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Philip Glenister: 'He is a soldier of God who drinks and gambles'

From foul-mouthed detective to whisky-swilling Deep South reverend, Philip Glenister's latest role is quite a change. But that's the joy of being an actor, the father-of-two tells Gemma Dunn

He's a household name, best-known for playing DCI Gene Hunt in the successful Life on Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes, but it'll take more than a BBC One drama series to impress Philip Glenister's kids.

"No, it's just dad goes to work," he says, chuckling at his daughters' lack of excitement over his day job. "I was on the cover of The Richmond Magazine this month and my eldest, Millie, was like, 'oh, dad, it's so embarrassing'."

But it looks like his girls - he and wife Beth Goddard have two daughters, Millie (14) and 11-year-old Charlotte - will have to bury their heads for a little longer, as Glenister is about to star in Fox's latest cushion-grabbing horror, Outcast.

Based on the comics of the same name, by The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman, the 10-parter follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit of Gone Girl fame), a young man who has been plagued by demonic possession all his life. With the help of Reverend Anderson (Glenister), a country preacher with demons of his own, he embarks on a journey to find answers.

"I've always liked that element of being scared, especially when I was a kid," Glenister (53) says of his appreciation for the horror genre.

"I remember the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang scared the s*** out of me. And to this day. I watch it now with Charlotte and she's like, 'Oh my God!' Sometimes, I creep up on her and go, 'Children ...'"

His whisky-swilling Outcast character, however, is on a mission to weed out sin - all while battling personal struggles.

"He's a very complex man," he says of the Georgia preacher. "The drinking, smoking and gambling is just an element; he sees himself as a soldier of God, but inside he's a broken man and in denial. So, there are a lot of issues, which is fun to explore for an actor.

"It's character-driven and you want to go on this journey. When you do see gratuitous moments, like an exorcism for instance, it's been earned, in a way. It's there for a reason."

Also part of the appeal was the chance to perfect a Deep South accent.

"I loved it," he enthuses, giving me a rendition in the hotel room, and confessing to having kept it going between takes.

"There was one time when I was in a supermarket with Charlotte and Millie, and I said, 'girls shall we all be American?' So we were wandering around the aisles and we saw Beth getting something. I said, 'Now!', and together they shouted, 'mom, mom!' It was very funny."

Is this a sign they could follow in his performing footsteps?

"Hopefully not!" Glenister responds, head in hands. "No, I don't know. It's early doors and I don't know what they'll want to do. They just need to get their education first and they'll be their own people. As long as they're strong, independent and have a voice."

He beams as he recalls the girls visiting him in the US for a month during school holidays, while he was out there filming. Does he find it hard being away from home and family?

"It's the hardest aspect of the job, being away for long periods," he states. "But it's part of the deal."

In what is set to be an exciting first, Fox Networks Group Europe and Africa is launching Outcast in 61 countries via online service Facebook Live - a move Glenister supports, though he admits he's "not all that good with technology" himself.

"I'm very old-school in that respect," he exclaims, saying he prefers to switch off and embrace everyday life when he's not working.

"I don't really have time to go on social media - and ignorance is bliss. I don't want to know what people think, or say, about me."

Having worked in the industry for 25 years, the Middlesex-born star - whose father is director John Glenister and brother is actor Robert Glenister - is well within his rights to comment on the current issue of diversity and Government intervention at the BBC.

"Everyone talks about the diversity thing, but what's been slightly forgotten is there are a lot of actors - particularly actresses of a certain age - who struggle to find work, because there aren't the parts.

"It seems like people are missing a trick, because they bring an awful lot of wisdom and experience and there's some good stories to be told with a certain group.

He does agree that he's been offered more "interesting" roles as he's matured, however.

"You go through this stage when you start playing dads and you think, 'oh, God', and then you play granddads and you think, 'now, this is just taking the p***!' And then you start playing American reverends."

While he insists he's "brilliant at being lazy" and enjoys not working in favour of a day on the golf course, the seasoned actor does rather like not knowing where his profession will take him next.

Mind you, if you're asking him for suggestions ...

"I would like to do more comedy - good, grown-up comedy. And I'd like to do some more stuff in America. I'd love to do a couple of movies. That would be nice. I'm not expecting to be the lead, but a nice supporting role with Clooney, maybe."

  • Outcast, Fox, Tuesday, 10pm

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