With so many characters to admire and cherish within Outlander, there are bound to be certain journeys that you can’t wait to follow. To avid book readers, Lord John Grey has always been greatly respected for the integral role he plays within this series. We anxiously awaited being able to see the transformation of this well-loved literary role to really form. The imagery we each hold, created from countless hours reading the series and novellas, has truly come to life with the superb casting of David Berry.
Watching David Berry’s interpretation of this pivotal character has been enjoyable to witness. He has reminded us of the qualities that we each revered in the novellas, such as his high moral code, dedication to his family, and his enduring sense of honor. Yet, more importantly, he has been able to successfully capture Lord John Grey’s greatest strengths – the ability to show compassion, sensitivity, and understanding. Despite his own internal struggles and being surrounded by a world laced with hardships and instances of inhumanity, he remains a true gentleman in every sense of the word. David Berry’s portrayal of these most valued qualities, highlighted by moments of period humor and mannerisms, continues to excite fans across the globe. It is no wonder that Lord John Grey has become a rising favorite in this steadfast fandom.
Who is David Berry? It is clear he is talented, charming, and mindful of the shoes he must fill to lift Lord John Grey from the pages to the screen. We have previously featured one fan’s personal story of meeting David Berry in our blog. However, there is no better place to learn more about him than through his fans that have praised his work prior to joining this series. They have celebrated his journey as James Bligh on the hit Australian television series A Place To Call Home to his current transition into the Outlander world.
Sass3 is pleased and honored to feature the administrators of ANZOFs, Australia New Zealand Outlander Fans, as guest writers on our blog to share their personal experience with David Berry at their most recent gathering. Marg and Roc have written a memorable account about this unforgettable event. Come and discover their most recent adventure, learn more about David Berry through their Q & A session, and, most of all, join all of us in our shared appreciation for this rising Outlander star!
ANZOFs Weekend Gathering with David Berry
-Written by Marg Davidson & Roc Lyn
On August 2017 in Katoomba, west of Sydney, Australia, a group of fans from the Facebook Group Australian & New Zealand Outlander Fans, aka ANZOFs, gathered for a weekend. It was a chance for us hard working individuals to focus on ourselves and our joint obsession for a whole weekend. Four members flew over from New Zealand, and the rest came from around Australia. It was exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating in the cold mountain retreat. It was right in the heart of a very scenic canyon-type area and home to the Three Sisters rock formation. Google it. You’ll want to come!
On the Friday of our retreat, we enjoyed meeting new faces and hugging familiar friends from social media or from our own local gatherings. As if to herald the special occasion, snow fell right outside the dining hall. We played games and after dinner, settled in for a wame-warming, whisky tasting. By an enormous open fireplace, hosted by our very own Jack Fraenkel (our only male attendee), we tried six whiskies which were interspersed with tales of adventures from the wonderful Jenny Jeffries of Outrageous Outlander fame.
The next day, most wandered the Three Sisters area & enjoyed scenic railway rides, absorbing the clean mountain air while we set up for a very special afternoon. It took months of planning and negotiating, but we were delighted to surprise everyone with the one and only Lord John Grey himself, David Berry! David stayed with us for six of the fastest hours we have ever experienced. Our activities included a Q & A, photo booth session, signing opportunity, dinner, and then he sang to all of us (swoon!). We were treated to his very fine voice for four songs, and we will remember it always.
A Q & A Session With David Berry
Q: Before we start with your Spanish Inquisition, what is the most common question that makes you cringe?
DB: “Well, we can start with that one (laughter arises from the audience). Thinking on the spot is hard. You have to approach every question as fresh as possible because everybody is really interested. I try to be as open and honest as I can. I suppose after a while, if I start getting the same questions about the same things, I may cringe. I’m still kind of new to the whole publicity [thing]. I’m still fresh, so I’m not cringing yet.”
Q: What sparked your desire to act? How did you start in the industry?
