An in depth interview with actor, director, writer and
UK Ambassador for Giordano, Bryan Larkin
Bryan Larkin first became known to Outlander fans when, as a MacKenzie clansman named Geordie, he died in War Chieftain Dougal MacKenzie’s arms during Season 1, episode 4 ("The Gathering"), the result of a gruesome boar goring.
Since then, his star has been on a steady rise. He appeared in 2016’s London Has Fallen opposite mega-star Gerard Butler. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3300542/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Since then, Bryan’s career has skyrocketed. We caught up with him while he was between projects to talk about his latest adventures as an actor, filmmaker, and brand ambassador.
KJ: Let’s begin with your current life and career. What have you been up to since we last interviewed you for London Has Fallen?
BL: It’s almost exactly a year since we last spoke! A lot has changed. London Has Fallen was a huge success and it has opened a few more doors. I guess the biggest thing is that I spent three months in Hong Kong and China with Donnie Yen (Rogue One, Ip Man, xXx : Return of Xander Cage) and Andy Lau (The Great Wall, Infernal Affairs, Cold War) playing a leading role in Chasing The Dragon. It’s an epic tale based on the true history of police corruption in Hong Kong during the 70’s and it’s the first time I have played a real-life character: Ernest Hunt.
My own project, Die Trying, written by Rae Brunton, has now found producing partners and we are progressing towards making the film. I also shot a very ambitious short film set in London and Hong Kong with Carter Ferguson and Mike Leeder.
The only unfortunate thing about being in Hong Kong for so long is that I have had to turn down other equally high profile projects.
KJ: It’s been so cool to see your social media teasers about all those Hong Kong filming locations! Thanks for sharing photos with fans. Can you talk a bit about working in Hong Kong? For instance, how do you like filming on location there?
BL: Hong Kong and China are places I have always dreamed of visiting, let along work in. Hong Kong is one of the most fascinating places I have been to. The streets are so cinematic: the neon cascade of lights, the alleyways, the buildings, skyscrapers and mountains…basically everywhere you point a camera in Hong Kong is a filmmakers’ dream.
Mike Leeder, casting director for [Chasing the Dragon], and I explored many places during our down time; he took me to the site where they shot Bruce Lee’s (Enter the Dragon) and it transported me right back to my youth when I started Karate as a young boy. I stood at the very spot where one of my idols shot a movie that was influential on my younger years.
KJ: That must have been a chills-down-your-back kind of moment! What was it about Bruce Lee that spoke so strongly to the younger Bryan? Aside from sparking your interest in the martial arts, what inspired you about Lee and/or his films?
BL: His attitude, charisma and his philosophies. The way he moved as a martial artist on and off screen, like in interviews) . His philosophy and perception of the world around him and our place within it. The process of continual growth. Lee spoke about being like water. To be adaptable to any situation and as a young man hearing this it just always stuck with me. To be all things in like, to flow between one form and another.
KJ: And you haven’t just been making movies! Lately, we see your face everywhere in a new collaboration with globally-known label Giordano, a Hong-Kong based clothing designer who recently introduced you as their brand ambassador for the European market. There’s been quite a bit of buzz about that. http://www.thecoolector.com/giordano-bryan-larkin/ How did that all come about?
BL: That’s the kind of question that really gets me thinking about “if it wasn’t for so and so…”, but it all boils down to being in the right place at the right time. While I was in Hong Kong working on Chasing the Dragon I was introduced to Thomas Sandfield, a Norwegian-born photographer and one of the official photographers for Giordano. We got talking about how we both came to find ourselves in Hong Kong and he expressed his desire to introduce me to Mark Loynd, Head of International Brand Collaborations at Giordano. Their unique approach to marketing is to find people who have inspiring life journeys, and then market the brand through their own path in life. They are not interested in celebratory endorsements – they find real people to be more identifiable to a world market.
KJ: Giordano likes your realness! Mark Loynd, Head of International Brand Collaborations at Giordano commented in an interview, “Bryan’s story and his fight to the top personifies Giordano’s own values.” They like to feature REAL people, rather than models. Can you talk about that essential connection from your perspective?
