61st Montecarlo Television Festival: in conversation with Ricky Whittle

We met with Ricky Whittle just a few days after the huge Twitter campaign with the hashtag #finishthestory about the sudden cancellation of the show American Gods. Who we had in front was a brand new Ricky, halfway between Neymar and Lewis Hamilton in a wonderful grey outfit. After a few words about style and the uncertainty surrounding American Gods‘ destiny, we change the subject moving on to something more personal.

You have to spend a lot of time in the US… How does it feel to be an English man in the US?

“It depends. It’s funny because when you have an English accent in America, it’s like having superpowers. People think you are royalty and that you know, Prince William and Prince Harry and they think you’re more intelligent and they listen to what you say. And even if you say bad things, they think it’s so wonderful because you say it in such a lovely way. So as I’m cheeky, I love having fun and I use my accent, for evil jokes.”

But you have a peculiar accent…

“Busted. I never had one accent because my dad was in the Royal Air Force so every three years my dad would move to different bases around the world. I spent most of my time in Northern Ireland so I used to talk like an Irish boy at 21. I used to go back to visit my grandma in Manchester. She’d be like, why do you talk like this? Grandma, what are you talking about? This is my voice. And she’s like, no, you’re from Manchester. Don’t talk like that. But my voice changes wherever I go. So because we always travelled, my voice got mixed up, but that helped me as an actor. So my whole life I’ve moved around and made friends and connected with people, and then I’ve moved and made friends and connected with new people from different countries, different cultures, races, religions and everything. So I’ve learned to adapt all the time. Now I’m in a job where you’re constantly moving and meeting new people. So it put me in a very good kind of position where I’m very comfortable talking to different genders and racism, religions, and nationalities. It makes me very lucky. It made me very open to everyone. And when I live in a place like America where it’s very closed off and they have problems with race, religion, the LGBTQ, it really frustrates me because I’ve travelled the world. Most Americans haven’t travelled, but I’m so lucky to have travelled the world, seen all these different races, religions, cultures, and nationalities, and seen the beauty in every single one where I’m just like, everyone is fantastic. Everyone is wonderful. Everyone has their own struggle, but it’s the same struggle. You know, you are in France, but you still have the same struggles that I have in England and that they have in America. We all have the same names. It’s just Americans make it so much more difficult. Even with what I’m wearing right now, fashion is the second biggest pollution source in the world. And what I’ve been wearing for this festival is Claudia Signature Monte-Carlo which is basically recycled fabrics. I’m wearing recycled. It’s a beautiful suit. It’s very light and comfortable and smooth. It’s wonderful. But all the suits I’ve been wearing at this festival are recycled plastic. Petroleum is the biggest pollution, the earth has. But the second is fashion. And this designer who is local in Monaco, Montecarlo, has found a way of reusing these natural resources of this waste, this trash that we use, that we put throw into the seas. I’m still learning about it myself because the world needs to understand that there are ways that we can help. We can’t change the world but we can help. We need to stop using all these fuels. We need to stop polluting the oceans because we need the sea. We need, we need air. We need to stop cutting down rainforests. And so this has been a wonderful experience where I’ve been able to kind of educate myself and raise awareness that fashion also doesn’t have to be disruptive to the planet. We really can make a difference. And this it’s just baby steps. Every long journey starts with a little step and it’s a big journey. But I’m taking a step and you could take a step and there are different ways we can help. And so it’s been a great honour to partner with this company and raise awareness because the festival’s been very much about sustainable energy and things this year, very much about the economy. I think that it’s also easier when you are open to the world. And we are lucky to have social media where we can reach a lot more people. So I can’t change the world, but I have, you know, million, a million followers and I can speak to those people and maybe a hundred people start to wear recycled clothing, or they recycle bottles or they reduce the carbon footprint somehow. That’s changed the world a little bit. And, if you have some of your followers and if everyone has a percentage of people that they can educate and raise awareness, we can all kind of help make the world a little bit of a better place.”

