I'D PROBABLY HATE ME IF I MET ME.
Well you would, wouldn't you? After all Owain Yeoman seems to have it all - a celebrity wife, happy marriage and hit TV series in the US. He's also one of the nicest blokes in showbiz, finds Claire Hill. And the best news of all? He just happens to come from Wales...
OVER in LA it's moving day for actor Owain Yeoman. The tabloids will later reveal that he and actress wife Lucy Davis have moved into a palatial 1920s three-bedroom house with a pool and savour details of spa tubs and steam showers for two.
But as we talk, and the removal men grapple with the newlywed's personal possessions, he is far more focused on the eccentric world of real estate and how they finally sealed the deal on their Los Angeles home.
He says, 'When you buy a house over here you have to write a letter to the owners saying why you want to be part of the house. We wrote the letter saying we really love the house and the garden reminded me of the green, green grass of home. Lu and I had a laugh when we were writing it.
'Plus, they were really big fans of The Office and loved Lucy (in it). So that sealed it.'
But with so much going on at home it's surprising he has the time to talk. Some people wouldn't consider taking their eyes off the scene for more than an hour to talk about their new television programme The Nine and tell all about married life, but Owain is not some people.
According to the 28-year-old the interview is an escape and a chance to relax.
When we speak it's Tuesday morning, and Owain has been married to actress Lucy Davis for just over a week. Newspapers and celebrity magazines all carried pictures of the actress, who found fame as Dawn in The Office, flanked by her comedian father Jasper Carrott and new husband - Chepstow-born Owain - on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.
The wedding pictures weren't sold for millions as magazine exclusives, but, as Owain - who starred in Troy alongside Brad Pitt - says they were happy to pose for the waiting paparazzi as they understood that they had a job to do that day.
Behind the scenes, the wedding was wonderful.
'It's been amazing. Lu and I were saying it suddenly makes sense of everything. You think you love someone and then you get married and you love them even more - says me after five days,' he adds.
'It was very emotional, the most perfect and incredible setting. We were so blessed, it was a really special day.'
Even on the phone you can tell he is smiling and is still brimming with that level of joy that needs to be shared. He breaks off talking about his own wedding to ask if I'm married.
He continues, 'If you do ever get married savour the whole day as, before you know it, it's over. I woke up nervous but I was more nervous about the speech [he would have to follow father of the bride Carrott] than marrying Lu.'
Their relationship was a whirlwind romance. They met through mutual friend, Patrick Baladi (Neil in The Office) and last June, after only six months, Owain went to visit Carrott to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage.
The actor's father-in-law reportedly said, 'When you have a 6ft 4ins gladiator from Troy who's knocked seven bells out of Brad Pitt you don't say no to him.'
Joking aside, he probably saw what Owain and Lucy saw in their relationship, that they were made for each other.
Owain says, 'We had a lot of friends in common, so we were two people who felt like we should have met but never did. It kind of felt like I knew her before I met her.'
He's unabashedly a fan of her work - the work she did before he met her and what she has done since.
'Lucy is a real hero of mine, she is so subtle in her acting. To be married to someone whose work you admire is a huge thing.'
It's a refreshing change to hear an actor talk openly and unashamedly about their life without that jaded bitterness towards the media or the overly cautious answers which reveal nothing about the person behind the 2D image on screen.
Perhaps it's his grounded Welsh upbringing, perhaps it's the strong base of his family and friends or perhaps, while knowing how to play the media game, he is not too worried about the end results and, as he doesn't see himself as a 'celebrity', he doesn't need to fall in line.
After two or three years working in LA, Owain seems completely unfettered by the mad world of Hollywood.
Focused on their work, the couple passed on the honeymoon to head back to LA and get on with their careers.
'We married on the Saturday, we flew on the Sunday and were back in work on the Tuesday,' he says.
'Lu and I both had to put the honeymoon on hold, you have to go while the work is there.'
While Lucy is making waves with a bit part in Ugly Betty on Channel 4 and an ever-growing part in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, Owain is now becoming known for his lead role in The Nine.
