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Outlander, Doctor Who and Peppa Pig star Colin McFarlane: ‘Kirk Douglas told me to learn to love rejection’

Colin McFarlane Colin McFarlane
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My first TV job was Dutch Girls with Colin Firth and my first professional theatre job was Othello at Chester Gateway. But before all of that, the job that got me into the business was a tiny lunchtime theatre company in Guildford performing Pinter to a handful of people for no money – racking up a large debt in the process.

I saw the advert in The Stage and wrote a personal letter asking for an audition as I had no agent, having just left Loughborough University. You needed an Equity card to work when I started – through this job we formed a cabaret company and wrote sketches, performed dance routines and got bookings in order to become a member of the union.

Follow your dreams and not the money

My advice to beginners is follow your dreams and not the money. I had to get into debt to do lunchtime theatre, but through it I met a great group of people, got my Equity card and began my career.

Only act if there’s nothing else you want to do. Always believe there is a casting director or director waiting for you to walk through the door. Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas said an actor has to learn to love rejection. He means you have to be able to bounce back from it. This career can give you highs and lows but always come back to the centre and never lose belief in yourself. And, if necessary, find another source of income with a connection to acting that allows you to keep learning and following your dream until your career takes off. Stay positive and believe that it will.

CV: Colin McFarlane

Age: 56
Training: Loughborough University BA (hons) in Drama (1980-1983)
Theatre includes: Fences (national tour and Duchess Theatre, London), Coriolanus (West Yorkshire Playhouse and international tour), The Collection (Donmar Warehouse, London) Statement of Regret, Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards (National Theatre, London), Two Horsemen (Bush and Gate theatres, London)
TV and film credits include: Outlander, Midsomer Murders, Hooten and the Lady, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Doctor Who, Death in Paradise, Citizen Khan, Patient Zero, The Commuter, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight
Directing credits: Marilyn and Ella, (Rosemary Branch Theatre, London; Edinburgh Fringe; Theatre Royal Stratford East; Apollo Theatre, London)
Voice credits: Little Princess, Mike the Knight, Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee, The Cube
Agent: Emptage Hallett, Calypso Voices

Colin McFarlane will be in series four of Outlander – debuting in November. He was talking to John Byrne

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