by Blaire Huntley
photography by Jason O’Dell
Actor Kevin McKidd has played a duke, a doctor, a druggie, a Roman soldier, and a Greek god. It’s taken 14 years, but he’s finally landed a role on the big screen that his whole family can enjoy. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief he plays the title character’s father, Poseidon. His nine-year-old, Joseph, is a huge fan of the Percy series, and has read all five books. Twice. Kevin can’t recall having read five books at age nine, let alone two times. Still, he was unquestionably an intellectual, having studied engineering at university. He was interested in physics and math as a teen, which don’t necessarily correlate with his passion for acting. To him, engineering was a “respectable, suitable career path,” and he wanted “to comfort his parents by studying something legitimate.” But he was the rebellious son at heart – the one who did not necessarily love soccer like the rest of his family did – and left his hometown of Elgin, Scotland to attend the University of Edinburgh, nearly four hours away. Eventually, he decided to pursue acting, and wound up with his first leading stage role in the Wild Cat Theatre Company production of The Silver Darlings.
From there, the 6-foot, reddish blonde actor starred in a myriad of films and television series in both the UK and America. More recently, Kevin has been stealing hearts on Grey’s Anatomy as fan-moniker, “Dr. McMajor,” or Dr. Owen Hunt, an Iraq War veteran medic who joined the hospital two seasons ago as a surgeon. He’s in an interracial relationship on the show with Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), a pairing which has bulletin boards across the web bursting at the seams with fan praise. His character also deals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his experience in the Middle East, which has affected both his work at Seattle Grace and his relationship with Cristina. Kevin researched the role and PTSD meticulously, reading about symptoms and characteristics like severe anxiety, outbursts and trauma flashbacks. He even reached out to liaison with officers who facilitate veteran assimilation into everyday life. Kevin discovered a lot about the military and the disorder while studying for the part of Owen. “It’s a very real, scary, debilitating disease. There’s a stigma around it, so I’m very proud of the story line.” He also feels that more time and support is critical for returning soldiers. “The quicker the servicemen and women come out of whatever situation they’ve been in, the quicker they quantify it by talking about it, and the quicker the healing process can begin.”
His off-screen romance with Jane, his wife of nearly 10 years, is less traumatic than his relationship with Dr. Yang, but definitely more interesting. “We met during a play in London’s West End and after about two and a half weeks I asked her to marry me, which is sort of nuts. She said ‘yes,’ which is even more nuts.” Their relationship works. They’re happy. And they have been in love since day one. “I think a lot of times in life, people think you have to live in an apartment together for like five years before they even leave a toothbrush. I don’t necessarily think that’s true all the time. I think you get a good sense of things. You just know.” On Valentine’s Day, the couple was at least eight states apart. But that did not matter. “Shouldn’t romantic gestures take place all year long?” Consequently, he is a romantic, but his friends describe him as “both serious and silly,” and “sometimes forgetful.” Yet he is very genuine, and he seems to have a permanent smile in his voice. Perhaps it is the effect of more sun in Los Angeles?
Kevin has been stateside with his family for only two and a half years, but he certainly has an opinion of American politics. He thinks Obama has done a great job so far into his administration. “He’s trying to shift the paradigm; he’s trying to change things, which I think is always good.” Kevin compared Obama’s controversial healthcare bill to Britain’s National Health Service, a system that has been in existence since 1948. “It has its flaws, but at least you know that if you need medical care, you might have to wait a little while, but you know you’re going to get it. In Britain, they call it a ‘from the cradle to the grave’ social system, which means you’ll be protected from the time you’re born to the time you die. I think that’s a basic right in this supposedly-developed world that we live in.”
This leading man also recognizes the importance of giving back. He has worked with international organization Save the Children to create an online auction of his film and television memorabilia to benefit the Haiti earthquake victims. Back in Elgin, he is a patron of the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company, a performing arts company that gives people with disabilities a chance to work alongside professional actors and directors to produce plays. “The whole company’s run by a really wonderful team that devises plays and does some really amazing things – sometime quite experimental work.” Kevin recently became interested in mountain climbing for a cause as well. After reading a script about the early attempts to climb Everest, he began researching mountaineering and learned that modern climbers fundraise for their climbing efforts to benefit a designated organization. One of his larger, benevolent ambitions within the next year is to climb on behalf of a specific charity.
Kevin is also anxious to find an interesting independent film project during his upcoming hiatus from Grey’s, in addition to possibly returning to the stage on either Broadway or West End. Fans of HBO’s short-lived but Emmy Award-winning series, Rome, in which he played soldier Lucius Vorenus, will also be elated to know that a film is in the works, and that Kevin will gladly sign on if it is green lighted.
His children are excited because Kevin will be in all five of the Percy Jackson films, a series that is slated to be as big (or bigger) than the Harry Potter franchise. What sets Percy apart from Harry is the subject matter: mythology versus magic, respectively. Kevin thinks the film sneaks in lessons about the Greeks to children without forcing it on them entirely, a feature that most Hollywood films cannot guarantee these days. He also promises a bit of sarcastic and light-hearted humor that both children and adults can appreciate. Kevin’s usual films, like Trainspotting or his upcoming thriller Bunraku, are generally darker, so his own children never see him on the screen. “They never get to watch anything I’ve done. So they’re really excited to finally see me in this film.” He is also thrilled to be playing less tortured or villainous characters recently. He has a “one-villain-per-couple-of-years-rule,” for fear of being typecast for life.
And yet, for now, he seems to be embracing a typecast role of just: dad. He drives his own kids around town and discusses important topics, like his son Jacob’s hockey practice. Kevin has a lot on his plate, but he knows his priorities; he’s taking ice skating lessons so he can keep up.