Why did you define yourself as cheeky?

“Cheeky, because I love life and life for me, is fun. And I think we concentrate on making life too hard. You know? We are too worried about what everyone else thinks when we should just be happy to be ourselves. We shouldn’t compare our lives to anyone else. Your life is one. My life’s completely different from yours but both are unique. We should all focus on ourselves and on our own happiness. And my happiness comes from just loving life. Focusing on the good, not on the bad things we all have. My life is great. I’m here in Monte Carlo at the TV festival, which is my favourite one. I’m sunbathing. I’m eating beautiful fruit. I’m meeting incredible superstars in front of the camera, behind the camera. But that’s just the highlights, you know, that the fans see on my social media, my Instagram, the highlights of my life. You don’t see me when I’m tired and exhausted or sad or when something bad has happened to me because I don’t post that. But it still happens. So I know that my life isn’t perfect and I have lots of bad moments, but I focus on the good ones. If people see you having fun and being positive, maybe if you are having a bad day, it might just make your day a little bit brighter. So I try to do that and be cheeky and try and have fun. And if people see me having fun, maybe they start to have fun with me even if they feel under the weather.”

So, what makes you really, really, really happy?

“Too many things. So many things. One thing is very boring: I love to stay home and watch TV, on my sofa, with the puppy, my own food, and my own drink because when you work you are so busy so when you go home and you have that time to relax, you should cherish it because you don’t know when you’re next gonna go off for seven months and go filming for seven months in a different country. And you might not see, your friends or your partner or your family again, for so long. So you have to really cherish those quiet moments and enjoy them. Don’t think, oh, this is boring, or I wish I was doing something. You should enjoy every moment because you don’t know what’s coming next. So I enjoy that. Then I love going to the movies now that we’re starting to manage the pandemic, with vaccinations and social distancing and everyone’s kind of taking it seriously. I like to go back to the movies. And I watch sports, especially football. So it’s just normal things. I used to do crazy things, but the studios stopped me. I used to skydive. I used to race motorcycles and things like that, but I’m not allowed to. The studio won’t let me. So I have to do normal things, like going to the movies and horse riding. I have a new project coming up that I’ve been training for. So I’ve been riding horses, for a long time now. I only work out cause my diet because I eat like a child. My diet is meat and candy. I love pizza, burgers, and fries. I hate vegetables. I hate fruit. I don’t eat seafood. I eat like a child so I have to go to the gym. Otherwise, I would be huge. So that’s why I train.”

And when you have a bad day, where do you find positivity? Inside you? Or do you need something from the outside?

“Everyone is different, and I will never judge anyone else’s journey because we’re all going through our own things. But for me, there are different things. You should never attach your happiness to something you can lose. So for example to a person. Don’t rely on a person to make you happy or a thing to make you happy. Because the person can leave and the thing can be lost. And then what do you do? You can’t find your happiness anymore. So you have to find something that cannot be taken. You know, your happiness has to come from inside: music, films, tv, memories, experiences, and nature. I love to go to the beach and I sit there with my dog and watch my dog just run around crazy. I just watch the sunsets or the ocean or my house has a beautiful view, and I just sit there and look at nature, look at the trees. No one can take that from me. That’s my happiness. And all the bad things kind of fade away. And I let mother nature take me, and I just relax and I breathe the air because we’re very lucky to be here and living. Some people didn’t wake up this morning. And here I am living with nature and it’s beautiful. Spending time with family or friends is nice as well. But I try to make sure that my happiness isn’t attached to something that I can lose. That’s very important for me.

How is your relationship with fame?