In short, the series starts with a disparate group of people held for 52 hours in a bank raid that goes wrong. People get shot and bad things happen inside the bank before everyone is released. After the opening
premise the series slowly reveals what happened to the hostages while focusing on the bond which develops between the group in the weeks and months following the event.
Owain plays Lucas Dalton, one half of the robbing duo, and the criminal with a heart.
He says, 'As the series goes he is one of the most serious characters. Lucas is the bad guy with the conscience. He did a lot of compassionate things to those people [in the bank].'
Towering well over 6ft, with broad shoulders, blue eyes and a dark crop of hair, it's no wonder he has been standing out on the streets of LA, thanks to his television roles.
He says, 'The Nine has been the first show where I have been noticed. I had a very funny experience when it first aired. I was buying a rug in Crate and Barrel [the American equivalent of Habitat] and this guy was looking at me for ages. I was really aware of him staring at me. He came up to me on the next floor and after 10 or 15 minutes he said, 'So what did you do to the black chick?' It is funny, people's inability to sometimes separate fiction from reality.'
The public recognition doubles when he is out with wife Lucy, as people cannot resist talking to the pair.
He says, 'If my work gets recognised that's the right way to be recognised. Lucy is very, very humble about her work, and often she gets people going up to her and saying she's in their favourite show.'
While Owain is becoming a face on American television he has yet to make the same impact back home, until now.
The Nine, which comes to Channel 5 in the autumn, features an impressive ensemble American cast including 24's Kim Raven and Party Of Five's Scott Wolf.
In the States, the ABC network decided to schedule it right after Lost in one of the prime time television spots.
When it was first aired the critics couldn't get enough of it calling it the best show of the season. However, the audience figures haven't been to the network's liking.
Despite pulling in more than 10 million viewers a week, the show is currently on a break and it's a case of fingers crossed that they find the right time slot for it in the States.
UK audiences will at least get to see a full series of The Nine.
If Owain is bitter that his programme is being messed around with, he is doing well not to show it.
He says, 'I'm kind of in limbo at the moment. We filmed 13 episodes and Warner Brothers are launching it internationally. I'm very proud of American television, but it's so fiercely competitive.'
He makes the comparison between himself and fellow Rada graduate, Jonas Armstrong, better known as television's Robin Hood. While the latter's BBC series wasn't the smash hit it could have been it has still been signed up for another series.
Owain rightly adds, 'For The Nine we've been getting 10 to 13 million viewers and if that was the case back home it would be running for 13 years.'
When we meet up again in Wales, just after Christmas, the 28-year-old is hopeful the cast will get the chance to make some more episodes, but has already started auditioning and looking at the next project for him.
This is typical of the perils of American television, both Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys have had similar experiences of the cut-throat nature of American television.
In fact Rhys' current role on hit series Brothers And Sisters would have failed if the critics had anything to do with it - it just happened that the audience saw something they liked.
Owain admits, 'You never know what an audience will take to.'
He's had this experience before. In fact it was only last year when he took on the role of Steven Daedalus in Kitchen Confidential. As the next big thing from Darren 'Sex And The City' Star's stable and featuring an established cast including Jaime King (My Name Is Earl) and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) it should have been a hit.
After starring in blockbuster Troy as Lysander and appearing in one episode of Midsomer Murders - 'something which pleased my mam' - he went back for the ruthless pilot season in America and was signed up for the television adaptation of Anthony Bourdain's famous novel.
'It is a slightly male Sex And The City and it was based on one of my favourite books. I felt it was fate.'
Kitchen Confidential didn't do so well but, as intensive work experience, it made Owain more marketable and provided an excellent showcase for his skills. While some actors can be quite precious about their craft, Owain seems to have a level head which can balance the creative side of the arts with the more basic business element of building a career.
He says, 'I always think that work brings work, if you are out there people will think, 'It's that guy again', and they are more prepared to employ you.
'When I first came out here I was doing about 10 auditions a week, you get very used to the sound of 'no'. I think what I learnt in a very short time was to view yourself as something that you are selling.'
