Skye actor at the heart of BBC’s submarine drama Vigil

Lorne MacFadyen as Doward in Vigil (C) World Productions – Photographer: Mark Mainz

LORNE MACFADYEN is an actor from Skye currently starring in one of the BBC’s biggest drama series of the year. KEITH MACKENZIE caught up with him to find out more.

Burgeoning actor Lorne MacFadyen isn’t sure where his passion for drama and screen came from – though he suspects he may have inherited it from his great uncle, Alistair ‘Lala’ MacKenzie who once ran a video-rental shop in Portree’s Wentworth Street.

“In our house in Fiscavaig we’d get all the old 1980s VHS tapes that had been cast aside, and I loved them as a child,” Lorne remembers of his early years in north-west Skye. “And my late uncle Alistair was also, back in the day, part of the Portnalong Drama Club.

“They were once immortalised by a Free Press typo which called them the Portnalong Dram Club.

“It may have been a more apt title as they probably needed some Dutch courage to get on stage.

“But he loved all that and I am sure, were he around to see it, he’d be very proud of what I am doing now.”

Treading the boards with the am-dram players of Portnalong is a world away from the big Sunday night drama slot on BBC 1. Yet that is where millions of viewers have recently been watching Lorne play Lieutenant Matthew Doward in Vigil, the thrilling six-part series set aboard a British Naval submarine.

Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie), Amy Silva (Suranne Jones), Branning (Lolita Chakrabarti and, Doward (Lorne MacFadyen) – (C) World Productions – Photographer: Mark Mainz

Vigil is created by the same team which brought us Line of Duty and The Bodyguard – with a twist-filled plot and stellar cast to match.

Suranne Jones, Martin Compston, Rose Leslie and a host of other familiar TV faces star in the tension-packed mystery which is the latest in an impressive line of casting credits for the proud Skye-man.

Since landing a part in the BBC’s Shetland while at drama school, Lorne has gone on to work with some of the biggest names and most famed directors in the British entertainment industry.

However, it was with some trepidation that he initially told his parents – mum Anne Marie is a local nurse and dad Duncan a mechanic – that his heart was set on becoming an actor.

“Through school I had an interest in drama and music – but I went to University to study media design, and it was only while there I decided I wanted to pursue an acting career,” he said.

“I’d done little plays in primary school in Carbost, and in high school with the Skye Youth Theatre – mostly musicals but it was great to dip my toe in the water. 

“But drama wasn’t taught as a subject in school and it wasn’t exactly seen as a normal thing to do for a lad from Skye.

“Initially my parents were quite nervous for me about how it was going to go – but they have been really supportive and I have felt very fortunate.”

After university in Edinburgh Lorne switched his focus, took a college course and then won a place at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow where he studied for three years.

Lorne in relaxed mode off set. Picture, Christian Tierney

Between terms he enjoyed working as a tour guide at Talisker distillery – a job he remembers as a “form of theatre” which offered the chance to hone presentation skills in front of new audiences every day.

For a while he juggled auditions and studying with a job in an Edinburgh Karaoke bar, before taking on the ‘Shetland’ role.

On leaving drama school Lorne was signed by a London agent, headed for the big smoke and an early break arrived through ITV’s 1950s detective series Grantchester, in which he played DS Phil Wilkinson for two series.

On the back of that came Lorne’s biggest TV role, when he was cast in a part that would daunt many a Scotsman.

In Tina and Bobby, an ITV mini-series about a ‘golden couple’ in a glorious era for English football,  Lorne played World Cup winning skipper Bobby Moore with Michelle Keegan cast as Bobby’s wife Tina.

 “As you can imagine, that one got a few remarks back home,” Lorne adds. “I was pretty nervous stepping into his boots, but it was a great experience for me – my first lead role on TV and it was really positive.”

For an actor the truly hard work comes between jobs, at the auditioning stage, says Lorne who gives a sense of a man appreciating every stage of the journey he’s found himself on since setting foot in drama school.

No doubt his Skye upbringing has ensured a sense of perspective, and his home is also a sanctuary when time is needed to escape the bright lights.

He said: “I try to get home as much as I can, to see family and I still have a lot of friends in Skye.

“There is nothing like the place you are from, the scenery there and the chance to connect back to folk – it does ground you, no question.”

For now London is home and likely to be for the foreseeable future – although of late Lorne has also been spending a fair bit of time in Dublin. Lorne’s girlfriend is the brilliant Irish actress Niamh Algar, a talent who’ll be recognisable to anyone who watched Channel 4’s compelling drama ‘The Virtues’. 

And there is no sign, so far, of work drying up with Lorne’s roles becoming ever more varied as the years progress.

He had a part in the Robert the Bruce biopic Outlaw King and in WWII Netflix drama The Liberator. Production has recently wrapped on ‘Pistol’, a mini-series about the Sex Pistols and the 1970s Punk revolution.

The forthcoming series has already made headlines because of an unsuccessful attempt by Johnny Rotten, the former Sex Pistols’ frontman, to block the band’s songs being used.

However, for Lorne the role presented a chance to work with one of his cinematic heroes, the director Danny Boyle.

“This one really fulfilled one of my major ambitions,” he added. “Growing up in Scotland Trainspotting was a massive film for me, and I would say one of the reasons I got into acting in the first place. It was a privilege to work with him,” he says of the man behind ‘The Beach’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

Also due out next year is the film Operation Mincemeat, in which Lorne features along with Kelly MacDonald and Colin Firth. The incredible wartime story is about the washed up body of a dead tramp, disguised as a British captain in a ruse to outwit the Germans about the planned 1943 invasion of Sicily.

Lorne said his aunt was quick to point out to him that the story had previously been featured on screen, in the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was, and the script had ironically carried a curious link to his home.

At the very beginning of that film there is a line, Lorne says: “I dreamed a deadly dream, beyond the Isle of Skye, I saw a dead man win a fight and I think that man was I.”

Lorne MacFadyen’s dream also took him far beyond the Isle of Skye – and it is one he continues to live out every time he walks on set.

Vigil continues on BBC1 at 9pm on Sunday night and is also available to view on iPlayer.