Ian McElhinney knows that without his profile from Game of Thrones, the chances of him working on the other side of the world for the Aussie crime thriller High Country would be next to none.
The 74-year-old Northern Irishman has been acting professionally for more than 40 years, appearing in UK TV staples such as The Bill and Taggart, but he said that his role as Ser Barristan Selmy in 25 episodes of the HBO fantasy hit – and the rise of streaming services around the world – turbocharged his career.
“Game of Thrones was a bit of a game changer,” he said. “Many actors are in the business of working away quite steadily all their lives and 99 per cent of the world knows nothing about them.
Ian McElhinney in a scene from Games of Thrones.
“The difference now with something like Game of Thrones, and certainly the nature of streaming, is that you can be doing something very particular, and particular to your part of the world, and before you know it, it’s got out there somewhere else and is being seen around the world.”
McElhinney jumped at the opportunity to work alongside homegrown stars Leah Purcell, Aaron Pederson and Sara Wiseman in the Binge original series, which began filming in Melbourne last week and will shoot on location in the northeastern Victoria town of Jamieson this month. Also joining the all-star Aussie cast are Linda Cropper (Offspring), Henry Nixon (The Kettering Incident) and Luke McKenzie (Wentworth).
High Country cast members (from left) Sara Wiseman, Leah Purcell and Aaron Pedersen. Picture: Foxtel/Narelle Portanier
McElhinney had visited these shores briefly six years ago when his son was based in Sydney, but was surprised and impressed by the wild, rugged, bushland of Victoria’s high country, which he said was very much at odds with the image of Australia that many foreigners have in their heads.
McElhinney plays a retiring small-town sergeant in the eight-part mystery thriller, who hands over the reins to Leah Purcell’s big city detective as she tries to solve the mystery of five missing persons who have vanished into the wilderness. The spectacular, mysterious and “otherworldly” landscape, said McElhinney, lends the story a very particular atmosphere and a sense of danger and menace.
Northern Irish actor Ian McElhinney – of Game of Thrones and Derry Girls fame – is filming the Binge thriller High Country in northeast Victoria.
“A lot of us who live elsewhere think of the Outback, and that’s a red desert or whatever,” he said. “We’re in a really lush, deeply, densely-forested part of the country. I have been up there and the ground does slip away pretty dramatically so, once you enter into that bush, God knows where you are going – you could be dropping 100 feet before you know it.
“There’s a magic and an eeriness about that landscape … it’s an otherworldly place and you are wondering what role that landscape plays in some of the events that have taken place there.”
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McElhinney says that up until a few years ago, he was most often recognised in the streets for his role in Game of Thrones, but that has since been replaced by Granda Joe, who he played for three seasons of the Northern Irish sit-com Derry Girls, which screens here on Netflix. Like GoT, he had no idea of just how big it would become around the word, particularly given the thick Northern Irish accents that forced many fans to watch it with subtitles on.
“It turned out to be one of those jobs where you didn’t necessarily have that expectation from and it came to be a real little gem,” he said. “It’s a lovely funny show but it also has a lot of heart and I think people found it kind of informative about the strange little place that I come from.”
Originally published as Ian McElhinney thrilled GoT led him to thriller in ‘otherworldly’ Victoria
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