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Nathaniel Finestone
I'm bigger than almost everyone

Manchester Comicon – How to catch a White Walker in his Natural Habitat

This story would be somewhat incomplete if I didn’t mention that opening day of Manchester Comicon was weather-wise, as typical a day of English summer as one could imagine. Meaning that it poured rain like the wrath of god.

Yet despite the gloomy state of the outdoors, indoors was as fully alive and engaged in as much cosplaying, shopping, video gaming and general wonderment as ever. Those who didn’t have tickets had to wait in line for almost 90 minutes just to get in, even if you did buy a ticket in advance you still had to wait half that, all in the pouring rain. Luckily I had gotten a press badge in advance so I only had to wait for about 15 minutes along with the rest of the press and VIP ticket holders.

Something i’ve learned from being a veteran comicon goer is that planning is essential. As soon as you arrive you have to scope out exactly what you want to do. For me this was stalk the two actors from the hit show Game of Thrones who would be appearing. James Cosmos and Ross Mullan who play Lord Commander of the Nights Watch Jeor Mormont and the White Walker(all except the one from the pilot episode) respectively.

Getting to their panel was relatively easy, I just went 40 minutes early catching the tail end of an interesting voice actors Panel featuring Bryce Papenbrook and D.C Douglas who have both voiced characters from animes and video games and the whole of a panel dedicated to Ian McNeice. Famous for playing Winston Churchill on numerous occasions including on long running sci fi franchise Doctor Who and Fulton Greenwall in Ace Ventura.

Then the main event (for me at least), the two stars come out to thunderous applause, luckily by this point I had managed to maneuver myself into the front row so I don’t miss anything. The pair discussed their roles on the hit series and bits of their acting history. Clearly veterans of comicons all their own the two fielded questions from the audience with style, from choosing which other Game of Thrones character they would play to dispensing wisdom from the business. Cosmos in particular gave very practical advice for those aspiring to be in ‘the business’, he simply said “Don’t”.

It’s no secret that the acting business is tough, very highly competitive and challenging to say the least. Definitely not for the faint of heart. But for those who stick with it, the rewards can be great. As least that’s what I hear, I got a chance to sit down with fellow Montrealer Ross Mullan, the White Walker about his experiences in the acting business.

Nathaniel: Tell me about your acting background, have you always known you wanted to be an actor?

Ross: I’ve always wanted to be an actor, ever since I was a kid, although at that time I wanted to be a cartoon character, I was brought up on Scooby Doo and the Flinstones I loved them. My parents said to me, you can draw cartoons or you can be an actor. And I decided on actor.

N: So your parents were very supportive?

R: They were very supportive. They thought I would grow out of it. Then I fell in love with movie monsters, Frankenstein, Dracula the really old classic monsters. I had tons of plastic dolls of all these monsters which unfortunately later on my dog ate them all and was very sick.

N: Did you get them back after, out the other side?

R: No I didn’t. Thank goodness.

N: When did you jump from liking monsters to wanting to play them?

R: Well when I was twelve, I decided I wanted to be an actor, my first port of call was drama school in Montreal, the same place William Shatner went to it was called Children’s Theater in the West End of Montreal. My parents sent me there, then I went on to John Abbott college did their theater program, then went to Ryerson Polytechnic(now University) and studied there in Toronto for three years also in theater. I had a strong base in movement and Mask Theater, when I first finished drama school I moved to Ottawa and worked for Odyssey theater, I worked there for 4 years.

N: So how did you get from Ottawa to the U.K?

R: well I didn’t want to move back to Toronto so I came here literally on holiday, I have a U.K passport because of my dad is from Northern Ireland so I just came here and loved it so much. I almost immediately started touring with theater companies all over Europe the Middle East and Asia. Doing musical productions of David Coperfield, Gulliver’s Travels, Sherlock Holmes. Just doing crazy shows.

N: When did you transition into television?

R: well it was kind of weird, I got a call to work on this show called Dinotopia, the effects department wanted someone to animate this dinosaur and make it emote and basically act like a person basically. That was amazing I got to work with a lot of great people like Wentworth Miller(Prison Break) at the beginning of his career, Jim Carter(Downton Abbey) Alice Krige (Star Trek). From there I just started getting a lot of creature work; I was in Clash of the Titans. I also do puppet work and voices for cartoons. Right now I’m doing Nev the bear.

N: Do you do him in a British accent?

R: I do do him in a British accent he’s a fun very British character just a small bear, when i’m working as an actor i’m generally in a British accent. I don’t really work in Canada anymore i’m solely in the U.K, one job leads to the other, whether it’s the prosthetics team, or a director or fellow actor sees you and recommends for another part. I did Clash of the Titans which led to Game of Thrones which lead to be doing Doctor Who.

N: Do you ever miss Canada?

R: Sometimes. I go back regularly, once a year at least, i’m originally from Montreal but my family has since relocated to Ottawa. I love visiting since the weather is so different.

N: Obviously being an actor from any country is immensely difficult but did being Canadian present any special challenges for you as an actor working in the U.K?

R: At first for sure, I would go into auditions with a British accent having to prove myself since i’m not authentically British. I’ve spoken to Canadian actors who say, nobody will see them because they are Canadian but there will always be a hundred reasons why (casting) people won’t see you, too tall, too fat, too small, but you just have to keep pushing and pounding and wanting to do the work. I just never gave up, people will put road blocks for you but I just kept pushing through. I had a teacher who said 98% of the work is just being there and persevering. It’s about having thick skin, waiting tables and doing whatever it takes until you get a break. And if you don’t get that break, then you just have to keep pushing. I struggled all throughout my 30’s You have to redefine what you think of security, the world tells you security is having a nice house and money in the bank, but you have to be able to risk it all, you have to be a bit of a gambler. It’s a lot like gambling, if you leave the table, then you can’t win.

N: But in acting is there a point where you hit zero? Even if you’re at the table you can’t play if you don’t have any chips.

R: Well there are times when you literally hit zero. One time I had to borrow money to be able to get home from the table read for Clash of the Titans because I was so broke. I was working with all these amazing people and A-list celebrities and yet I was broke the whole time since you don’t get paid till the end.

N: One last thing before we go, I have to ask. Have you read A Song of Ice and Fire, the books Game of Thrones are based on?

R: No, I started but I haven’t finished, i’m not a big big reader. The books I tend to read are very drama intense.

N: Doesn’t get much more dramatic than Game of Thrones.

R: Ya I know. That’s true but I haven’t yet. I read this book Room, about a mother who is held captive, so very dark depressing stuff.

N: Well thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me.

R: My pleasure, if you have twitter look me up i’m @rossmullan


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