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September 06, 2019

A Devil’s Revel

Graham McTavish was thrilled to go down under to play a Saint from Hell.

Kathleen O’Steen
  • Pari Dukuvic/AMC

When he learned that the fourth and final season of AMC’s Preacher would be filmed in Australia, Graham McTavish — who stars as the morose and heartless Saint of Killers — was, well, elated.

“It meant I could see my kids every weekend,” says the actor, who makes his home in New Zealand. “From Australia, that’s just a three-and-a-half-hour plane ride, which is nothing compared to what I’m used to.”

Indeed. McTavish, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, decided to move to New Zealand in 2011 while filming Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. “I love it there. It’s a very special place.”

But it makes the job of being a Hollywood actor — one who is constantly working — all the more challenging. In addition to a busy career as a voice actor, McTavish most recently starred in all four seasons of Preacher, was in all three Hobbit films and, for two seasons, starred in the Starz series Outlander as Dougal, the fearless war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie.

“Dougal was great fun to play because he was a very dangerous man,” McTavish says with a chuckle. “And those are my favorite kinds of characters. They’re unpredictable.”

While he had to perfect his Gaelic dialogue phonetically for many of Outlander’s scenes, McTavish employed a different acting technique for Preacher, a series based on a wildly popular series of graphic novels.

“The Saint of Killers was based on the Clint Eastwood characters from the spaghetti westerns,” he explains. “This is a man of few words who has lost everything and is now driven by a silent, intense vengeance.” Cue the menacing looks.

Though the Saint kills Satan at the end of season three, his story arc in season four (now airing) has him confronting God — and it’s not pretty. “I think it may upset some people,” McTavish admits. “But for me, it was a very satisfying end to my character’s story.”

Undoubtedly, the actor’s biggest thrill was the opportunity to play a lone, iconic western character — hat, holster, guns and all — who rides into a desolate town. “For a guy from the U.K., this was beyond the bounds of possibility. It was all I could do not to punch my fist in the air with glee.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2019

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