Friday 14 December 2018

'Being Irish, I was apprehensive about playing a US army doctor'

Lunch with Eoin Macken

Homegrown Hollywood hunk: Eoin Macken with Deirdre Reynolds. Pic. Martin Maher.
Homegrown Hollywood hunk: Eoin Macken with Deirdre Reynolds. Pic. Martin Maher.
The Spencer Hotel
Eoin Macken as Dr TC Callahan in 'The Night Shift'
Eoin Macken - Ireland's own Dr 'Mac' Dreamy.

Deirdre Reynolds

Former 'Fair City' actor tells what life is like as the star of the latest hit US medical drama.

Meet the Irish star putting the 'Mac' back into Dr McDreamy in 2015.

As The Night Shift's Dr TC Callahan, Eoin Macken has already been described as Ireland's answer to Patrick Dempsey, best known for his role as Dr Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy.

Now the 31-year-old Dubliner is set to raise pulses here too when the new US medical drama premieres on RTÉ next week.

Indeed, as we meet for a pan-Asian feast at East Restaurant at The Spencer Hotel, the capital's newest hangout at the IFSC, the telly doctor scrubs up well in a Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt, jeans and designer stubble.

"It's weird," jokes Eoin, who's based in LA, "it seems totally fine to have a show on TV in England or America, but when it airs in Ireland, there's a bit more trepidation about it. Suddenly your mates and your family are going to slag you a lot more!

"When your show's on American television, it's like, 'That's awesome'; when it's on RTÉ, people are like, 'Now I can rip the piss out of you!'"

Having just been snapped up for a second season of the NBC show, filmed over 7,500 kilometres away in Albuquerque in New Mexico, the former Abercrombie and Fitch model is unlikely to mind too much.

His turn as the talented-but-troubled doc has led to a role in Ridley Scott's upcoming TV drama, Killing Jesus, alongside former Frasier star Kelsey Grammer.

"It's like early ER meets MASH with a touch of Scrubs humour," explains Eoin of the show that's fast turning him into a household name. "It's set in a Texas hospital and I play an ex-army medic who's got Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Being Irish, I was kind of apprehensive about playing [an American army doctor]. Growing up, there's nothing in our culture about being in the army; in America, that's part of their culture.

"But all the army vets have actually embraced the show and they really like it, which is important, so it's been really interesting."

Eagle-eyed readers may, of course, recognise the Howth native from his days as pony-tailed drug dealer Gavin Cluxton on Fair City, or more recently, swashbuckler Sir Gwaine on BBC's Merlin.

From Carrigstown to Tinseltown, meanwhile the rising star's big screen outings include Studs, starring Brendan Gleeson, and Centurion, starring Michael Fassbender.

Studying at UCD however, Ireland's next big thing confesses he only joined acting class to meet girls.

"When I was a kid, I wanted to become a marine biologist," tells Eoin, who has also just launched his debut novel, Kingdom of Scars. "Then [at college] I moved into psychology, so I actually did a four-year degree in science and psychology.

"I started doing drama in the drama society in college for the craic, and then I started to do some random modelling. Doing modelling paid for me to study acting in New York. I ended up doing Studs in my final year of college, and was then like, 'I'm now going to become an actor'.

"I moved to LA, did a bunch of screen tests and got cast in a couple of things," he adds. "Everything was going really well. I was about a year out of college and I literally thought all this stuff was really easy.

"Then my dad got sick and I couldn't do them."

As his father James battled a brain tumour, Eoin - the eldest of three - twice decamped from Hollywood to be by his side. He recalls: "I moved to LA twice and lived there for about two months each time. Then his cancer came back, so I came back home and was living at home."

"Dad died just before I did Fair City. About two months after his death, I was kind of like, 'I need to get back acting'. I hadn't done anything in about a year and a half, and then Fair City just came along, so it was actually a really perfect job.

"Fair City is what it is," he adds, "but it came along at the right time and I had great craic [on it]. I did four months and moved to London after that. It gave me a kick to say, 'OK, I'm still active'."