DB: “Every day I wake up and say, ‘Do I want to act today?’ It is a really tough business and you have to constantly find motivation to keep going with it. I guess every actor would tell you that there’s something inside – the desire to express yourself creatively. I did that as a young boy with music and singing. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at High School doing operas, actually, with the Australian Opera Company. The first thing I did was an opera about Albert Herrings, it’s by Benjamin Britten. I went to school on a music scholarship and that meant a lot of my days were spent playing the violin and singing, just to earn my stay at the school. Then that just sort of developed into a love for acting. After finishing school, I went and did an arts law degree which I quickly got myself out of. I then went to Montreal, Canada to study political science. This sounds pretty intense too, but on the up side, I met my wife there.”
Q: Who is your favourite Oz actor?
DB: “Hugh Jackman. He always has a good reputation on set and can remember everyone’s name, and I’d like to be like that.”
Q: What is your favourite Oz Movie & Scene?
DB: “After meeting my wife, I got her to watch Lantana and The Castle to give her an idea of what Australia is like. They are definitely ‘must see’ Aussie movies.”
Q: What do you miss most about performing with the singing group Scream & Shout? Any future appearances?
DB: “We are all really close mates and we have been singing since High School. We do gigs from time to time, but things have become quite busy for me. When we do get gigs and we’re all available, we will do them.”
Q: Internationally, who do you ‘fangirl’ over? It can be an author, director, writer, actor, or journalist.
DB: “It’s always embarrassing to admit you are a fangirl to someone, but then we are all fangirls here, right (lots of laughter is heard throughout the audience)!? When I watched Top Gun, I was like yeah I want to be Tom Cruise! I haven’t met him. If I did, I would be like, Yeah (impressed). Another one I got to work with recently is Richard Roxburgh. I saw him do The Present at SDC. I have been watching Rake recently, and the next thing he is just right there. That was really pretty cool.”
Q: If you could co-star with any actor, past or present. Who would that be?
DB: “That’s a good question. Umm, Tom Cruise.”
Q: What one thing that would surprise people about you?
DB: “I can beatbox. I was in an acapella group in Montreal. One thing I had to practice was beatboxing and singing at the same time (this was followed by a very good quick example). Please, just imagine how good it was back then (big applause was elicited from the audience).”
Q: We kind of noticed you have buckets of talent and successful accreditations so … what are you hopeless at?
DB: “I’m really not good at dancing, but as someone suggested over there (continued laughter regarding a beatbox comment).”
Q: Any new projects you can share with us?
DB: “Being a dad (crowd unanimously awed and applauded). It’s been great and an incredible experience, anyone who has had kids will know. It’s been a great new project.”
Q: If another gay role came along, would you take it?
DB: “I don’t have any problem with the sexuality part of it. It’s more the playing the same character. I knew that Lord John Grey was gay, and when it first came up, I thought, ‘Oh, do I want to tread down that path again.’ But … I think he is different in so many ways. I mean you know James [Bligh] is just a very different character and I was getting a bit antsy that he could not express things, not the way that John Grey could. John Grey is very commanding, he’s an actor, and does stuff such as solving mysteries. So on that basis alone is how I made my choice. So if another character came up that was gay, sure. Although, probably not back to back. I’d like to mix it up a little bit.”
Q: Period dramas or contemporary?
DB: “From a work point of view, I think it’s really exciting to play period dramas. I’ve been told I have a look that’s quite suited to that. It’s fun to play something that is removed from yourself. You get to put on a costume, and it really helps getting into character. That’s really great. But what I prefer to be watching…..well, there’s period drama and there’s period drama. I mean Howards End was good, but I almost fell asleep. There was an emphasis on the period and less on the drama. But then you have Outlander with swash-buckling and stuff, even Pirates of the Caribbean is a period drama. It’s set in another world where you can really invest in. As an actor that fantasy element is really great.”
A Place To Call Home
Q: Other than James Bligh, what other character’s story in Season 5 of A Place To Call Home are you keen for the fans to see?
DB: “I think Elizabeth has a really good story in Season 5, and fans will be really happy with it.”
Q: Who is fun to hang out with on set?
DB: “Everyone. It’s really a family. I mean I have learned all my stuff on A Place to Call Home. Noni [Hazelhurst] is just incredible. She’s really like your mother. I hang out with Craig [Hal] and Sass [Sarah Wiseman] all the time. Oh, and Jenni [Baird] she’s hilarious. Everyone is lovely, it’s a really tight knit group.”
