Exclusive Interview with Ricky Whittle!
This past weekend we were lucky enough to chat with Ricky Whittle at the Supanova convention. While he often appears as the strong, silent type on our TV screens Whittle is a ball of barely contained energy. Throughout the convention he refused to sit at his booth, preferring to stand out front so he could give all his fans a big hug. Before we started the interview he was already talking about preparing for the role of Shadow Moon, so forgive us for jumping in!
Listen to the audio or read the transcript below!
Ricky Whittle: …Shadow in the book, and, of course, I’m fifteen pounds lighter than when I film. Right now I’m only 200 pounds, where when I film I’m 210-215 pounds.
G-Funk: That’s a lot.
RW: So that’s 90-91 kilograms at the moment, I’m over 100 when I shoot. It’s a big swing. A big swing.
GF: We should get some audio going here.
RW: Actually tape it? (Laughs)
GF: Quick intro, this is House of Geekery, we’re at Supanova Perth 2017 and we’re with Ricky Whittle.
RW: That is correct. I am Ricky Whittle and you are here at Perth Supanova. Yeah. Good times.
GF: Ok, that’s it. Thank’s very much.
RW: Thank you, see you next year.
GF: For the people reading and listening at home, how do they know you?
RW: They will know me from…I guess this genre, the sci-fi genre. Probably the most passionate, intelligent genre out there. Lincoln from The One Hundred, or The 100 (edit: this bit only really works in audio), which is it’s actual name. Mistresses, Hollyoaks back home in the UK and Austenland for other book lovers. Shannon Hale wrote Austenland, it was produced by Stephanie Myer who wrote ‘Twilight’. I’ve got a little bit of a CV but I’m not up there with the likes of my co-stars Ian McShane, Jillian Anderson, Peter Stormare, Kristen Chenowith, Crispen Glover…the list goes on…Orlando Jones…
GF: You didn’t mention what show you star with them in!
RW: Do you want to put it out there?
GF: I’m going to geek the hell out because I LOVE American Gods.
RW: American Gods. The world stopping first season that just came out.
GF: So damn good!
RW: On Amazon Prime video right here in Australia.
GF: Yes, right now.
RW: It’s new to you guys, you don’t even know that you have Amazon Prime Video, it’s only been out a couple of months. People are very unaware of it. I constantly get people on my Twitter asking where they can watch American Gods. Now you know: it’s Amazon Prime Video and the first season came out. It’s about a fifth of the book, about 120 pages and we’re looking to really knock this out for six, seven years, whatever it takes. We got renewed for season 2 after the second episode, which is huge. It comes with great prestige and it’s definitely making waves. I’m excited.
GF: Had you read the book before you got involved in the project?
RW: I started reading the book during my five month audition process for Shadow Moon, but they stopped me reading the book because they felt I was influenced by it. They felt my Shadow was pretty spot on to the book, which is a bit of a compliment, I nailed it.
GF: I agree, I endorse that statement.
RW: No, from my original take. My original auditions were very similar to the book. What I’ve done on screen is work with Brian Fuller, Michael Green and David Slade – who directed the first couple of episodes – to bring Shadow off the page more. He’s very two dimensional on the page.
GF: He’s stoic.
RW: He’s stoic, he internalises, he’s blasé, he goes along with all these fantastical, god-like elements. Whereas in the show he’s more freaked out, he vocalises, he asks questions, he gets frustrated and lashes out, he gets scared and anxious. I worked with the producers to bring him off the page a bit more. People recognise him, because I have that responsibility to the fans who want to see Shadow Moon, I can’t just pick up this fictional character and make him my own because I have the responsibility to fans of 16 years imagining who Shadow is. It’s almost like a biography. I kept that stoic, internalised, observational character but added a bit more to bring him off the page, make him pop a bit more.
GW: You mentioned some of the big stars from the show, what’s it like working with…let’s pick one…Ian McShane playing Mister Wednesday. What’s he like in person? He plays very prickly characters.
RW: Can’t stand him, we hate each other. We don’t talk between takes.
GF: Yeah, that comes across.
RW: (Laughs) No, I’ve been crazy fortunate. I grew up watching Ian McShane…Lovejoy, Deadwood, now he’s in Pirates of the Caribbean, John Wick…he’s forgotten more work than I’ll ever do. He’s incredible. We’re both from the same area, both from Manchester, both Man United supporters. His dad played for Man U so I’m basically obsessed with Ian McShane. He’s an incredible human being. That chemistry off-screen has fortunately translated on screen, which is very important to the central storyline. We have a lot of fun, and what better education for an actor than to work with one of the finest in my generation. He’s incredible.
GF: You know, we do a couple of interviews a year and quite often the actors have a lot in common with their characters personality wise. You seem very different from Shadow.
RW: One of the best compliments I ever had: Orlando Jones, who played Mister Nancy. Now, that guy could be up for an award for one speech, that’s how incredible his performance is. Incredible. He’s another one I watched growing up, another one I feel blessed to have worked with, but he says people don’t understand the work I’m doing until they meet me in the flesh. It’s not just the fact that I’m putting on an accent because I’m British, he’s like, “you’re completely the opposite of Shadow Moon, of Lincoln, you play these stoic, quiet characters”. And then you meet me in real life and I’m an absolutely goofball. I don’t take myself seriously at all, I’m bouncing around like a little Energiser Bunny. I have fun, I love life, I just feel very blessed. Every time I wake up I feel blessed. I’ve never had to want for love, my mum and dad are incredible, my mum’s my queen, my dad’s my idol. They’re not together but they never hid any love from me. I was always loved. My life is great, I’ve got a wonderful job, I have great friends, so I’m always bouncing around. But for some reason I do pain on screen very well on screen. So I’m always American, I’m always in pain, the world is always on my shoulders so for now stoic pays the bills.
GF: I only found out recently that you’re not actually American.
RW: YES! WINNING! That’s what we want!
GF: I’ve got the PR people standing off your eye line giving me the (wind it up) signal…
RW: Yep, my entourage. They’re scary.
GF: I have one final question everyone gets, everyone answers it differently. You’re well known right now for particular roles, what’s a role or a project you’d like people to be more aware of?
RW: That I’d done, or I want to do?
GF: You choose.
RW: What I want to do: I want to do a superhero franchise! I want to be in DC, Marvel…how about John Stewart Green Lantern? That’ll be fun. Or how about my own franchise? Let’s do something different. But then I also want to versatile as an actor. Get my sense of humour in there, I always play these really stoic characters, I’d like to do something goofy and comedic that shows people I can do something different. Or flip that, be a villain. I’m always a nice guy, how about a baby throwing, wife slapping horrible piece of work that makes my hardcore fans go, “oh wow, I hate him, he’s horrible”. You just want to evoke an emotion from fans. When people watch you want evoke some emotion. Either way, I’d love to do just that. At the end of the day you want to work with good people on good projects and right now, I’m doing that.
GF: That’s excellent, man. Thanks very much for talking with us.
RW: Thanks very much, buddy!
GF: Loving the show, looking forward to more.
RW: Appreciate it!