From acting to producing, Alistair Petrie has been gracing our TV screens for many years now. We delve deeper into the actor’s journey so far, and talk career, advice, struggles and joys of working in the competitive profession that so many are trying to be a part of.
He’s experiencing some extreme pain with every step that he takes, but that wasn’t enough to stop Alistair from turning up to this interview. I’ve never met someone with so much determination to not cancel. When he finally manages to take a seat opposite me, I actually feel really bad. Surely, he should have rescheduled.
“Knowing the amount of people that are involved and the amount of time, organisation and planning that goes into these sort of things, I could never be one of those people to just call an hour and a half before and say that my back is bad, so I won’t be making it,” he shrugs. “Even though I’ve arrived, and I can barely fucking move.”
Alistair has had a stellar career starring in some of the biggest productions in film and television including: the multi-Emmy nominated television series, The Night Manager, Fox’s original spy thriller Deep State and the epic first instalment of The Star Wars anthology series, Rogue One : A Star Wars Story.
Further film roles include Ron Howard’s biographical spirts film, Rush, Edgar Award nominated heist thriller film, The Bank Job, Sci-fi film, Cloud Atlas and psychological thriller, The Face of an Angel.
I would assume that it would be hard for Alistair to pick his favourite movie, considering he’s been in so many. His imdb page boasts 68 credits! But we need to know which ones it narrows down to.
“Usually a lot of it is about the people that you work with, if that makes sense. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Ron Howard twice and he’s such a brilliant director, I don’t just mean visually but also in terms of the notes he gives you after each scene. He’s so smart, it was really fun to work with him. There’s a director I’ve worked with twice again named Mark Munden, I’d like to work with him again. So, it’s very hard to pick one out.”
I patiently wait for him to pick a favourite. You can really see that it’s a hard decision to make as he thinks aloud.
“I think Cloud Atlas was pretty fantastic. Partly because of the nature of what it was. It was considered the most expensive independent film of all time and to work with Tom Hanks was exceptional, who is everything you would hope for by the way. The movie was fun because it was kind of bonkers, a glorious experiment in whether it would work and I think that is always exciting,” he decides.
I speak with Alistair about his career and achievements, starting with if he sees himself as the star of the show and I could not have received a more humble response.
“I think that’s where madness lies!” He exclaimed. “What I love about this job is that I think it’s a collaborative effort. You’ve got so many different departments who are all doing their very distinctive jobs. There’s so many skill sets that I can’t do. Who the hell am I to say I’m the centre of all this? Sure, when the camera rolls, that is your time, but considering everything, that time is actually very very brief.”
Alistair’s extremely passionate when he speaks. We start with one point and he manages to branch out to so many others and just listening to his anecdotes and beliefs really entrances you. Words of wisdom from an expert I thought.
“No, I’m not an expert. Absolutely not, I would never say I’m an expert in my field. I’ve got experience. I know certain things that work, but I think if you sort of say you’re an expert, then in a weird way, as an actor at least, I think that can make you sound lazy.”
Okay, so not an expert. But we won’t be disagreeing with the experience! Being an actor means that you do have to be versatile, as on one hand you’re trying to physically create a vision that has been scripted and on the other hand you’ll have your own way of doing that. We can’t imagine that to be an easy task.
“It does take a good director to say I know you can do that, but let’s try it this way,” Alistair agrees. “You need to be open to new experiences and learning. There’s no question that I ever want to stop learning, ever. If there’s any point where you think you’ve got this down, then well you’re fundamentally wrong and you should probably be doing something else,” he concludes.
So, we take it Alistair won’t be retiring any time soon, which we’re so pleased to hear!
“I’ve never thought about quitting. I love what I do. I can’t reconcile sometimes where this innate desire to be an actor came from. The advice that always came back to my dad, when I wanted to be an actor was ‘discourage them as much as possible, but if they are still determined to do it then support them as much as possible’. That’s advice that I’ve passed onto my kids and that still rings true. It’s probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given,” he contemplates.
Being an actor is tough and it is a fast-paced industry which can be hard to keep up with.
“It’s really tough. It’s incredibly competitive and that never changes. There’s a great myth that the more well-known you become; you may get more opportunity. But it’s a profession built on rejection. It really is and that is throughout your entire career. Anyone that says otherwise is quite frankly lying,” he claims.
If rejection is the worst part about an actor’s life, what is the best part?
Alistair replies firmly, “The best thing is the people you get to collaborate with, or as a great friend of mine says, ‘the people you get to play with'. The fact that you’re constantly meeting new people with new ideas and it’s an amazingly supportive community.”
When you hear and see someone talk about their field in such a passionate way, it becomes so hard to imagine them doing anything else. Alistair thinks he would either have been an architect or in the restaurant business, had he not chosen the acting route.
“I played an architect once on stage. I did a lot of research for the role and I rather enjoyed the notion of buildings, funnily enough. I could see myself front of house in a restaurant, because I love cooking. I love that social environment and seeing people happy, surrounded by food and wine. I like entertaining on that scale, so yes maybe something in the restaurant business.”
Alistair’s very much a family man. Happily married to the love of his life; Lucy, they now have three children, two of which are twin boys. He became a patron of the premature birth charity; Borne, which is quite close to his heart as his twins were born premature, at 30 weeks.
“I make time for family, which is really important to me because children grow up so fast and before you know it, they’re out of the door. Now that my children are teenagers, I feel like that time is fast approaching, so I need to make time for them. I look around me and I see how lucky I am. I’m happily married, I have three healthy children who are about to embark on their adult lives, and that’s sort of my base line. And then I sort of go from there really.”
Well, we can surely tell that Alistair loves being an actor and it shows in all the roles that he’s played; he is indeed a gifted individual who can adapt to any environment.
You can watch him now in Deep State, season 2 on Fox and make sure you catch up with Mr. Groff (Alistair’s character), as of the beginning of May, Sex Education season 2 officially began filming.
Words by Syeda Uddin