It sounds easy to say but the early days of rejection must be very hard to get used to, and surely living in Hollywood where perfection and the celebrity lifestyle are the ultimate goals it takes a grounded person not to bend to the masses' viewpoints.
This, then, makes his circle of friends - a veritable Who's-Who of Welsh acting - make sense.
Admitting that a lot about acting in LA can send a person in a tailspin he has found mentors and friendships in the Brits who have gone before him.
'I have been really lucky, where you are is all about the people you are with. Ioan [Gruffudd] and Alice [Evans] are very good friends of ours, as well as Matthew [Rhys]. They are very mindful that they are blessed to be out here.
'It is lovely to have a bunch of friends whose work you admire. Ioan is a real example to me - to be so normal and so down to earth and still enjoy it.'
While the Welsh male friendship includes a lot of in-jokes and general ribbing, it is clear that the Chepstow-born actor has found his biggest support in his new wife Lucy.
He says, 'Last pilot season was the first that I'd been with an actor and the lovely thing was dating someone who was equally as happy when I got a job as I was with her. That selflessness and magnanimousness is the only quality you can have.
'It was long, long, 16 to 17 hour days [filming The Nine] with a lot of me being beaten up and thrown on the floor. You need to have someone who can come and support you. It is not an envious task being with an actor, you make huge demands on your partner. Maybe it takes someone in the business who has viewed that to understand.
'I just thought I have met my match.'
This life is a long way from the Chepstow home where he was raised with his parents Michael and Hilary, and sister Ailsa. It's a long way from Oxford University where he studied English Literature and Language, acting in his spare time as the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz and directing Othello.
And it's a long way from his early days as a banker in Canary Wharf.
Despite a love of acting, he never intended to go into the profession. That sensible head on his shoulders was telling him to get into accounting as he applied for further education at Harvard University.
But he had a change of heart in his early 20s and decided to apply to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
Neither accepted nor rejected, they told him to come back the following year and, by that time, he'd widened his application field to include Rada.
'I thought 'who is going to be able to showcase me the best?' and Rada is just fantastic for that. They put on new theatre productions that are as good as small West End ones.'
Enjoying his time there, Owain admits that, at times, the experience was a bit overwhelming.
'Rada can be a lonely and difficult time, it encourages you to learn a lot about yourself and deal in emotions. As an actor that can be unsettling at times.
'That's why I was glad I went there older, at 23.'
And though he has nothing but praise for his fellow students, he understands how they can appear to the outside world.
He adds, 'I love acting but actors can be difficult - I'd probably hate me if I met me.
'Everyone is at a place like that because they have a desire to perform, 99% of the people are extremely gifted and there is 1% 'jazz hands'. I like to put that 1% down to exuberance.'
As a training ground for the stage, Rada was the perfect starting point for the actor, but it is on film and television that he has made a name for himself - a very different medium. It was a bit of a culture shock when he left the confines of London to take on his first role opposite Brad Pitt and Eric Bana in Troy.
Getting the job seemed quite simple. Built like a gladiator and measuring in at 6ft 4ins he was surely made for the part.
'I didn't really know anything about it,' he says, 'but thought they would need some big guys so I said [to my agent] 'do you think there is anything in it for me?".
After meeting the casting director he was then sent to meet director Wolfgang Petersen. London traffic made him more than an hour and a half late and the director was just heading off to get some soup, something he was obsessed with.
Breaking into his German impression of Wolfgang he says, 'He told me to 'Grow your hair to your ass and I'll see you in Malta'.'
There was a little bit more to the interview process but before Owain could really think about it he was off and on the set of a blockbuster movie, his first official acting job.
He says, 'I arrived on a set that was two miles long and was like 'wow'. It was almost like watching someone else doing it. The first day of filming 200 people were on set and I was almost unable to speak.
'Then Brad Pitt injured himself and was out for two months and nothing happened for ages. When I did the fight scene [as Lysander] with Brad Pitt two armies just ran at each other. How we did it safely, I don't know.'
