbernauld, I would wake up around 4am, be picked up by one of the hilariously funny drivers that the production put on for us and be taken to location,” Ryan said. “Luckily, I got to film in Crieff too - so once I was settled at the hotel, it was a matter of waking up and being escorted to set, which was only a short drive away. Then I’d pitch up in my trailer, have some breakfast - normally a potato scone and a cup of strong coffee brought to me by the wonderful Jess Bergeault - and wait to be dressed. Once I had the full kit on, I’d be whisked into hair and make-up so that I could transform into Giles.  This took around 45 minutes to an hour, plus extra time for any battle wounds that I had.  After all of the commotion to get there and get ready, it was very much just ‘down time’  from then on until I was needed.”

So what did Ryan do in this ‘down time’?

“I had a lovely cast to chat with in the green room,” Ryan replied. “Sam Heughan and Grant O’Rourke were hilarious as always: true gentlemen with perfect comedic timing. Sam Hoare and Oliver Tilley - who played the redcoats in my scenes - would often keep me thoroughly entertained with their football chat. I nodded and pretended I was interested, but it wasn’t long before they sussed me out and apologised for their heavy masculine chat! They were great lads who made my experience one to remember! After filming was finished, we would go back to our trailers, get all of our kit off and return to the 21st century, almost oblivious to what we had just been doing. We headed back to the hotel, had dinner and chilled out. The long days drained everyone, but in true Scottish style, there was always time for a drink or two!” 

When we commented that despite the long days, filming the Battle of Culloden must have been a memorable experience, Ryan agreed emphatically.

“The experience was truly magical,” he said. “It really was like being sent back in time. The art department are phenomenal at creating historically accurate costumes and set pieces. It was actually rather surreal. I had never worked on anything historical before, so being transported from the 21st Century to 1746 was incredibly eye-opening, yet strangely, it also had a sense of realism about it.”

And what did he take away from the whole experience? 

“Working with Sam Heughan and Grant O’Rourke was honestly a real honour,” Ryan said. “Although I was there to do a job, I couldn’t help but observe and absorb the technicalities of their work. As an actor, you are constantly learning and reinventing yourself, so being able to have first hand experience alongside two wonderful leading actors was a blessing. I can safely say that I walked away a more confident person and a stronger performer, purely by being in their presence and watching their work.”

Every actor that we have interviewed for Outlander Homepage has commented on the welcoming vibe of the whole production and Ryan was no exception. 

“What’s beautiful about Outlander is the family-like atmosphere,” he agreed. “Everyone from cast to crew bonded very quickly and it was clear from the beginning that everyone was there to make a piece of art. Being able to spend time with everyone back at the hotel was also really special and added to my experience. Usually, you would want to finish work, go to the pub and not talk about it! But it was clear that everyone loved the project so much - even three seasons in - that chatting about the job was a pleasure.

 To me, no role is a ‘small role’ and you must treat every opportunity you are given with the same amount of respect and conviction as larger parts. This is why I felt a great sense of responsibility whilst filming my scenes. Culloden was a real event that killed almost 2,000 Jacobites. My job, as simple as it sounds, was to give a voice to the children who found themselves in battle that day and play out the trauma caused by their fear of death. I knew this had to be done with a great sense of respect and so I had a meeting with the director, Brendan Maher, about how it should be played. For me, having the chance to work with someone as profound as Maher was one thing, but being able to speak creatively on a level with him about something that was actually very sad, was somewhat bittersweet.”

It was obvious throughout our interview that Ryan Ralph Gerrard is an actor determined to make his mark. At such a young age (he actually turns 21 the day before season 3 premieres) we wondered where he first learned his craft. We discovered that sadly, Ryan’s dramatic education was not as positive an experience as his subsequent acting projects have been.

“I went to a local youth theatre for a few years where my love for film acting actually began,” Ryan explained. “While I was there, I was given the opportunity to be involved with two educational DVDs for the NHS. It was that experience that essentially led to my love for acting on screen. Unfortunately, I seem to have been a bit unlucky when it comes to education and extra curricular activities. It is my belief that after graduating, an actor should be able to discuss their training with a great sense of pride and achievement. I wish I could do that, but I didn’t learn what they advertised they would teach me. What I did learn was to become proactive and independent, and I think that is the key to every good actor. Of course, I understand that my experience is personal, but I also know that my education has played very little part in my current success. Despite this, I believe that anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. So if there’s anyone else out there that wants to be an actor, you can do it. You don’t have to rely on further education to take you there. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it - that’s my advice!”

It sounds like good advice to follow, as Ryan has certainly been very busy since leaving the Scottish battlefield.

“One of the other projects I’ve been working on since Outlander, is a feature film called CATALYST,” Ryan said, “which has made considerable progress since we last spoke. In June, I set off to London to begin shooting the film with an incredible production team from around the UK. During the shoot, I got to stay at Castle Goring - home to Lady Colin Campbell herself. She really is the hilariously honest woman that everybody came to know and love from ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ and she told me that if I ever win an Oscar, she had better be in my acceptance speech! The film is now halfway complete and both cast and crew are on a short-term break to fulfil other projects and recuperate.It was one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my career so far. I unleashed some dark emotions I didn’t know I had within me, so hopefully it translates and people can empathise with my character.”

Ryan’s busy life is set to continue for the foreseeable future, with other projects and plans in full swing.

“Between now and the middle of 2018, I have CATALYST to finish off as well as another feature called ‘The Second Life Club’,” Ryan said. “After that, who knows? I like to live in the moment and organically find new challenges. A good role in a BBC Drama would appeal to me but until then, I plan to expand my ability even more. For me, every day is a school day.”

So will he return to Outlander? Ryan’s final response was a testament to his determined attitude.

“Who knows, maybe Diana will bring me back somehow,” he mused, “a distant relative of Giles, perhaps? After all, anything is possible in Outlander!”

We’d like to thank Ryan for agreeing to this follow up interview and wish him every success in his creative endeavours.

This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She remembers the character of Giles from “Voyager” and is looking forward to seeing Ryan bring him to life. 

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