BL: It’s like what I was saying earlier, they recognize the individual. Making someone an Ambassador for a company is no small thing and it’s flattering and reassuring that I fit their criteria. Giordano identifies with the substance of a person as much as they do about the style of their clothes. Mark and Alvin, who have been running this campaign at Giordano, have been great to work with and learn from.
KJ: Giordano also has an ongoing collaboration with the University of the Arts London. How does that impact the clothing designs?
BL: They are always in touch with what young designers are doing. What the designers of the future can bring to an established and international brand – that’s very exciting. Keeping in touch with what new trends are being set and rewarding them with the opportunities to design for them in the future.
KJ: Aside from the opportunity to learn something new and wear some terrific clothing, what do you enjoy most about representing this company?
BL: The ongoing relationship between myself and the team. I enjoy working with them immensely. They are like a family with a dedicated work ethic that have high standards. Being the UK Ambassador of the company has been challenging and rewarding. Our short film was also great because I got to work with Carter, who was the UK Producer, and my family were involved in the making of the film too, so that’s pretty special.
KJ: Great, segue, Bryan! Let’s take a look at that short film:
KJ: This aspect of their marketing campaign is unique. The film is about you; the product itself is not the star. How does it feel to have your "life journey" out there for the world to see? I would feel some nervousness. Do you?
BL: I don't feel nervous. It's who I am. Bear in mind these are just life moments; they are all relatable. We all try to maintain relationship balance, we all have family commitments, and we all struggle as we try to pursue our goals. We all have setbacks. There is far more left out of this video campaign than the viewer would ever know. I hope that the film delivers on its message: Stay on the path. Stay true to yourself. Work hard. Accept the setbacks. Keep on the path toward your goals, whatever they may be.
KJ: That's your real family in the film!? I did not realize this...and I'll bet other fans do not either. We assume we are seeing actors, especially since we know you are an actor. Which family members were involved?
BL: My sister, brother in law and two nephews appear in the film. As this is based on my life; their involvement is related to the idea that we all try to maintain close family ties as we pursue our own ambitions and goals in life. We are all challenged to create and maintain life balance.
KJ: What were their reactions to being part of the story? To being cast as themselves? To the finished product? Now that it's out there...any thoughts they have expressed?
BL: They are just very proud of it. We had so much fun making this together and it felt very satisfying to work with my family. But it wasn’t really work as we were being ourselves and they filmed the scenes. We had a script, obviously, but Thomas, the director, was like: “Go have fun. Let us worry about the filming part.”
KJ: Let’s consider the future: What will the Giordano ambassador be doing as we move into 2017?
BL: We are working through the first phase, which focuses on the Giordano branding in the UK alongside an already established brand, Lowe Alpine. There is a lot of press work still to do; I’ll be responsible for raising even more awareness about the brand through social media. In the summer, we will work more in Hong Kong to further the reach of the brand. We will then be working on a clothing line that I will promote in the UK and Asia. After that who knows…but I am looking forward to it!
KJ: Can you talk about any other projects you have on the back burner right now?
BL: Only just a little because it’s early stages. Die Trying, my project with Rae Brinton, has found a producing team and we are steadily moving towards making the film. I am finishing up on the Hong Kong / London short film that I made with Carter and we have plans now to tour festivals with it while in the meantime working towards a feature length film. There’s a few more movies I will be shooting through 2017, but that’s all I can say right now. I have a very busy year ahead.
KJ: We’re very glad you are busy! That's the upside, and I know you are grateful. But you have also been honest about the struggles on the way.
No one teaches a course called Success 101 for actors. What advice do you have for young actors who are trying to achieve career success?
BL: Best advice is to surround yourself with people better than yourself, learn from them, practice being better as often as you can. Get in front of the camera and act as much as possible and be objective about your development. Study other actors--their movement, speech, what they trying to do in the scene. And just keep working on your craft.
KJ: What will we see you in next (aside from Giordano)?
BL: I have a few movies coming out this year: Vengeance with Gary Daniels and Stu Bennet, directed by Ross Boyask; then there’s Dead Heading and then Chasing the Dragon with Donnie Yen and Andy Lau.
KJ: How can your fans be involved in your newest ventures?