Q: Would you like to live in a majestic rural home like Ash Park one day?
DB: “No. I like the thought of one of those houses, but no. Can you imagine once Alexander is all grown up, and it’s just the two of us in this really big house. It’s good, but something a little smaller without so many rooms and maids. The house is amazing, but no.”
Q: When and where were you asked for your first autograph?
DB: “Probably my mum (laughter)! The bank. ‘Oh, you want my autograph on this cheque? Sure… (more laughter).’ Every time you get asked, you get a bit taken back that they recognize you.”
Q: What are the differences between A Place to Call Home (APTCH) set and the Outlander Set?
DB:. “I’m one of the cast that is international that has to travel far. Jetlag is a difference, but on a logistical level, it’s the scale of the show. You have less than half the time on APTCH so we often do it in one take. It has to happen like that. On Outlander, you can take a whole day just to film one scene. Typically in TV, it’s a Producer’s medium. They have the last say on how it comes together and keeping continuity. When you set up a shot you cover the wide shot first, and that will determine the rest of the shoot. Then comes the closer shots down to the close ups where the actor does most of their work. In film, it’s a bit different. The Director will nominate how they want to cover the shot. In Outlander, they have a lot of coverage. Moving cameras takes a lot of time. Another difference is in the US, Showrunners have a lot of influence. Ron Moore has a lot of influence, including Maril [Davis] and Matt [Roberts]. They are often on set keeping an eye on things and giving input which is great. In America, the scripts – and it could have a lot to do with the details in Diana’s book – are sacrosanct. In Australia, we workshop the scripts for a good few hours and into rehearsal so it’s more of a collective type thing.”
Q: What was your reaction to getting the role of Lord John?
DB: “What!…..(louder) Whaaatt!!! It was a complete surprise.”
Q: Did you know you had to go to Scotland?
DB:. “Yeah I did, yes, eventually (laughter). When you get a role it’s a really hard thing to achieve. It’s almost a miracle because when you send in a tape, to get an audition first of all, can be hard. Your agent has to send in a submission for you, and then the casting director can say, ‘No, it’s not right.’ With A Place to Call Home they already said no before I even got into the room. Then they came back and were like, ‘He’s the guy.’ So that’s one step that it could have fallen through with the Casting Director. Then you send a tape, and if the Casting Director likes it, they’ll send it to the Outlander UK Casting Director who has to look at it. From there, it is sent to the Producers to get clearance, and then the Studio also has to give clearance. Once all that’s happened, the legal team has to look at it to make sure all your papers are in order. In fact, I had to have a UK passport and it needed to be renewed in a hurry. Funny story – the people at the British Consulate turned out to be big fans of A Place to Call Home (laughter arises from fans). (David mimicking official) ‘Oh you have to go to the UK to be in a show you can’t tell us anything about it, sure, here you go, no problem, James Bligh. Err, I mean David Berry (much laughter was heard throughout the audience).'”
Q: Did you know of a poll done by Karen Henry (Outlandish Observations) that fans have voted Lord John Grey as the #1 most anticipated new character for Season 3? (At time of interview, it was 41% Lord John Grey and next was 24% Ian Junior).
DB: “I can’t take responsibility for that, he’s a terrific character and they (new characters & actors) are all great. I’m really excited to see Cesar and Lauren’s stuff for sure. I got on really well with Cesar and was able to hang out with him recently in Paris. He’s a cool guy.”
Q: Have you and Kristina watched Season 1 & Season 2?
DB: “Yes – But the way I watch it is very different. You know, I don’t watch it just for enjoyment. As an actor and knowing you have to work on this show, you kind of think – okay, so that’s how they do that and that, ok cool. He’s a good actor and she’s really good too, this is a great show you know. That’s how I watch it, and I don’t get as caught up in the story. My wife… oh my wife Kristina, she loves it! She’s really into it. Oh man, her aunt and her mum… they just don’t stop. They call my son little Lord Berry (big laughs). And I’m like please, I know they are excited, but can I just be David here (more laughs).”
Q: Have you met Diana Gabaldon? Has she given you any advice about LJG that you can share?
