James McArdle’s intimidating reputation precedes him. It’s not that in person there’s anything intimidating about the Glaswegian actor: indeed, he is warm, witty and thoughtful. But his reputation as a thespian (of the classical kind, which seems increasingly rare) is of a magnitude that occasions awe when I mention his name to those who follow his work.
His accolades — from the Laurence Olivier award (previous winners include Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mark Rylance) to the Ian Charleson award — are proof enough that his acting talent does not go unnoticed. “It’s nice to be recognised,” he says via Zoom while on a break in Florida. “But it’s barely an afterthought when I am preparing for a role.”
In April, McArdle stars in the anticipated television adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life. He is also preparing for a number of theatre performances (his first love) and, perhaps unexpectedly, to play a character in an unnamed Disney series. “It’s going to be a different kind of challenge,” he admits, ruminating on possible franchise stardom. But fame has never really tempted McArdle. “My decision to take a role depends on whether I fall in love with the script,” he says. “That’s what matters to me — a good story, be it William Shakespeare or a blockbuster franchise.”