BL: By staying tuned to the launch of the Giordano campaign in the UK and helping me spread the news. We’ve put in a lot of hard work and I am extremely proud of this project – the final product is quite beautiful, so I hope they can help me share my joy. Also, my cooperation with Giordano is a not a one-off – I have established an excellent rapport with the team at Giordano and there is a lot we will be doing together throughout the year, including a charity campaign which is in the works. It will be for a fantastic cause, so I hope my fans can help spread the word.
KJ: One last question: You have a chance to sum up the last year in one sentence. What is that sentence?
BL: It’s been like a roller coaster ride: exciting, exhilarating, and euphoric--and I don’t ever want to get off.
KJ: Hi Bryan. I’m hoping we can talk a bit today about the life of the working actor, which is a mystery to most people. For example, there’s that illusion of “overnight success,” which is a total fallacy. This is a profession that requires years of training, hard physical and mental work, and over it all looms the constant specter of rejection. Seriously, why do people want to be actors??
BL: It’s a precarious life. There is no formula for success as an actor. I have had A-list actors tell me how talented I am to my face and mean it, yet I have gone without acting work for almost a year sometimes.
KJ: You have to be resilient, for sure. And at times you must get discouraged or disillusioned with your career or with the life of an actor. What keeps you going?
BL: What keeps me going is my drive. I am very driven and I am passionate about being creative.
KJ: What makes the difference, then, between success and failure in this business?
BL: A lot of success is about luck. It’s also about good relationships and equally about an agent and manager team being able to get you in the room with a director. And then you need to smash the audition. I have been in audition situations where I have given it my best and they went with a different actor because he was older, younger…and sometimes because they wanted somebody of a different race but didn’t know that until they saw me.
KJ: So auditioning you helped them decide what they did NOT want. That’s crushing. And it’s also the reality of the profession.
BL: It’s crazy. But what is so rewarding for me is the opportunity to be exposed. To truly be myself. We all wear social masks and acting for me is about lowering the mask for a short time during auditions and while you are preparing for a role. It’s one of the rare times when you are at your most vulnerable and naked. That’s an incredibly liberating experience. To truly be yourself under imaginary circumstances so there’s absolutely no bullshit going on. You are out on a limb. Naked. But there are no consequences because it is only make believe. I convince myself that for the next few moments anything could happen. You could die, for example. That’s the trigger. The “in.”
If you go into an audition with the objective that you are there to solve a problem and you are flexible in your approach that is a good start.
KJ: What keeps you going in spite of the setbacks?
BL: What keeps me going is that I simply need to do it. It’s not a want. Acting and my other creative ventures are part of my survival. I need a creative outlet. Thankfully I do have other interests. I have a routine, I keep in shape, I read, I socialize with friends, I travel, I direct other people’s short projects. I even do photography and do it to a standard that subsidizes my efforts to build a career in film and TV.
KJ: Is being an actor a blessing or a curse?
BL: Oh definitely a blessing. I am fortunate to have found what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life. And if I don’t I always have my creativity. Even if I had to survive on a desert island I’d still be creative. I’d probably be writing scripts in the sand. (Laughter)
KJ: Would you want a child of your own to follow this career path?
BL: I’d support anything a child of mine wanted to do. Acting--of course, as long as they pursued it with passion, didn’t have any expectations, and could live with the rejection. But I would encourage an interest in the world, in art, in politics… to inhale as many aspects of life as they could, because if acting is all you have then you are doomed. You’d also be a pretty dull person.
KJ: I’m going to shift gears a bit now and ask about your personal life. Don’t get scared…. I have some very clever questions. For example, what does your real life look like these days?
BL: I’m going to give you possibly the worst answer you will ever get to that question. It’s a bit like a painting of something years from completion that gets a few new strokes and shades every day.
KJ: I know you have been crazy busy with several projects, meetings, etc. I’m sure it can be stressful. What, more than anything, affects your personal outlook on life right now?
BL: Security. Loyalty. Family. Friendship. Honesty. Integrity. And a good steak.
KJ: OK, steak. Noted. But seriously, you work an insane amount. How do you balance your life?
