Interview – Zach McGowan

Growing up, Zach McGowan had many interests – whether it be given a chance to service in the military or pursuing an athletic career. Both dreams he had a passion for, trumping it all was his unwavering desire to pursue acting professionally. Aspirations that followed him through preliminary school into college, McGowan has since become a household name on the television; appearing on series such as Shameless, Black Sails, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Walking Dead.

Also starring in various feature films, most recently, he took on a role in historic drama Robert the Bruce. A film that McGowan was intrigued by from onset, especially with Celtic roots, he portrays Brandubh, a key character looking to seek a vengeance of his own. Excited for the release of Robert the Bruce on Friday, April 24th, McGowan recently sat down to chat his career, his attraction to taking on different character roles, plus much more. 

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for fifteen years now working in both television and film. First, briefly tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in entertainment?

Zach McGowan – As a kid I struggled in school; I liked certain things and not others, so it was a bit hard for me to concentrate on subjects I wasn’t interest in. The one thing is my school had a great drama program and I always just loved going to drama class. I loved the process of playing characters and people who weren’t me. I loved trying to understand other people because I realized at an early age that’s essential.

Acting was just something I always wanted to pursue. Then when got done with college, other things I wanted to do was service the military and be a professional athlete. However, My brother was serving in the military at the time and was overseas deployed and my parents didn’t want two of us deployed; they had seen Saving Private Ryan (1998) like everyone else. So, my parents who have always been supportive of me, gave me their blessings to go after acting. I decided to do it, I’ve been very happy with it, love it, and hope to keep doing it forever. 


Cryptic Rock – It is great that you were able to pursue something you clearly love. You have shown the ability to work in a variety of different genres from Drama to Comedy to Horror, Sci-Fi and more. Do you like that diversity?

Zach McGowan – To me a story can take place in any different genre, but characters are consistently real people. My approach is fairly similar regardless, the situations are what changes. But yes, I love working in different genres; to me every chance I get to act is fun. 

Cryptic Rock – It has to be fun as well as a challenge. One of your more recent roles comes in the feature film Robert the Bruce. How did this project come about for you?

Zach McGowan – Richie (Gray) and I had a general meet after I saw a movie of his; he was a fan of Shameless and he wanted to meet me. Anyway, there was another movie of his he wanted me to play a part in, but I couldn’t do it for contract reasons. Then there was a couple of movies where that happened, then he finally sent me Robert the Bruce and told me the part he had in mind for me. They were trying to get funding, were probably going to go soon, and I told him, “I’m actually available! Just tell me who I’m playing, I’ll play anyone.” I like his movies, I think he does a good job. So he sent me the script, I read it, and before I knew it I was on a plane to Montana to start shooting. 

Cryptic Rock – It all worked out this time. The film is shot in Montana as well as Scotland. Did you work from both locations?

Zach McGowan – In the story there are essentially two locations. One is down in the low lands, where you’re with Robert The Bruce’s army. Then as he goes on his journey he ends up in the high lands. The way the movie works is the highlands are the stuff shot in Montana because of the mountains covered in snow. In order to insure we had that we needed to find the right place, and Montana ended up working out for a lot of reasons. My part of the movie is all up in the highlands, so I only shot in Montana, but did get to Scotland which was really awesome and beautiful. We shot there, but I didn’t get there to shoot though. 

Screen Media

Cryptic Rock – Interesting. The film does a good job drawing out the story of Robert the Bruce. Were you familiar with the history of this famous warrior and was that something that drew up into the project?

Zach McGowan – I was, obviously I’m a Braveheart (1995) fan. When that part of history came up in my schooling it was just after the release of the movie Braveheart. I’m also an Irish citizen, so I have a lot of Celtic roots and know the lore of a lot of the stories. It was a cool to be apart of a telling of this fighter. 

Cryptic Rock – Very cool. You take on the role of Brandubh. Your character has a strong hatred for Bruce for very personal reasons. What was it like portraying this character? 

Zach McGowan – It was really fun. My hope the entire time was just to try and understand where his anger came from as well as why he felt wronged, jealous, etc. I tried to understand why he felt so much anger and where he choice to seek his vengeance for the wrongs he felt were committed against him.

That’s always interesting to me because that’s a big part of the world today, right? Everyone’s got so much anger about something. It’s always interesting for me to delve into that and see where that ends; it always ends in violence. In my day to day life I’m the father of four children, so it’s not my normal. 

Cryptic Rock – You did a good job with the role. It will be interesting to see what people think of Robert the Bruce when a broader audience has a chance to check it out Friday, April 24th. 

Zach McGowan – Yea, I’m really excited. It seems to be tracking really well where people on iTunes and such are pre-ordering it. 

Starz Original

Cryptic Rock – Very cool. With Robert the Bruce set to premiere, what other releases do you have coming up?

Zach McGowan – I’m going to be appearing on a couple of episodes of MacGyver which should be airing soon. Then I did a Comedy right after Robert The Bruce called Crabs in a Bucket; I think it’s coming out over the summer. 

Cryptic Rock – It will be fun to see your new projects. Seeing you have been involved in various series as a guest star or a regular character, what do you take away from all these experiences?

Zach McGowan – I just love doing it. I’m weird, I’m like a machine – when it’s something I like doing, I can do it non-stop forever.

That said, I take away that I’m lucky to be able to do it. I just love doing it and want to keep doing it for the rest of my life. Also, I think in the end if you try hard enough at whatever you’re trying to do, that you can do it. I just won’t quit. (Laughs) 

Cryptic Rock – Your passion is inspiring. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?

Zach McGowan – I am a fan! I like all kinds of Science Fiction, it’s such a broad category. Growing up, the Alien and Terminator movies were some of my favorites, and still are. I’m obviously a big Star Wars fan, who isn’t it? Horror wise, the scariest movie I’ve ever watched was Event Horizon (1997). A lot of Horror movies don’t really don’t get me deeply scared, but that one just scared the living hell out of me.

20th Century Fox
Paramount Pictures

For more on Zach McGowan: zachmcgowan.comFacebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Feature photo credit: Ricky Middlesworth

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