DB: “I haven’t met Diana. I’d love to, but I haven’t had the opportunity yet. I’m sure she’d have tons of advice.”
Q: Now for the most important question of the day. Have you met Tobias Menzies?
DB: “Yip (crowd bursts out laughing). I don’t know why it’s the most important question? Is it because you are in love with him (followed by a look towards Marg)? Ok, I’ll tell you all about my meeting with Tobias. I said, ‘Oh, you are Tobias.’ He said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ We shook hands, and then we each had to leave. He was off filming all his stuff. He was really busy. Our blocks didn’t coincide, but I did meet him and I really wanted to. He’s a good guy.”
Q: What main characteristics did you glean about Lord John Grey from reading the Lord John Grey series that you thought would be useful for filming?
DB: “Certainly he has… a lot of the stuff you read in the book. You’re constantly asking yourself as an actor how can I show that? How can I get all of this information across, and you just can’t. There is so much depth and detail in Diana’s books. So when I read the books, I’m really just looking for the essence of the character. What is it that he wants, and obviously he has an unrequited love for Jamie. But I also think his unrequited love comes from a sense of just wanting to be loved, not only specifically by Jamie. Yeah, everyone can relate to wanting to be truly and deeply loved. I think that, to me, gets to the core of his honour and his goodness. If you compare to Tobias’s character of Black Jack Randall, he does not want love. He wants power. That is different from John; he wants love. So I think that is what I really try to pull from the books.”
Q: Is there a Lord John Grey scene you’d hope would one day make it to TV?
DB: “I really liked The Private Matter. Yes, I like the Scottish Prisoner as well, but I really liked it when he goes to Jamaica. If they film a side series, then it would be great to film a year in Jamaica (laughs). I was really fascinated by the detail in The Private Matter (I don’t know what this says about me), but the whore houses and stuff……..that was really fascinating. All these people went there, and Lord John doesn’t want to go, but was forced… and it’s fascinating. That whole underbelly of 18th century was really cool so it would be fun to film.”
Q: With upcoming seasons of Outlander on your dance card, will you have space for other projects?
DB: “Yes, it’s really hard to predict your next year as an actor. Projects come up in the last minute. I just filmed a week in Noosa, Queensland on a production that stars Richard Roxburgh (The Circle Domain), and that just came up out of the blue. It’s mostly contractual stuff. Yes, I want to do more projects, and hopefully I’ll get more to do with Outlander, with the Lord John character. It just depends on the scripts. Yes, I hope so.”
Q: What was your reaction to the fan base for both shows.
DB: “I think it is great. I love it. I love being here right now. I’m so excited (claps). In all honesty, I’m really humbled and chuffed by it all. I am naturally very introverted, and I think that most actors are. We express ourselves on screen or stage, and that’s where we leave it all. We put it all out on the floor, and then we are exhausted by it. I know Sam and Caitriona are like that too, but it’s always a real buzz to see that people are interested in your work. I mean people are here listening to my life and are interested in it, that’s amazing! I’m so chuffed by it. With A Place To Call Home, a lot of the fan base are equally lovely people. It’s a big perk of the job.”
Q: Who are your influences in life and role models?
DB: “In terms of role models, we have very few good role models these days. There is very few people that you want your kids to look up to or trying to be. As for Alexander, I don’t think he’ll be watching any Outlander for a very long time (laughter could be heard). I have received lots of very touching fan mail from people who have been effected by James, for example. He has really helped them come to terms with a lot of feelings that I don’t think they should be feeling. I feel really privileged to help them feel good.”
Q: Thank you so much for stopping to chat with us at the Logies Red Carpet, and thank you to the rest of the APTCH cast for coming over without a prompt.It was wonderful.
DB: “No, thank you for coming! I actually wanted to bring one of the cast with me, but unfortunately they were all busy. They love doing it, it was great. They are lovely people.”
Q: What characteristics about Lord John Grey do you find endearing and like yourself?
DB: Endearing…I think LJG has a really quirky sense of humour. As an actor you can never hate your character. You have to love them. The thing I find frustrating with him is he has this obstacle – an inherent kind of self-doubt. It feeds his vulnerability, and if you are that type of person, you just wish you could be more confident and just do the thing. That is sometimes frustrating to have those self-imposed obstacles, but that can also make a character rich and very interesting.”