BL: It’s not easy to balance. I think it all comes down to prioritizing my time. I try to limit time spent doing each thing I do. I often sacrifice things in order to make a casting, have time with friends, put food on the table, and then have some time to switch off my phone and resist the urge to respond. I am not ashamed to admit it: a lot of people might think it’s crazy, to live a life with no certainties, to choose a career path where success and failure are more about politics, looks and chemistry than talent and hard work. I mean seriously, I know people who have given up on the profession who had more talent and drive than most of the people at a Hollywood luncheon and it used to really bother me why they couldn’t catch a break. It takes a very specific kind of person to be an actor. For the most of us you just have to keep getting better and keep kicking in doors and then be patient and know when it’s time to back off and wait. We all live in a precarious world where nothing is certain; even the great friendships we have today could turn around tomorrow. Bad luck can turn good. What’s more important to me is to strive towards something I need to do and be happy with the outcome. And if not, then keep pushing. I have knocked on a few doors and they didn’t open until I “politely” kicked them in. I don’t regret it.
KJ: You live in London…is big city life your choice or your sentence?
BL: I live in London because there are more opportunities for me here than I experienced in Scotland. I worked a lot in Scotland but it was difficult to maintain any momentum. I believed that I had to move in order to progress and be closer to an industry that I love. Many more decisions are made here [in London] but not always.
KJ: Who do you turn to for advice?
BL: It depends on what advice it is. Career? Life? Next moves? I often rely on instinct and take huge calculated risks. I will spare you the details. (Laughter)
KJ: Ok I just made a note to talk about your risky behavior next time….
BL: I think a calculated risk is worth taking if you absolutely have no other choice. But that is up to the individual.
KJ: What do you believe in? Go ahead---show us your wild side. UFO’s, fairy tales, religion, true love, reincarnation…?
BL: I have grown apathetic about politics but I still vote. I do think that one person can make a change. I strongly believe in being positive, no matter the circumstances. I think that if you put out a feeling of negativity then negative things will happen. I think if you demonstrate kindness then more kind people will enter your life. I believe in reciprocation. I used to get angry when people didn’t thank me for holding a door open but now I just smile and do it anyway. I avoid negative people as much as possible. I treat everybody the same way. As for true love, I think you get what you deserve provided you know that some people will never love you the same way back. If you want to see a UFO then you might be waiting for a very long time. I don’t believe there is a space station with a bunch of green people milling around cranking out space ships.
KJ: I am disappointed about the UFO bit…
BL: Don’t get me started on Santa
KJ: I’ve been warned. Ok then, what music is the soundtrack for your life?
BL: Anything from Ludovico Einaudi!
KJ: I had to Google that. I may be a new fan! He’s a terrific pianist/composer. Let’s let the readers meet him too...
KJ: While Einaudi plays in the background, can you describe your vision of a perfect life?
BL: A time-machine, a teleporter and a packet of wine gums.
KJ: I had to Google wine gums too. This is turning into a lot of work for me. You were supposed to be doing all the heavylifting. I may need a nap now. Before we say goodbye, one last question: what’s happening with your charity project?
BL: We are talking about a change of direction. Something closer to home. We want people to see the benefits of their donations, and we are discussing how that would be possible. There are so many charities out there and so many celebrities endorsing them and I don’t always see where the money is going. The more popular the star the more likely they are to reach their charity goals. Donors are supporting the star and not always the cause. The Larkinators and I are looking at ways in which we can tackle this in the future. That’s our direction and it’s really very important to me. But when I got the opportunity to work with those who have given up so much of their time to help me do this fundraising work I didn’t know that it would be so difficult. Collectively we have acknowledged this and during this time we have gotten to know each other as people, so it’s been a learning curve. But I think a change of direction is good. Our hearts are in it. We are all behind it. There will be some news on that in the near future.
KJ: Hi Bryan. Thanks for chatting with me again. Let’s start with an easy question: what’s going on in your career right now?
