PATH OF A HEALER. A chat with Kevin McKidd, uncovers his storied career which spans fantasy, history, medical drama and even takes him to a galaxy far, far away
Playing a unique and unorthodox character can be a fun challenge for a seasoned actor. Playing a unique and unorthodox character and making said character come off as compelling and relatable—now, that’s something else. And that’s exactly what Scottish actor Kevin McKidd has been doing for almost a decade on hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” In the show, he plays as Owen Hunt, an extremely skilled doctor who struggles with PTSD from his days as a U.S. Army trauma surgeon serving in Iraq. While the “old-fashioned war hero tortured by his past” is nothing new, McKidd’s portrayal of Hunt has garnered a lot of praise, in no small part due to the sympathetic portrayal of a character that many real-life veterans can closely identify with.
Now, while McKidd is currently known best for his appearance in “Grey’s Anatomy,” the length and breadth of his career is nothing less than astounding, including a major role in 1996’s “Trainspotting,” the lead in the historical drama series “Rome” as well as voice-acting roles in animated features (such as “Star Wars Rebels”) and video games (the last two “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” titles). Picking the brains of an artist like this was quite a treat for us.
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DA MAN: Hi, Kevin. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. How are you?
Kevin McKidd: I’m great; having a rare day off of filming “Grey’s Anatomy.”
DA MAN: So, season 14 of “Grey’s anatomy” is currently airing. In a nutshell, how would you describe the show’s latest run?
KM: In a nutshell, I would describe season 14 of “Grey’s Anatomy” as funny, joyful, action-packed and inspirational.
DA MAN: Speaking of which, “Grey’s Anatomy” has been running for 14 seasons—and it’s still one of the highest-rated and well received shows. What, in your opinion, is the secret behind this kind of success?
Kevin McKidd: There are so many things that go into the success of our show. Shonda Rimes really is the mastermind, of course. She’s brilliant at storytelling, carving out characters, keeping the show relevant and vital over the years. It’s so amazing to watch. Krista Vernoff, our new head of writing, is doing an amazing job keeping the show fresh and surprising. I really think it comes down to inspiring characters that people can connect with and relate to as well as seeing these characters struggle through their lives and struggle through their commitment to saving lives. I do also think the chemistry between the actors and cast goes a long way also. In the end, as with all tV shows, it really comes down to the quality of the writing and our writers are the best in town.
DA MAN: And, of course, this is your tenth season with the show. Do you still find it exciting to be on “Grey’s Anatomy”? Do you still find new things that keep the show fresh for you?
Kevin McKidd: Every day I get to go to work and see my family and friends—because they have become my family over these years. I’m blessed, excited, grateful and very inspired. I do find new things all the time to feel excited about but mainly because the writers know how to keep Owen moving forward, developing and struggling to become better at what he does in his work and in his life.
DA MAN: On that note, we’ve seen your how character, Dr. Owen Hunt, has evolved, and continues to do so, through the seasons. What would you say is the most significant way that Hunt has grown since his first appearance?
Kevin McKidd: When Owen was introduced he was a deeply troubled doctor who had been damaged by his experiences in war zones. Despite these obstacles, he became chief of the hospital and a successful head of trauma surgery. Many veterans have reached out to me over the years expressing gratitude that a TV show like this portrays a soldier with PTSD, how he can overcome it and achieve many positive things in life. I feel proud of that.
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DA MAN: Just like in a real hospital, “Grey’s Anatomy” sees people coming and going each season. For instance, this season would be the last one for Martin Henderson (who we had the pleasure to feature in our April/May issue of last year). How do you feel about this part of the job?
Kevin McKidd: It’s hard when people leave because they become your friends and we feel like family. When Sandra Oh left, when Kim Raver left… it feels like there’s a gap. So, you just miss them and stay in touch.
DA MAN: Fans also come and go. For those out there still on the fence about getting into (or returning to) “Grey’s Anatomy,” what is your number one reason to start watching now?
Kevin McKidd: It feels so fresh right now and also the show kind of feels like we’re getting back to the tone that we had in early seasons, if that makes sense. This is a great time to start watching the show if you haven’t already or if you’ve left it at one point. It feels like a happy uplifting time in the hospital’s history.