If onscreen was all wait, wait, wait, fight, then off screen was characterised by surreal bonding moments with Brad Pitt, like sitting in his trailer listening to his Ali G impression.
Troy got Owain noticed and pushed him out to America. Without even the basics, like a bank account, the actor headed abroad and has made LA his second home with the backing of his family.
'At first they asked 'what are you doing? Don't waste a great education'. But more and more my dad came around to it and now he says, 'my son, the actor'.'
In addition to a small part in comedy Beerfest (he had to sit and watch while his original role was given to someone else due to a mix-up in visas) television has been the making of the actor.
While his performances have got him noticed by audiences, he also seems to have a way off-screen of making invaluable contacts with the big players in Hollywood.
His stint on Kitchen Confidential ensured that Darren Star was impressed by him, he has a good relationship with Warner Brothers, so much so they were desperate to cast him for a role in The Nine and called him back three different times to find the right fit, and Broken Lizard, the team behind Beerfest, is keen to use him again. The actor has even become firm friends with his agent and invited him to his wedding.
Television shows and pundits talk about the X Factor, that indefinable quality, but Owain has a likeability factor. On first acquaintance, he is warm, open, engaging, protective and funny. Traits that when mixed with his talent and grounded nature can do him no harm and ensure he stands out in a world filled with phoneys but focused on the power of personality.
And those qualities are extended to, seemingly, everyone. When we first talk he spends an eon on the phone, abandoning his moving day to speak to me. Then when we meet face-to-face a few days after Christmas, Owain has left his family and wife in Chepstow, abandoning his brief vacation, to come into Cardiff, pose for pictures and have a catch up over coffee.
Dressed in combats, a simple white shirt and black blazer he exudes the air of relaxed confidence. His platinum wedding ring is clear to see on his left hand and it is offset by a platinum interlocking bracelet, watch and silver chain.
There is nothing starry about the actor who could, if he wanted, spend half his spare time going to showbiz parties and blagging free stuff.
He jokes that our photo shoot was the least trouble he has ever had - the norm being an entourage of stylists, publicists and assistants. While he can be at ease in that world sometimes, there are plainly areas of the celebrity excess that he cannot fully embrace.
'I'm terrible. I am not at ease with free stuff. Maybe it's the Welsh in me. My dad always said there was no such thing as a free lunch.
'I always joke with friends that there comes a point where you can finally afford luxury things and then people give them to you for free. But the whole swag culture is weird. I have two female friends on The Nine and you know when they have been out at a function as their trailer is filled with new things.
'People have different degrees of comfort with it.'
It seems that Lucy has a similar idea, which will surely make for matrimonial harmony. The last thing someone abstaining from free swag needs is their other half waving gifts of Swarovski crystals under their noses.
'For me the gift is the work and Lucy is exactly the same. That's just not our thing. We feel very blessed to be working - I don't think there's a day goes by that for me isn't a gift. I am not interested in becoming a celebrity or being famous for the sake of it. I prefer it if people like my work, I spent a lot of time banking [before turning to acting] and even if I was the best banker in the world no-one would really know about it.'
While he gave up on the banking world a long time ago and forfeited the chance to discover whether he could attain the plaudit of the world's best banker, he is keen to get working to make sure his acting reaches such high standards.
And that includes trying everything. With The Nine he has mastered the American accent and he has proved himself adept at serious drama and comedy.
He says, 'Comedy is a more natural fit for me. I enjoy making people laugh but I want to try everything.
Edward Norton is a huge hero of mine and that ability to change roles, to me, is what acting is all about.'
It's with this in mind that he will have just finished his first action role, playing a terminator - or Cromartie to invoke the technical name - in the Sarah Connor Chronicles.
'A big part of my career could be action films.
'I have the opportunity to die four times in this and also pick up my own head at the end of it.
'I'm very excited about it all as I will get to play with guns and prosthetics. How many people can do that?'
While other actors seem driven by the glory or the money, Owain, it seems, just wants to learn and improve.
As he heads back to Hollywood, with his beloved wife by his side and a bunch of Welsh mentors to support him, he's in the right place to do it.
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Feb 17, 2007|
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