Today Macken joins pals Jack Reynor and Emmett Scanlan among the new generation of homegrown hunks in Hollywood, where the luck - or maybe looks - of the Irish seems to be en vogue.

"They always liked the Irish over there," he says. "Every American says, 'I'm Irish', or someone's aunty is always from Cork!"

"In Hollywood, it's all about how relevant you are. There's a lot of people who do really well for a year or two, and then don't work for two years. You can be working really hard and not get work for a year - I didn't work for the last six months until I got Killing Jesus.

"Acting is very narcissistic," continues Eoin, who's also modelled for Ralph Lauren. "It's actually very stressful because you're just focused on trying to make someone like you all the time.

"Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it because it's so subjective, if someone is choosing whether they want to put you in a project or not. I used to get really worried about it and try and act a certain way. Now I just say, fuck it, you know, if it works, it works."

Presented with what appears to be just about everything on the express lunchtime menu, happily the athletic actor hasn't succumbed to Hollywood eating habits - not yet anyway.

But he's not ruling out a spot of 'brotox' down the line either, laughs Eoin: "In LA, you see guys in their forties and fifties who look about thirty, and they're all ripped to bits. It is a bit strange.

"I don't give a shit, but then maybe in ten years' time, I will. Maybe [if someone says], 'You can no longer do your TV show unless you get botox', I'll be like, 'OK!'

"If you were in LA for too long, I think you would go nuts," he reckons. "There's a time frame. The whole thing is geared towards how you look. It's not my cup of tea."

Like fellow former TV doctor George Clooney, to that end, Macken is already making a name for himself behind the camera, writing and directing indie flicks such as 2008's Christian Blake.

Following on from coming-of-age tale Kingdom of Scars last year, he's also working on a second novel, which he hopes to bring to the big screen.

"People go, 'Oh, Eoin Macken, model-turned-actor-turned-writer-turned-director'," he jokes, "and you sound like a dickhead! I always wrote - I just didn't show it to anyone.

"I grew up reading East of Eden and [watching] Stand By Me and all these American coming-of-age stories, but I never read any Irish coming-of-age stories, so about three years ago, I just decided I was going to write one - basing it on a couple of things that happened to me.

"I actually want to make it [Kingdom of Scars] into a film as well."

"As an actor, people can get a bit funny about you wanting to write or direct," adds Eoin, who previously featured in The Tudors alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

"I didn't deliberately try and do as many things as possible in case one doesn't work out. I just started doing it, and then realised I actually loved it."

"Now that my book has been published, I feel very serious. I feel like a grown-up. Apart from anything else, I think it would be a good chat-up line in a bar!"

Unfortunately for his female fans, of which there are many ardent ones online, it's not one he's likely to be wheeling out any time soon.

While coy about his love life, Eoin - who formerly romanced The Saturdays singer Una Foden and actress Kellie Blaise - admits he's off the market at the moment: "I'm sort of in a relationship.

"Unless you're getting engaged though, I always think it's better not to talk about it. You say you're with someone, and two years later, that stuff in still floating around."

Career-wise, Eoin reveals he'd love to woo his idol Clint Eastwood: "My dream is to work with Clint Eastwood. I think he's brilliant. I'm also a big fan of James Purefoy and Clive Owen."

In the meantime, The Night Shift star looks set to enjoy his own 'George Clooney moment' here, before jetting back to La La Land this New Year, fuelled by full Irish breakfasts.

"Everything tastes different in America," says Eoin, as we round off lunch with a couple of coffees. "The sausages and bacon are crap.

"Whenever I come home, I basically spend two weeks eating fries," he laughs. "I doubt George Clooney does that!"

'Kingdom of Scars' by Eoin Macken, published by Ward River Press, is out now

A life in brief

Age: 31.

From: Howth, Co. Dublin.

Lives: Los Angeles, California.

Relationship status: "Dating".

Best known as: Ireland's own Dr 'Mac' Dreamy in new US medical drama The Night Shift.

Likes: Fry-ups and running.

Dislikes: UHT milk and pesticides.

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