BL: At this very moment I am developing a script for a feature film that I am planning to direct and act in. I say this because it depends on who gets attached further down the road. But one way or another it WILL happen. I am also in talks about a few different TV shows and films. The nature of these things is that they take a great deal of time to come to fruition and at the moment I cannot make anything official as I do not have exclusivity. I have a feature script for my short film, The Virtual Network, https://vimeo.com/82140705 that is now with a director and producer, so that might go further. London Has Fallen has been more successful than Olympus Has Fallen, and I’m still riding the wave…so we’ll see.
KJ: That’s exciting! You’ve got a lot going on! Can you tell us more about the feature film in development?
BL: It’s a suspense thriller set over a twelve-hour time period. I love the ticking clock scenario; audiences know what they are getting in for but also they don’t know what will come next. It’s like a cross between the films Taken and Collateral. The great thing is I’m developing it with the writer, which means we have nobody telling us what we can and cannot write for the time being. We’re having fun going back and forth and looking at each other asking “Can we get away with this?” We hope to have it completed in about six weeks’ time. Right now it’s just nose to the grindstone.
KJ: I want to go back to those hints about being in talks for “a few different TV shows and films.” What a tease! OK, I get it that you can’t talk about anything yet. How about this: Are there directors or filmmakers you’d really like to work with?
BL: There are many, for dozens of reasons. The obvious ones are Scorsese, Spielberg, Scott, Stone, Iñárritu, and Christopher Nolan. Also the wonderful female directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion and Angelina Jolie. Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker, would be a dream to work with.
KJ: Bigelow is a favorite of mine too! Why are you drawn to her work?
BL: Hurt Locker was suspenseful, perfectly executed, and the characters were memorable—and not just because of the writing. The actors were all on point in every scene, but the trademark of a great director is the assembly of each beat and sequence. The great directors respect an actor’s craft but not onesingle element overshadows another.
KJ: And sometimes you have the luck to be given amazing characters to inhabit. Without giving too much away, are there roles you’d really like to play?
BL: I think about this regularly and ask other actors the same question. There are many roles I’d like to play, but the most interesting characters for me are anti-heroes. Personal stories with relatable characters who are undervalued but don’t recognize their own faults or limitations.
KJ: Can you give us an example?
BL: There is a film called Sling Blade, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton (who also starred in the Fargo TV series),who plays Karl Childers. You might not agree with what Karldoes but you empathize deeply. It’s a stunning portrayal of a man who believes in right and wrong and is not limited by foresight nor the consequences of his actions. Thornton was about 40 at the time. It was his breakout role. I could go on but I’ll spare the readers.
KJ: Oh go on…we love this stuff.
BL: Okay, If I had to narrow it down it would be about three basic elements. I like a character who is conflicted as the result of an internal or external source--character who has a strong negative quality such as a fear of conflict or failure. Then my work would be to find an interesting way to convey that conflictwithout the use of words to fall back on all the time. Secondly, I appreciate a strong character. Strong doesn’t mean muscular and brave or who can stare down an army and have the enemy running for the hills. Strength can only come from a place of weakness; otherwise, there is no growth in a character. Strength is the courage to face fear, rejection, failure, death, revenge, etc. We watch what these characters put themselves through in order to bring back the balance in their lives. Lastly--and this is by no means the only thing I would like to portray in a character--is joy. Joy in what they do, why they do it. It could be anything from saving the world to leading an army to even running a pet shop. And we witness them being really good at it. Seriously, it’s such an important and interesting thing for me, to find what brings them joy and witness it. To discover the changes that occur in their body when they do what they love.
KJ: We all love watching those fully dimensional characters. I’m glad I made you spill your guts about that. Now, in terms of roles you are given to play---I’ve watched your videos and short films. You are often cast as a tough guy. Do you identify with these roles?
BL: I often don’t take what I am offered because it didn’t offer a challenge. But I never accept a role simply because the character is tough. Outpost and Battleground gave me “tough guy” roles,but I saw the characters as fundamentally resilient. They believed in something. I identify with the key component of these characters which is in all of us-- the quest to survive. The internal dialogue and characterization come from that place.
KJ: Speaking of survival--you have also played some intense video game characters. I have no experience in that realm, as an actor or even as a game player. So bring me up to speed slowly…what’s that like for an actor? How does it differ from the work you do in films and TV?
