This week, NYFA had the great pleasure of chatting with Actor, Ian Beattie. Ian is best known for his role as Meryn Trant in the well-loved TV show, Game of Thrones. He has also played Antigonus in Alexander (2004) and Gerry Adams in The Journey (2016) as well as having more exciting roles on the horizon.
Beattie can’t really remember a time when he didn’t want to act. He joined the circus (yes, really) at the age of 7 or 8, retiring “at the grand old age of 11”, but having learned the invaluable skill of confidence. It was his time in the circus, that helped him gain the confidence to become the actor he is today. Unlike most actors, Beattie stayed clear of the theatre path -“it was always about TV/Film, theatre never really appealed to me.”.
“I always wanted to be on the big screen”
One thing he regrets, Beattie confides, is studying Law for 5 years before pursuing his dream. If he could go back and skip that, he would. “Get to London earlier” – he added. Let that be a lesson for us all. We shouldn’t just do something because it feels safe and secure. We should be taking more risks, especially when it comes to acting. Eventually, Beattie found himself studying for a year at LAMDA. Which didn’t help, as it was mostly Shakespear and Beattie was destined for screen acting.
When it comes to giving advice for others starting out, Beattie stressed the importance of having an agent. It’s essential. Beattie explains that Drama courses often have showcases at the end, which agents use as their hunting ground. Use this to your advantage.
“Be pushy, be hungry.”
Beattie has starred in a fair amount of short films. So, I ask how young filmmakers should go about landing big names such as Beattie. He stressed that no one should be afraid of asking for favours – “you’d be surprised how many favours there are out there”. If you can get funding, that’s great too. Make sure you’re applying to all the short film schemes that you can get your hands on – “go for everything and anything”. But, Beattie admits “if someone asks me and I’m free on that day, then I’ll do it”. So, don’t be afraid to just get out there and ask. People love supporting great talent, “you never know who the next Speilberg is going to be”, so if a big name can see your quality and talent, they’ll probably say yes.
If there are any young filmmakers and actors out there struggling to find work. One piece of advice Beattie gave was to “Make work for yourself”.
“I know people who’ve made films on their iPhones”
Use all your resources available. Even if you can only make 2 minutes of your film, it gives you something to show other people.
Beatties big break
What was your catalyst role? I ask. “Game of Thrones”, he answers unhesitantly. Game of Thrones, Beattie tells me, was like no other role – “it changed my life in all sorts of ways”. Beattie explains that landing a role on Game of Thrones is like ‘calling card’, it opens up all the doors that were once locked. Not only that, but it’s the gift that keeps giving. Beattie still finds himself travelling around the world for comic-cons and guest appearances, thanks to GoT.
He describes working on the set of GoT as like a big family. After each year you get back together to make the next series and you get to meet up with all your family. Beattie tells me that he loved the way in which he was working with his heroes both on screen and off.
“Sometimes you have bad day on set. You just do. In 5 years [on Game of Thrones] I didn’t have one bad minute”
[SPOILER ALERT] If you haven’t series 5, don’t read the next few lines!
But, playing Meryn Trant didn’t come without its challenges. In Meryn Trant’s final episodes, the character revealed himself as a paedophile. In his final episode, his character beat 3 young girls before being gruesomely murdered by Arya.
“As a father, to portray a man who takes pleasure in hurting chidren – was probably the most challenging couple of scenes Ive ever had to face”
Takeaway acting tips
One thing that Beattie loves about acting, is the challenges it brings. Arguably, the biggest challenge in acting is making people forget that you’re acting.
“You don’t want to hear ‘that guy’s a really good actor’- because that means you’ve blown it. What you wanna hear is ‘wow I really hate that guy’”
It’s safe to say that every GoT fan is also an avid hater of Meryn Trant – so job well-done, Beattie.
He also accentuated how important it is as an actor or filmmaker to grab all the work you can get- “Get any work anywhere possible – if you’re invited onto a film set as a runner, go do it. Learn.”
Lastly, Beattie advised that young actors and filmmakers should never stop believing in themselves- “Don’t listen to them when they say no- they’re wrong.”
“Keep believing in yourself”
Written Phoebe Griffiths