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Kevin McKidd: In 'Made of Honor,' the proud Scotsman is asked to play a role he's never done before -- himself. But he rolls with it, haggis jokes and all.

May 01, 2008|Robert Abele | Special to The Times

For MANY actors, the thrill of the calling lies in the ornamental and internal details that transform who they are into what they're not. And good-natured Scottish actor Kevin McKidd has made a name for himself playing such varied roles as a doomed drug addict ("Trainspotting"), a brooding Caesar-era soldier (HBO's "Rome") and a time-traveling journalist (last year's NBC drama "Journeyman").

But to play Scots-born Colin McMurray in the romantic comedy "Made of Honor" -- who by planning to marry Michelle Monaghan's art historian character becomes an unwitting rival to her best friend, Patrick Dempsey's torch-bearing rake -- McKidd received a bit of direction from Paul Weiland that threw him.

"He just wanted me to be me," says McKidd in a phone interview, his basso brogue still a little incredulous in recalling the challenge. "And, initially, I found that really hard. I generally do not play myself, you know? I felt very naked and sort of exposed almost."

Unlike most romantic foils assigned the storytelling task of keeping lovers apart -- easily identifiable as ill-matched because of some notable flaw -- McKidd's Colin is the perfect man: gentlemanly, not jealous, landed-gentry rich (the family owns a distillery) and devoted. He even innocently discovers he can dunk a basketball, to the consternation of Dempsey's athletically competitive character.

"When you're so used to looking for the kind of Chekhovian darkness beneath everything that's said, to be told, 'I don't want you to look for subtext,' to just literally say the words and be in the moment and be genuine, is the toughest thing," he says. "But by the end of it, I grew to really enjoy it, and found it quite liberating."

Oddly enough, Colin's cliched Tartan trappings were what was most unlike McKidd, 34, who hails from more working-class Scottish roots in Elgin.

"It's poking fun at that very upper-class shortbread-tin, kilt-wearing bracket of Scottish society -- people who live in castles and hunt for wild animals," says McKidd, who was thrilled to go from the geographical novice during the L.A. portion of the shoot to the on-set expert when filming moved to his homeland. "It was a real joy. I got to show people Scotland. And we had freakishly beautiful weather."

But when he first read the script, the patriotic countryman in him took minor offense at the haggis jabs and whatnot. He even made his parents read it as a way to gauge whether he should take the part. "They laughed their asses off," he says. "They saw the funny side of it."

Now he can even point to jokes like when one of Colin's family members speaks an incomprehensible tongue. Admits McKidd: "I go to certain towns in Scotland, and I can't work out what anybody's saying."

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Where you've seen him

Kevin McKidd made his debut with the coming-of-age Scottish indie "Small Faces," then followed with the cult hit "Trainspotting." A voice on the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, he's also appeared in the films "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Hannibal Rising" and starred in TV's "Rome" and "Journeyman."

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