Ricky Whittle found himself considering his career during the pandemic.
A career that had spanned Dream Team, Hollyoaks, The 100 and American Gods suddenly didn't seem as important as it once did.
"I genuinely thought during the pandemic: do I want to continue or do I want to retire?" said Whittle. "I've had a good career, I've made some good investments. I can just disappear."
He didn't: indeed, Whittle is working on several upcoming projects that will take him behind the camera rather than merely in front. It's another minor rebirth in a career that has featured a few – most notably his decision to move to America, which is discussed at length here.
Whittle shares a lot in this conversation: from his experiences in the acting (good and bad) to inspirational co-stars to the happiest moment of his life. You can find some extracts below, edited for clarity, but you'll want to listen to the whole thing. It's an inspirational, thought-provoking and very funny. (His recurring encounters with Sir Alex Ferguson being a case in point.) Enjoy this interview with a Square Mile favourite.
On keeping that childish wonder
"I genuinely get excited by the innocence of children and how they see the positivity in everything. How they can just entertain themselves. My niece and nephews are due here on holiday this week. They'll be happy just with a cardboard box over in the corner... You need that in life as an adult. We forget about it. It's something we let go of in life."
On his career doubts
Doubts about acting? If I'm being honest, it's currently. The pandemic really opened my eyes about what's important – do I really love what I'm doing, where I'm at? It's a very tough industry and I've been in it for a long time now. Social media is a terrible platform, where it was created to bring people together and now it's a troll site. When you're in the public, people feel you have a say on you.
On potential retirement
If you're so comfortable not acting, do you truly love your profession? As an actor, you're often doing what you have to so you can to what you want to. I got very fortunate with American Gods – it was a fantastic show. But you're often auditioning or in roles to pay bills. Maybe it would be different if I was playing Bond or a superhero at DC or Marvel. But yeah, I genuinely thought during the pandemic: do I want to continue or do I want to retire? I've had a good career, I've made some good investments. I can just disappear.
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On effecting change to the industry
I've watched so many movies where you've got able-bodied actors in wheelchairs. There are actors in wheelchairs who will never got the opportunity to play certain characters and roles. Then you get this role come up and you give it to an able-bodied actor? That's ridiculous... There's people out there who deserve more – a lot more. And they need the opportunities. We need to start writing for them. In the last six months to a year, I've been developing this project that I feel can make a tangible difference.
On his aborted football career
If I hadn't broken my leg, maybe I'd have been a football player and not gone into law or acting. Do I regret that? Yeah, I'd love to have been a footballer – I was very talented, I was good. I might have made it mid-low Prem, Championship, whatever. But do I regret that life I'm living now? No. I guess the only thing that I would have regretted – I wish I'd come to America sooner. I had the opportunity when I was younger through football: they were going to give me a scholarship over here to play football for the university. My mum didn't want me to – and I just wonder what would have happened I did come over then.
On the moments that matter
I ate in a restaurant with a billboard of my face above it. It's a restaurant I used to eat in when I first came to Hollywood. I took the photo and I was like, 'that is a surreal moment! That is insane!' But I've gotta be cheesy: the best moments in my life are family. I'm very close to my brother and sister. I've got a scar on my forehead from when my brother smashed my head against the coffee table. But as we got older, we got tighter and he became my best friend.