BL: It’s different, obviously, but the same as well. Motion capture can come with three different disciplines—you’d have all three together, or a combination of two, or even one. Full body motion capture is face, body and voice, and it requires a performance technique that is somewhere between TV and film and theatre. Some producers only want to use your face, some just your voice, and others just want your movement and build for their character designs. They look at you and they somehow immediately know if you have the body they want for their characters.
KJ: It must be really disorienting for an actor. That motion capture suit, green screens…
BL: Actually, the process of motion capture is fun and rewarding. The body has to move in a more exaggerated or heightened way but still be truthful, which can be a bit difficult to grasp right away. Some actors I know say it makes them feel fake or false because they are moving more than what feels natural for them, but it has to be that way so that the gamer will connect with that world. It’s about externalizing your thoughts a little more, using the body as a tool in doing so.
KJ: And sometimes, as you said, they just want your voice. That part seems more familiar to me.
BL: I have done a ton of voice work for games. Some great new titles are coming out this year for PlayStation and PC. I recently worked on Quantum Break, where I did eight different American accents, one Scottish character, a Russian, and three English accents. It was fun trying to keep track and trying NOT to do the same pitch or tone as the previous character. It is something I love to do…picking up a script and making it come alive in seconds, having never read it before.
KJ: You’re a man of many voices.
BL: I even wanted to get my Australian accent in there but there was no place for an Aussie in the game, unfortunately!
KJ: Their loss.
KJ: So in your real life, I don’t see you as a tough guy. You have established a fundraising effort to help children at risk. You sincerely care for and worry about children who are in dangerous situations. You may look tough, but you have a soft side. I think the actors I work with are generally more sensitive, emotional, and introverted than the average person. They have to be to inhabit or channel the characters they play. Does this describe you as well?
BL: Great question. I think it all comes down to understanding people. Understanding human nature. Don’t get me wrong--I have met actors who only care about themselves. But the best ones I have worked with are not easy ones to get to know; theyhave so many facets to their personality, but they are rooted in humility.
KJ: How does an actor stay humble, or at least grounded? There’s all that attention, fan worship, media glare….
BL: I have rarely met a highly successful actor who isn’t humble. They’ve made it; they have nothing to prove so they are very engaging and just normal people. In my experience they prefer not to be gushed over. To appreciate that someone actually admires what you do is one thing, but don’t let it go to your head. We are not saving lives here. We are acting. Creating the illusion of truth. Good actors who are humble acknowledge the attention but for them it’s about the work. It’s about just finding a trigger, a way to express the truth under imaginary circumstances and to focus all your attention on that. I’m not always good with crowds, and it might sound weird coming from an actor but I really don’t like any kind of attention where people expect something from you. I’m just a guy who loves to act.
Actor Bryan Larkin may play tough characters and heroes on the silver screen, but he understands where real heroes are needed. Children all over the world face life-threatening danger every day. They often feel abandoned, with little hope of rescue. Knowing just how much a helping hand is needed, Bryan supports UNICEF UK Children's Emergency Fund in ongoing efforts to protect a precious resource: our most endangered and vulnerable children.
There is nothing more important to me than protecting the life of a human being exposed to any kind of violence or trauma. Especially innocent lives. I have been fortunate to have been able to mentor children who have been exposed to such traumatic events--children who have a lack of love or direction and who are crying out for a gesture of kindness and guidance. The actor David Hayman, who runs Spirit Aid in Scotland, is a role model. He's a humanitarian and a gifted actor. He embodies kindness, and he is one of the few people I know who genuinely cares and does something about it. In my own way, I hope to give something back and help even just one child. That would be enough for me.
Please join Bryan, The Larkinator, in raising funds in aid of UNICEF -- protecting children at risk, transforming their lives, and building a safer world.
Bryan and The Larkinators
KarenJeanne: The first thing people who have not seen your work before comment on is your versatility as an actor. Your range is displayed impressively on your showreel (CLICK HERE TO SEE). Can you explain what got you hooked on acting in the first place? Where and when did you first feel the attraction?