“That’s all I really care about: to find the truth in the moment and then in the stories I’m involved in telling”
DA MAN: Moving on to your other works, you also appeared—or your voice did, to be exact—in “Star Wars Rebels.” What was it like working for this series?
Kevin McKidd: Thank you for asking about this! I was so excited and honored to be asked to be part of the Star Wars universe. It meant the absolute world to me as I am a huge fan. It was a blast to create that character and everybody who works there was more than lovely to me. They even hinted that my character may end up in one of the live action films! I’m not holding my breath, but you never know…
DA MAN: Now, you’ve done a lot of voice work, including Disney’s “Brave,” “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” and even video games such as the last two “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” titles. How did you get started as a voice actor?
Kevin McKidd: I simply was asked by these people to lend my voice to these characters. I truly had nothing to do with that, but I am very grateful that they thought of me.
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DA MAN: What is the best part of doing a voice-over? And conversely, what are some of the more challenging or unpleasant parts?
Kevin McKidd: It’s nice to just be in your street clothes and to rely purely on the instrument of your voice. It can be challenging though, especially on the “Call of Duty” games. I’m yelling and screaming for hours and hours on end, so that can get pretty exhausting. I needed hot tea and lozenges afterwards!
DA MAN: What, would you say, do most people get wrong about voice acting?
Kevin McKidd: I don’t really observe other people doing voice work, so I don’t know. The main thing is to have fun, if you’re not having fun being paid to stand in a booth and do some wacky voice, you’re doing something wrong.
DA MAN: Now, you’re also described as an “occasional singer.” You even performed several songs in “Grey’s Anatomy.” Can you tell us a bit more where this side of you comes from?
Kevin McKidd: I think it comes from my grandfather on my mom’s side. He was a great singer and entertainer in the local pubs in the Highlands of Scotland. People would give him free drinks just so he’d sing old Scottish songs. I’m passionate about traditional Irish and Scottish music and I’m sure that’s where this came from.
DA MAN: Do you have any plans on becoming more than just an “occasional” singer sometime in the future?
Kevin McKidd: It’s on my bucket list to perform in a Broadway or West End musical at some point in my life. I’ve been approached quite a few times to do this, but I’ve just been too busy filming to be able to do it. So, it’s definitely a wish of mine and hopefully before I’m too old I can fulfill that wish.
“It’s nice to just be in your street clothes and to rely purely on the instrument of your voice”
DA MAN: How about directing? You’ve directed 18 episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Right? Is this something that you’d like to explore further?
Kevin McKidd: I can’t believe it’s 18. Yes, I would love to direct more and expand the stories I’ve told through directing. It’s a very challenging job. It’s exhausting on the brain but is also very creative and fulfilling. It helps that I love working with actors and I’m not intimidated. Probably because I am one.
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DA MAN: Taking all of your talents into account, what would be your dream creative project?
Kevin McKidd: A musical swords and sandals medical movie. I jest! I’ve never gotten the chance to be involved in the genre of science fiction but i’m a big fan, I would love to do that.
DA MAN: You have quite a long filmography, which includes the likes of “Trainspotting,” “Rome” and so on. What do you consider to be your biggest, most-memorable role ever?
Kevin McKidd: I think the role that stretched me the most and changed things for me was playing Lucius Vorenus in “Rome”, which was created by Bruno Heller. If it hadn’t been for that show, I would never have dreamed of coming to the U.S. and Shonda Rhimes would never have thought of me for “Grey’s.”
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DA MAN: All in all, what would you say has been the main driving force behind your success as an actor?
Kevin McKidd: My shyness. I was a painfully shy young man and boy. Acting gave me an outlet in a safe space for me to express myself in those awkward years. I also drive myself to always be as truthful as I can be. That’s all I really care about: to find the truth in the moment and then in the stories I’m involved in telling. Fame, that’s never been a thing that has driven me.
DA MAN: And looking forward, what’s the next big thing you hope to achieve?
Kevin McKidd: I would like to try to write something. I’m intimidated by it and kind of in awe of people who actually have the ability to write stories.
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