An Interview With "Christy" Star Stewart Finlay-McLennan
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Stewart Finlay-McLennan (Christy, National Treasure) was kind enough to give an interview with The Postmodern Journal Team this past week! Keep reading below to read our discussion about his roles in Christy, National Treasure, and his current work as a winemaker.
Are there any aspects of or scenes from the Christy novel that you wish would have been included in the series?
"No. I read the book much later than getting the role. I didn’t want it affecting my relationship with the script. The show differed quite a lot from the book in some of the directions it took. I thought Pat Green did an amazing job adapting and recreating the essence of the book’s characters and story for the screen."
As the character of Neil, what was your favorite aspect of the role? Is there any part of his character you would have liked to see changed and/or touched on more?
"I would’ve liked to see him in a spin-off! No changes [otherwise]; I fit him and he fit me."
Do you still keep in contact with the other cast members?
"I’ve visited Mike 'Birdseye' Hickman in Townsend where the original series was shot, and Dale 'Opal' Dickey is a dear friend as is Andy 'Tom' Stahl."
Was it a big adjustment filming the Christy movies, taking into account the different cast of actors and the gap between the series' ending and the film's beginning?
"It was difficult. Canada isn’t The Smokies. I was, however, most interested in getting the arc of Neil completed. I actually had to re-audition for the role, and that was probably the most difficult day I’d had as an actor up until then. That’s the part of show business that takes the greatest toll: playing the part you are trained for. Coping with producers' egos, directors' whims, and various other industry machinations create a whole other matrix through which you have to navigate to work. The cast was great, and it was so wonderful to be back playing a character I loved, and the Canadians were just amazing to work with."
What was it like moving from a series like Christy to a major blockbuster film like National Treasure?
"Well, firstly, it definitely wasn’t like one day to the next. That said, Treasure was shot primarily on location and was a great literal American history lesson for me, just as Christy became in my understanding of Appalachian culture. It was difficult trying to craft a semblance of a character in Treasure from very little script time. My responsibilities, therefore, were much less trying as an actor, though oddly many see my performance in that movie and think it’s the sum total of my work.
Don’t get me wrong; it was an amazing experience, but my "Scottish Eeyore", as I call my character Powell in that film, was hardly a stretch and definitely no MacNeill or, for that matter, most of the roles I’ve played.
However, as they say, 'There are no small roles, just small actors.' I think that quote came from an actor who never had the great good fortune to land some great parts.
Put it this way: when you train long and hard to be a racehorse, it’s both difficult to trot when others are galloping or, in many cases, not be in the race altogether.
That said, all successful plays, movies, and TV depend on an 'ensemble' of actors. Understanding and playing your part in that ensemble is about servicing the project no matter how large or small your role."
Of all your projects in film, which role did you enjoy and cherish the most, and why?
"It would be MacNeill because he’s so conflicted and passionate about everything. I was fortunately given great opportunity to explore that narrative."
Have you ever considered narrating audiobooks?
"Many people have asked me this question. I’ve done a lot of voiceovers throughout my career, but never books. Much has changed in that space, so I’ll never rule it out. However, like many things in show business, there is a great deal of competition in that space, and it would imply getting back into that merry-go-round.
I do have a radio show that I’ve been doing here on a local FM station The Krush 92.5 for about 350 episodes called The Garagiste Show. That’s been a great weekly outlet for me, and, though it’s interview-based, it forces me to put my performing head on. Unfortunately, like many things currently, that show is on hiatus because of COVID. There are shows you can listen to on their website archives if you are interested, and I’m looking to podcast that whole series hopefully in the not too distant future."
Since you've been running your winery, Sharpei Moon Wines, which aspect of the business have you enjoyed the most, and what has been the biggest challenge?
"Making wine is always extremely challenging. Selling wine even more so. People drinking, enjoying, and sharing your wine with lovers, family, and friends is always my greatest reward."
Did you get into winemaking after or during your time on the show, and what was it that made you want to get into it?
"I’ve always enjoyed wine, but it was after the initial run of the show that I became interested in making wine. I originally formed Brothers of the Barrel in the nineties with seven other gentlemen. We were a group of guys from different professions who met at our collective kids' school. We decided to try our hand at winemaking because one of our members had a new vineyard and needed help along with our region Paso Robles becoming a major player in California wine. It was after starting the Garagiste Festival in 2011 that I decided to become a professional. My first vintage was 2013, and I was encouraged by the high scores my wines received by Wine Enthusiast, 94 for my Syrah and 93 for my Cabernet to continue. My wines now are predominantly made 100% whole cluster, which is a technique I’ve worked very hard to master. I won’t bore you with details, but it’s a technique that very few larger wineries can manage, so perfect for a small winery like ours."
Which of your wines do you recommend to first-time customers, and why?
"I recommend the Cab/Syrah blend because it's unique. Everyone is different when it comes to palate, so it always varies. One gets one’s wine education OGAAT, or One Glass At A Time."
For all of the Christy fans reading this interview, what do you take away from your time spent on the series? Is there any advice you'd give to our readers who would like to pursue a similar path as an actor?
"That I got to meet and work with so many talented people across every aspect of filmmaking in beautiful locations. There simply are no similar paths as an actor; everyone creates their own. Much of what you can’t control you must learn to let go of early. Don’t take things personally; otherwise, you give others power over you. Train, do your homework, and seek those who can truly teach you to be a professional. The late great Wynn Handman, NYC (passed this year) was a great mentor, teacher, and believer in me. I was so fortunate to be a student of his.
Remember, 'It’s What’s Behind The Eyes That Counts.' All the rest is just a mask without a soul."
Everyone at The Postmodern Journal was truly honored to give this interview. For all of our Christy and National Treasure fans, we hope you've enjoyed this insight into the making of these films.
If you'd like to learn more about Stewart McLennan's winery, Sharpei Moon Wines, click here to check it out!