Bryan: I always try to choose work that challenges me and allows me to show a different side to a character with each role. But before I started acting, I had a void in my life for a couple of years. I had left body-building and didn’t know what I wanted to do vocationally. There was nothing I was passionate about. I thought of joining the police before turning to acting. Then I saw Robert De Niro in the movie Taxi Driver and it had such a powerful impact on me because I could relate to the principal theme of enduring loneliness. De Niro embodied Travis Bickle, a drifting soul searching for purpose with dreams of being Somebody, and that strikes a chord in all of us. He has the potential but lacks the outlet to make a difference. Man, that movie is responsible for changing my life...
ALL PHOTOS FROM http://bryanlarkin1.wix.com/official
KJ: So that’s when you decided to explore acting as a vocation. Of course, no one becomes an actor overnight. What training have you had?
BL: I attended Langside College in Glasgow and studied theatre for three years learning Stanislavski’s method and then Meisner acting technique and briefly some acting for camera courses. I think it’s important to immerse yourself in all kinds of disciplines. To see what tools are there that can prepare you for your career. I acted in my own films, which was the foundation of my screen training. Making films became my own film school and helped me enormously as you can make mistakes there before you get out of the gates and into the big bad world. I never did join the police force, but I’ve run into them every now and again, even playing cops and villains alike. I’d much rather be playing cops than being one!
KJ: We are also glad you’re an actor and not a cop. [Laughter]
KJ: What is it about acting that draws you? What gives you joy? It's not an easy life--why do you do it?
BL: In the beginning, I sought out a local drama group. Took a few classes. From my first improvisation exercise I just knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was a euphoric moment. I finally had a voice, an outlet for all the pent up frustration, the emptiness. This might sound pretentious, but I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose to be a storyteller. It was all about channeling my creativity towards that. I have seen this hunger in young actors and it instantly takes me back to when I fell in love with being an actor myself. It's as alive in me today as it was back then.
KJ: You fell in love with acting—can you explain that?
BL: The best way I can explain it is to simply say that I see the world around me with great analytical detail and feel deeply about human beings. People make me curious. Their behavior, habits, lies, loves and hates, their secrets…and I want to know what makes them tick. What makes them kind or evil. Figuring all of that out is what I love. An individual might behave like this or that, you know? That's an infinite playground for an actor. It's a hard life, yes, but the rewards are so worth it.
KJ: It’s such a rush! I can relate to what you are saying about feeling alive when you are acting.
BL: I think some actors lose touch with that and they stop developing, stop risking, play it safe, and do what they trust themselves to do. What audiences expect from them.
KJ: Acting requires risk-taking. Playing it safe just kills the part of performance that makes the audience sit up and take notice.
BL: I don't personally know many actors today who surprise me. I can see most of them acting a mile off. When I feel myself going through the motions I hit a mental reset and try to remain present and hold onto the eyes of the other actor. It happens now and then when you are shaping a scene with another actor and the director is “adjusting” your performance.
KJ: I always ask this question when I meet an actor: Theatre or film—which would you stick with if you had to give one up?
BL: Well if it was down to simplicity I’d choose theatre for two reasons. Firstly, it’s where my love for performance was born. You can jump right into a live performance with a group of actors and do a play right now. Get it on its feet and open to an audience within a week. But film and TV are closer to real life. It’s a different discipline and I love that about it. It's closer to me. My instincts.
KJ: You've also made your own films. You write and direct. Let’s explore that experience a bit. Has filmmaking become a preference for you, or would you rather be acting?
BL: I started writing and making films because I was curious about what makes a memorable performance and because there was no formal film training available to me at drama school at the time. For the most part nobody taught me how to act on camera, so I had to do it myself--I had to teach myself. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think acting can be taught. Technique, yes-- but acting is about “being”. It’s about the mind, about behavior, and nobody can teach you how to feel. You have to draw it out, so to speak. Being a good actor requires many things, and I see the same qualities in the good ones. They understand human emotion. I learned this when I first directed actors. Directing is about finding the language that engages actors, inspires them. That grew into a passion for the entire filmmaking process. I don't think I'd have progressed the same way as an actor if I hadn't had that outlet.
KJ: So you adopted these additional roles for yourself just because you were curious?
