Scots Game of Thrones star Rory McCann: Learning new skills for Banished on BBC2 was a thrill

SOURCE: The Daily Record
AUTHOR: Steve Hendry
DATE: 01 March 2015
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NOTE: Rory is quoted at both the beginning and the end here.


RORY is set to appear in Banished on BBC2 and had to learn top be a blacksmith as part of the role in the new period drama.

RORY McCANN wasn’t afraid
 to get his hands dirty when he landed the role of a convict blacksmith in the Aussie

The Game of Thrones star features
 in Banished, a major new drama from Jimmy McGovern, which tells the story of the founding of the first penal colony in Australia in 1788.

Rory, 45, who shot to fame in an iconic ad for Scott’s Porage Oats, learned how to work a forge for real in Scotland
 before heading Down Under.

He said: “I have friends who are
 blacksmiths in the north of Scotland, so I took a few masterclasses with 
them. I loved learning a new skill. I will never look at a piece of wrought iron the same way now.

“I can now make semi-decent knife blades and candlesticks myself.

“On set, we had a working forge. The design team even found some original bellows and an anvil from the 1700s.”

Besides Rory, Banished – which begins on BBC2 on Thursday at 9pm – has a strong Scottish presence.

The Paradise’s Joanna Vanderham, Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Mr Selfridge star Cal MacAninch appear alongside Myanna Buring, Orla Brady and Julian Rhind Tutt. Rising star Joanna, 22, from Scone, Perthshire, plays Kitty McVitie who is convicted for stealing from her employer, Lord Campbell of Weymouth.

She said: “Kitty is wrenched from the world she knows and carted off to
Australia. It makes her pretty fragile.

“On the ship over, Kitty falls for
 a soldier, Private MacDonald, who she believes will look after her.

“But as events unfold her love is 
challenged. The story is universal because the characters are so real. You meet them and it’s impossible not to want to find out what happens to them.”

Ewen Bremner plays Reverend Stephen Johnson, based on the
minister who accompanied the First Fleet to Australia in the 1780s.

He said: “He has to establish a
 church in this new world. In those
days, the church was much more 
powerful and a central force in people’s lives.

“As the only
 spiritual authority in this new world, Rev Johnson has quite a position of influence over people.

“The majority of the community appreciate the guidance – he’s a kind of connection with God and they 
appreciate this solace in such times of traumatic adversity.”

Filmed at Manly Dam in Sydney, Banished is also a tale of survival.

The First Fleet of 1000 people were sent out to Australia with only six scythes to start their own community and they faced a host of new 
challenges, with shark-infested waters on one side and a strange, dry land on the other.

It wasn’t hard for the actors to 
imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers and convicts.

Rory, who used to work as a
 lumberjack and as a painter on the Forth Road Bridge, says he found the contrast with Australia startling.

He said: “I live out in the country in Scotland and know that if I close my eyes, I can recognise every sound.

“On that set in Australia, it felt so alien – there were all these mad screeching noises.

“It didn’t take much imagination to feel like you were in another world.”