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American Gods star Ian McShane talks class in the UK – and TV in the time of Trump

Mr Wednesday is worried by who's living in the White House...

Published: Monday, 15th May 2017 at 1:53 pm

Hello Ian McShane. Is your LA home littered with Lovejoy-style antiques?


I have a big sofa at the back of the room and I sit and look at the ocean. But I like to watch TV as well; it’s good in the US. Recently I have just had wall-to-wall cable news on, watching this creature, Donald Trump, that has sort of invaded our lives.

But otherwise you’re happy living in the US?

I went to America a long time ago. I didn’t move there, I went there in 1975 and immediately came back to do Jesus of Nazareth, and have then gone back and forth. I love both places. My grandkids and kids live in the UK, I come back all the time; my mother is still in Manchester.

Catch any City games on cable?

I’ve been a Manchester United fan since I was nine or ten years old. My dad played for Manchester United. I went to school opposite Manchester United’s ground. I was very close to Georgie Best.

Ah... catch any United games on cable?

I was watching one before I got the plane to the UK last month. It was Blackburn versus United and it was in that weather you only get in the North: that all-enveloping misty rain. It doesn’t exist anywhere else, it just goes around. I am very fond of it up there, but I do wish it would stop raining now and again.

A northern working-class lad wouldn’t make it in the UK industry today, would he?

I find that appalling. The only way to make it is hope that you are cast as a northerner in an independent movie or go into Coronation Street and work your way out. For a lot of kids there are no grants for drama school. That’s why everyone talks like that now [does a comedy upper-class voice].

They’re all public school. Public-school boys have this self-confidence for no apparent reason. That’s fine, it’s what they are bred for, and I know Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne and they’re nice guys. But there’s room for a little more spreading it around.

How do you spread it around, Ian?

I have dinner in downtown LA with my friends who are all artists, not actors. And then I come back here and play some music. I like Steve Miller, that’s real rock ’n’ roll; only Americans can play that sort of music, it’s what they call Texas rock ’n’ roll – there is no imitating it.

I also listen to The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett and I’ve got tons of unopened books. I keep saying to myself, “I need to start this and look at that,” but I get caught up by the TV where there’s now an orange cookie monster who is embedded in all our lives and I can’t wait to hear what he says next.

Have you met Donald Trump?

No, I’ve done a White House Correspondents’ Dinner but it was with President George Bush. It wasn’t very interesting.

Have you always been this confident in public, Ian?

You’re not confident, it’s acting, isn’t it? My oldest friend in the business, Johnny Hurt, died in January and I was jolted. We were the last of the breed, but I’m still going on. The kind of acting I do is like being a hired gun. You go in, do what you do and then you leave town. You’re there to bring authenticity, a bit of gravitas, weight and a sense of whimsy. That is why they hire me.


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