BL: I am not one for waiting on the phone to ring. I hate procrastination. I hate laziness and idle hands. So making films has kept me busy and kept my passion alive while I have been out of work over the years. I also really like the process of working as an actor and director. You get to see everything.
KJ: True. The director has a bigger picture of the whole production. You’re also in on the whole filmmaking process.
BL: I think it's made me a more disciplined actor and given me a perspective a lot of actors don't have. Writing and directing have also taken me to places that have led to more acting work, so for that reason it's been great as well.
KJ: And along the way you’ve ended up with a long list of credits—all interesting characters (CLICK HERE TO SEE). Short fangirl moment here: I’ve really enjoyed watching you! Do you enjoy watching you? What previous work makes you most proud?
BL: I am proud of everything I have done. I don't spend any time in my own head thinking about how chuffed I am with achievements. I learned early on that it's not all about you. It's a collaborative process. I am proud to call myself a collaborator and a facilitator of someone else's vision. When I make my own films I try to give everybody an opportunity to do their best work. I take pride in that.
KJ: You are an extremely busy guy! That’s great because you want to be working. But what about the rest of your life? What do you do when you're not acting or working on a script or even just being creative?
BL: I try to keep my mind and body in balance. Without it I’d most likely be an emotional wreck! [Laughter] My friends and family mean more to me than anything and I’m lucky to have them in my life. I like to travel. I like to read and love to meet new people.
KJ: OK, your family--Let’s talk a bit about your background. You were born in Glasgow, Scotland; your mother was a midwife and your father worked as a police officer in the Royal Air Force. At a young age you started lifting weights and won several championships as a competitive junior Scottish bodybuilder (CLICK HERE TO SEE). You are a working-class guy. Acting school must have been a real leap. What troubles or difficulties do actors from your background face?
BL: There has been a decline in the opportunities for actors from less affluent backgrounds over the past decade. Actors who have trained at the top drama schools in London are becoming the obvious choice for work because they have a pedigree training and are generally regarded as better, more likely to succeed. And they deserve to be where they are. They have had the support from parents, grants, and other sources. But it has become such an over-populated profession. Many actors have been pushed out of the business. It's really killing careers. Some of the best actors I know have had to give up because they can't even get an agent or an audition nowadays.
KJ: So it’s become too financially draining to stay in the career?
BL: Only a handful of actors from my background can keep going, often taking two day jobs just to get by.
KJ: It’s the same in the US—takes a combination of luck and perseverance to make it. The stereotype of the starving actor isn’t all fiction. Many great young actors just give up.
BL: There are many reasons why actors leave the business. The competition is so tough nowadays. You really need to stand out and have a great agent/manager team behind you to get anywhere.
KJ: What’s the solution?
BL: I think the key is to build your own network of creatives and produce your own work. I'd like to see more actors taking some control of their careers and filling their free time making their own projects. Stage a play, make a film, be original, and just get yourself out there instead of complaining about what you have no control over. It's not an actor’s job to book a role. Bryan Cranston, who many people will know from the TV series Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, put it beautifully. It's your responsibility to audition as best you can. It's someone else's job to decide if you get the job.
KJ: I’m going to switch gears a bit here at the end of our interview…You are working with a group of Outlander fans on a charity fundraiser for UNICEF, focused on helping children in violent and difficult circumstances. Why is this important to you?
BL: There is nothing more important to me than protecting the life of a human being exposed to any kind of violence or trauma. Especially innocent lives. I have been fortunate to have been able to mentor children who have been exposed to such traumatic events--children who have a lack of love or direction and who are crying out for a gesture of kindness and guidance. The actor David Hayman, who runs Spirit Aid in Scotland, is a role model. He's a humanitarian and a gifted actor. He embodies kindness, and he is one of the few people I know who genuinely cares and does something about it. In my own way, I hope to give something back and help even just one child. That would be enough for me
For more information about Bryan’s charity please watch for official announcements this week and check out #TheLarkinatorGivingBack and Larkinators.com for more information.
Facebook: Bryan Larkin
See his latest announcements on his website
Links to other work and profile here:
Reel (CLICK HERE)
UK Spotlight (CLICK HERE)
IMDb (CLICK HERE)