Q: Lord John Grey is blonde. Did wardrobe blonde you up a bit?
DB: (As LJG) “I don’t look anything like I do in real life. There is the wig, costume, and there’s not a lot they can do with my face, but put some makeup on it. When you first come in, you have consultations, try on a number of wigs, and do camera tests and stuff. They are very mindful of the characteristics in the book, and they try the best they can to match those. Whether or not that comes out in the end product, I don’t know, but we’ll see. It starts at casting, where they try to get everything right.”
Q: Building a relationship with Jamie over chess. Are the actors having to really play chess?
DB: “The chess is a way for the characters to connect. It has boundaries, and it’s about power. Both men think strategically and that helps the metaphor of connection. It’s a power game between the two. They are both equals on either end of it. You only really play chess with your friends and not prisoners. It’s all there in Diana’s writing. How you connect to another actor? That’s all there. You learn the lines, and you search for a connection.”
Q: Do they allow any improvisation when shooting?
DB: “No, but the actor makes an adaptation within the character, off the blueprint of the script.”
Q: Do you have something that was a legacy from a grandparent or someone you grew up with that is a treasure or life-lesson that you can share?
DB: “I grew up in Canada until I was eight. So I didn’t have a lot of time with my grandparents, unfortunately. We came back to Australia in 1992 and not long after my mother’s father passed away. My family has been through challenges and recently both my parents were diagnosed with Cancer. Both got through it. It really hit home then – the importance of spending time with the people who mean most to you in your life.”
Q: Actor influences?
DB: “Marlon Brando is one, but it changes all the time”
Q: How do you feel about social media? I noticed you don’t’ have twitter?
DB: “Social media is a great way to connect to people, but it can be hard to switch off. There are certain elements that can become really overwhelming, so I try to be as on it as little as possible.”
Q: When you are in Outlander and watching it with Kristina, will you be watching her watching you?
DB: “My wife is incredible and helps me with all my scenes. She is the other person when I make my tapes, reading the lines. She’s my number one cheer squad. She’s already seen everything that I’ve done. If she’s going to watch it, there won’t be any surprises. When we are rehearsing/taping, I’ll say to her, ‘Oh, I should have done that.”(cringes).’ So she’s already had all that by the time we watch it.”
Q: Have you had haggis?
DB: “Yes. As a matter of fact, the first time I had haggis was with Sam. It was fried though. Everything is fried there” (Laughter).
Q: Have you been able to see much of Scotland?
DB: “My impressions of Scotland entails a car, a studio, and a hotel room. (laughs) No, they take very good care of me and make sure you are very comfortable. There is a lot of work to do. We’ve stayed in Edinburgh which is great. I remember one day they said we are going to a beach today, and I was thinking how is this going to turn out? What should I bring with me? Swimmers? Or do they just bring their sweaters to the beach (laughs). Scotland’s great, and the people are really cool. They get our sense of humor.”
Saying Our Goodbyes
After David left, we enjoyed a proper Scottish Ceilidh, complete with pipers and Stripping the Willow Dancing. Two of our members even gave a highland dancing demonstration.
Sadly, all good things come to an end, and we all left after a hearty farewell breakfast back to reality the next day.
– Marg Davidson & Roc Lyn
Admins of ANZOFs (Australian & New Zealand Outlander Fans)
Our Gratitude For Sharing This Experience
We cannot thank ANZOFs enough for sharing this wonderful event that certainly appeared to form memories that would last a lifetime! Reading about David Berry not only proves that he is the perfect fit for Outlander’s Lord John Grey, but also that he is equally personable and relatable to all his fans that have followed his journey so far. A Place to Call Home will always be a show we will continue to cherish. However, seeing David Berry in Outlander brings forth an added dynamic of excitement, intrigue, and fascination as we watch him skillfully navigate the societal and social elements of the 18th century. We can’t wait to see what his future holds!
Be sure to check back with us to follow our journey to Canada as we jumped at the opportunity to meet David Berry ourselves during the upcoming Outlandish Vancouver event. It will be a weekend to remember!
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