(First posted at outlandercast May 2018)
Ronnie B. Goodwin worked as a supporting actor on Outlander from Day 1. A friend told him about an ad on Facebook for a bearded man who could ride horses. He ticked both those boxes and the rest is history. But, back to the start.
And at ‘The Gathering’
Recently Ronnie started following me on Twitter, so that was my cue to make contact with him. He agreed to an interview for Outlander Cast and a plan was made. Another adventure for my Scottish gap year. I was to travel by train to a station in the Trossachs National Park, north of Glasgow, where he would collect me for the interview.
I expected a bearded horseman. And just as the train was pulling into the station I got the message …..
So, what I got was a quietly-spoken, eloquent cool dude in a Barbour jacket with a super snazzy sports car. Later, I asked if the jacket had anything to do with Sam Heughan, who is a Barbour ambassador, but no, Ronnie is a Barbour man from way back. We sat in a café and consumed coffee and ice cream while we talked about Ronnie’s life before, after, and during Outlander.
Ronnie Goodwin is an artist, photographer, filmmaker and actor. He is a multi award-winning director and editor, and his short films have taken him around the world to some of the most prestigious festivals and competitions. So, how was he drawn to the visual and performing arts? As a child, he loved to pick up a pencil and paper and just draw, and he was good at it. He loved the TV show Art Attackand played around with different forms of visual arts, especially animation. His uncle gave him a camera and he was thrilled with this. But the bills have to be paid, right? So he became a mechanic and that led him to a passion for fast cars.
This was not to last forever, though, because the physical nature of the work, stooping and bending and crawling around on the ground, took its toll on Ronnie’s body and he began to move towards the arts where he found that he could begin to make a living from his other passion: making films and photographs.
Ronnie’s dad was a military man so he grew up surrounded by guns. He became fascinated with weapons and the engineering of them, but he had an inherent gut feeling that this was wrong. This phase of his life led him to make the short film Shooter, which tells the powerful story of a man making the transition from shooting with a gun to shooting with a camera. The film was well received and won awards and Ronnie says the message is possibly even more relevant to day than it was when he made it.
So, what led him to horses and riding? Many years ago, he was offered a part in the film Lorna Doone, so he went to his sister and asked for lessons. Within two days he was a competent and fairly confident rider and he scored the job. On Outlander, Ronnie’s horse was an enormous, gentle Hanoverian gelding named George. George stood 17.2 hands, which meant that Ronnie’s head was level with the horse’s shoulder. He says that George chose him. When they were looking at the horses, George came over to him and sniffed him, and the bond was there right from the start. They worked together on the show for eight months.
I had read various stories about the horses on Outlander. Ron D. Moore, for instance, talked about the difficulties of working with horses because when you have to repeat a scene (many times usually), all the horses have to be brought back into the starting position. This really adds extra time and complexity to the shoot. I also read that Grant O’Rourkesaid he really found it challenging riding horses and was not comfortable with it at all. Ronnie said that even though there were trainers there, he was often in the position of helping and encouraging the other actors who may be finding the going a bit tough.
We’ve all heard the jokes about actors putting on their CV that they can ride horses, which can often be just a wee exaggeration! Recently Richard Rankin tweeted that they had him out learning to ride!
In season 1 Ronnie was often involved in creating the horse riding long-shots, which didn’t necessarily involve the key actors. They worked with stunt riders and stayed in hotels in the Scottish Highlands to complete all those scenes. These were often long, cold and wet days. But so worth it for us fans, eh? Those big scenes with the Scottish landscape, snow capped mountains, raging rivers and expansive moorlands, really bring Outlander to life.
I asked Ronnie if he had any idea how big the show would become. He wasn’t familiar with the stories at the start, but being in the industry already, he knew that if Ron D. Moore was the showrunner, it would have to be something big. Now he has read a couple of the books and has also had the pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon.
In those early days Outlanderwas like a big family, Ronnie says, all working hard together often in grueling and adverse conditions. Long days, being freezing cold and wet were not uncommon. They formed comfortable working relationships, working together as a real team. Ronnie was in scenes like the ambush at Cocknammon Rock, the Gathering, the wedding and the rent collecting. He recalled a moment from the Cocknammon Rock ambush. The action required that his mate be thrown off his horse, and Ronnie was to haul him up behind him on to George. With all the rain and action, George’s girth had loosened and the two men fell sideways and ended up hanging underneath the horse. But the wonderfully trained and very steady George just stood there calmly, so no harm was done.
Another fun scene was when all the tenants were lined up to pay Ned Gowan. Turners and bawbees OK but no live pigs, you’ll remember! It was Ronnie’s job to swing a chicken up from his side to pay Ned. That chicken might have gotten a little bit fed up with the number of takes .. and the scene was not included in the end.
Best Outlanderexperiences? One day Terry Dresbachasked Ronnie to participate in a large gathering of American press who were visiting the set. Ronnie dressed in his Highland garb and stood amongst a group of Highlander manequins. At the appropriate moment, as all the reporters filed in to the room, Ronnie came to life and gave them all a surprise. Then he participated in a conversation with the reporters about the action and the costumes. Another highlight for Ronnie was when he was chosen as the lead man for the Time-Warner Outlanderad.
I asked Ronnie about the difference between a supporting actor and an extra. As a supporting actor Ronnie was engaged for the duration of Season 1 filming. Supporting actors can play multiple roles. In Season 3, for instance, Ronnie played one of the prisoners in the cells at Ardsmuir and was part of the Battle of Culloden. He said that five cold days lying in the mud on Culloden Moor was not much fun, but there was also a lot of running and shouting during the battle, which balanced it out a bit.
So what is Ronnie up to now? He is actively working on his visual art and showing his work at a gallery in Helensburgh. Ronnie’s films and works of art convey a strong sense of place and of the natural world. He shows us his beloved Scotland through his work. Check out his websitehere for all the details.
He also served as voice-coach for Stephen Waltersfor his recent part as the troubled Thomas Malone in Shetland. We’ll see Ronnie on our screens again in OutlanderSeason 4, this time in another century. And, it might have something to do with a barbecue, so keep your eye out for him.
Ronnie summed up his philosophy on life this way: to do what he does best, and to have a life of no regrets. What more could we ask, eh? It was a pleasure to meet such a multi-talented man.
It’s interesting to pay some attention to the supporting actors on Outlander. Many of them are familiar faces but we might not know their names. And we might not know of their other talents. Have you followed any of the supporting actors?