Brian Beacom

THE quiet corner of the Royal Scottish Conservatoire doesn’t stay quiet for long.

Before you can say La Traviata, a female operatic voice trills up from a nearby room, corridors are awash with dancers wearing tights and highly animated faces, and young people bustle past carrying cello cases.

It’s like an episode from Fame.

But fame doesn’t interest the 29 year-old former student sitting next to me.

Indeed, if offered ten movie blockbusters a year Kevin Guthrie would be shaking his dark head and rolling his bright green eyes.

“It has never been about fame for me,” he says smiling, of his career. “In fact, I like to go under the radar a little. It’s just about me enjoying the work, but the right sort of work.”

Five minutes ago (or so it seems) Kevin was appearing in small roles in BBC comedy Two Doors Down, or Miller’s Mountain, but now he is checkmating much of the opposition with carefully planned career moves.

Not only is he set to appear in epic movie Dunkirk, he stars in The Terror, (The Walking Dead meets Ravenous) a new TV drama by AMC (the creators of Mad Men and Breaking Bad).

It’s based on Dan Simmons’ novel telling of Captain John Franklin’s two ship expedition to the Northwest Passage in 1845 and Kevin is up to his neck in scurvy, mutiny and cannibalism. And contending with a monster.

“We end up submerged and frozen, and have to farm the ice, which is factual, but then the horror element emerges,” says Kevin, smiling.

But if that weren’t enough to suggest a young actor going places, Kevin will also be in cinemas soon with Edie, starring alongside Sheila Hancock in the tale of an elderly lady’s unlikely friendship with a young Scot, set in the Highlands.

Yet, how did he get himself into this position whereby he could choose the range of roles best suited to progress his career?

Most actors can’t pick and choose anything more than Aldi’s fresh veg.

“I was cast in a film in Restless, (the BBC mini-series) I landed the film Sunset Song (the wartime drama, with Agynesse Deyne), which was special and then came back to do Sunshine on Leith, the Proclaimers movie.

“And they all got me talked about. Playing characters with different outlooks on life let me reveal a range.”

Suddenly, casting directors were on the phone. But the actor reveals the determination to set a career plan came about through the mistakes of the past.

“I did stuff I didn’t want to do from the off, where the character didn’t resonate with me, or where I wasn’t overly passionate about the story.”

During conversation Kevin doesn’t talk about his role in crumbly BBC sitcom Miller’s Mountain, his stint in the NTS’s Peter Pan which didn’t fly or indeed the upcoming remake of Whisky Galore. But that may have been coincidence.

He adds, in soft, but serious voice; “It’s not that I’m turning down jobs because I can afford it. I’ve been turning down stuff to make the next choice the right one.”

Size isn’t everything. He took a small role in Fantastic Beasts (of Abernathy) because he was a fan of JK Rowling.

And how could he not take on Dunkirk, directed by Batman’s Christopher Nolan?

“Exactly,” he says, grinning. But little has been revealed of the blockbuster, Kevin. What’s it about? Boats?

“Mr Nolan is keeping a tight ship as regards publicity,” he says, grinning. “But what I can say is the event almost happens in real time. It’s incredible.”

Kevin grew up in Neilston in East Renfrewshire, a green belt area perfect for growing footballers.

He was ‘a shy boy’ whom his parents sent to local drama group PACE hoping to infuse a little Sunday morning confidence.

It worked and the schoolboy landed a range of small roles on television, including a part in Still Game. But meantime, young Kevin had also become a very confident footballer.

Then his sliding doors moment arrived. One day, a scout came to see the 13 year-old midfielder who had been attracting all the right attention playing for Neilston Boy’s Club.

But on the same day, Kevin opted to audition for a film, The Key, directed by David Blair. (Released in 2003).

“That was the turning point for me,” he reflects. “This experience made me realise I could maybe do this as a career.”

He wasn’t sure, initially, about drama college, reckoning he already knew what he was doing.

“I realised to my fascination you may not be able to teach acting but you can open up so many ways and ideas to make someone a better performer and an all-rounder.”

He came to realise two of his favourite actors, James McAvoy and Bobby Carlyle had gone to the same drama college.

Kevin later appeared in Macbeth with James McAvoy at Trafalgar Studios in London.

And he the chance to work with his other hero Bobby Carlyle in The Legend of Barney Thompson.

“I revere his work. And he has a back bone that could hold up the Forth Bridge. I learned a lot from him on the Barney job. He showed me how to move, revealed a real slickness, and in doing so he flooded me with confidence.”

There was a time when the Scots inferiority complex would have denied acting possibility – and certainly making acute career choices?

“I was aware of it early on, but I knew I had to get rid of that feeling. There is too much bitterness and resentment in the business as it is, because it can be fickle, brutal and unforgiving.”

Kevin, who lives in North London with his girlfriend (“She isn’t in the business”) isn’t a tall actor at five seven, and his natural complexion could be described on paint charts as Milk Bottle.

He was never going up against John Hamm for the lead in Mad Men. But so what. He wants the character parts.

And he certainly gives much of himself to the roles. When Kevin appeared in boxing play Beautiful Burnout he loved the workouts, training with the likes of Charlie Flynn and Ricky Burns.

“I took a punch once and it put me down,” he says with a note of pride in his voice. “I love to keep digging to find out what characters are about. I love the excavation.”

But there’s another reason which suggests why Kevin Guthrie will go on to become a famous actor, outside of the career planning and solid graft.

He admits he needs the escape his roles can offer.

“I talk to my family and my girlfriend about my phobia of everyday life,” he offers in soft voice. “I’ve come to realise this is what my career gives me.

“It means I can exist in some sort of alternative reality, and do the things (like boxing) I’ve always wanted to do. To be honest, I’ve always felt I’m not great at being a real person.”