“When I started acting I wanted to be famous because you don’t know what famous really means. Kids nowadays, they wanna be famous on TikTok, they don’t want to be a famous pilot or a famous musician or an actor. They want to be famous for nothing. You don’t understand what fame is. It’s not attractive. It’s not fun. It’s a myth. You think you want to be famous, so that’s why you see a lot of people producing because you realize you can actually make more money behind the camera, and you don’t have all the problems of fame. So, you know, when you’re famous, you can’t have a bad day. You can’t be upset. Something happened at home or personally and someone meets you in the street. You can’t say no to a photo. You can’t be in your world and be sad because that person may say negative things. They might say, oh, he’s terrible. He was so angry or so miserable, but they don’t know what I’m going through. But they’ll post it and that becomes a rumour. And all of a sudden you’re a miserable actor. And it’s like, no, I just had a bad day. You don’t know my journey. So when you’re famous, you almost have to be so fake. Women shouldn’t have to wear makeup all the time, and they shouldn’t have to dress up every day. Women should wear whatever they want but the industry doesn’t allow you when you’re famous, the social media is so toxic sometimes that they’re so negative about people’s looks. And if you’re not a hundred per cent all the time, they come at you. So there’s always someone watching. Yeah. There’s always someone watching and someone judging. But also, again, we have such a huge responsibility to let people know that it’s not real. You know, like I said before, the world is a highlight, especially social media. I was on the front cover of Men’s Health and I was ripped, I was shredded, I looked, you know, our egos, I looked incredible. It’s the best I’ve ever looked. But also, when I posted the picture on my Instagram, I also posted that this is not who I am. I don’t look like this all the time. This is only how I looked for a day. Because it involved me dieting a certain way, dehydrating my body, starving my body, making water for a couple of days, and all these different things and all these techniques so that I looked great and like that for a very short amount of time. So no one should ever aspire to look like me in that picture, cuz that’s not me. And I think that’s important, especially for women and young girls. They need to be educated more that, you know, these girls don’t look like this all the time. And it’s okay to look however you look. When people talk about, well, you know, when people talk about the, the bikini body, I’m getting my bikini. Everybody is a bikini body. You don’t need to get a bikini body for the summer. Whatever bikini you’re wearing, that’s your bikini body. That’s perfect. It’s beautiful. Your bikini body is perfect. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t have to be a size this, a size that it’s whatever size you are, you just want a bikini. So the industry needs to stop projecting this fake life and these fake goals because we don’t live there. Fake news. But if you are gonna do it and you’re gonna have surgery and you’re gonna do certain things, just let young boys and girls know that this is surgery. When I see people advertising chewing gum because it improves my jawline. No, it’s not. Your surgeon improves your jawline. But so it’s just honesty, about being open. It’s okay to have surgery. It’s okay, to have fake hair extensions, eye colour, you know, fake teeth, all these different things. But just make sure that the young generation is aware of it because they’re aspiring to goals that can’t be met. And it’s impossible. And that’s what causes a lot of mental issues because they feel they’re not good enough. And everyone is good enough. Everyone’s an individual. And again, that goes back to me making sure that you are happy with yourself. The problem is especially with this teen generation. They don’t live in the moment either. So you’re at a concert but all you’re doing is being behind a screen, not living in the moment. Even today, I just did an interview. I did a family meet and greet, and all the fans were like this. (shows the phone in the act of taking pictures and filming ) and I’m like, put your phones down. Enjoy the moment, I really hate this because, when I was younger, I used to go to concerts. You just listen and watch the concert. And now they’re like this. You are not watching the concert. You’re not watching watch the performance. Maybe it’s my age, I don’t know. But it’s really something that I don’t understand why you have to show everything about your life on social media. In there, I show the world what they think they want to see. And I keep a lot of it to myself because you need to keep something special. For example, I keep my partners, my nieces and nephews and my pets to myself. That’s my thing. And I give the world everything else. You always have to keep something to yourself and know that it’s, it’s all a game. Don’t take anything seriously. So it doesn’t matter what they say, when people comment, it doesn’t matter. Don’t let someone who doesn’t know you change your world. They don’t know you. They don’t know your journey. So don’t let these trolls in.”


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