Behind the Scenes with Philip Winchester, Part I

Welcome to the next in our series of conversations with Philip Winchester! By request, we focused mainly on life outside of acting this time with the goal of answering many of the questions you’ve all asked over time. Hopefully this peek into “real life” opens up a bit of Philip’s background and everyday life to help fans better understand what informs his craft. Like all of us, actors are more than their jobs.

Our conversation took place over two phone calls so there was a lot of ground covered! As a result, the piece is being presented in three parts, again in transcript format. It’s not necessary to have read our previous conversations but you can find them all here on the Strike Back Crib blog page. I would encourage you to read them at some point since they offer even more insight into the actor and some of the answers to questions submitted can be found in earlier pieces.

Part I focuses mainly on Philip’s early life. It concludes with a bit of insight into meeting his future wife and starting a family which is what Part II will focus on. Part III will feature some more quick fire questions as well as a bit of discussion in general. Keep an eye out for the questions you submitted throughout the conversation!

As always, deep gratitude to Philip for his generosity and openness; we are a very fortunate fandom!

When in doubt, assume we are laughing!  Deb

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After exchanging greetings and catching up in general, we jumped right into the mission at hand:

What was your first thought when I told you that they wanted to hear about you personally?

Initially my response was “Really? They want to know that stuff?” [laughing] But, I know myself, when I get on a plane, or pick up a magazine and I read something about an actor or anyone who I admire, I always find it really… “entertaining” is not the right word, I find it a satisfying read when it is a little bit about who they are, and what makes these people human.

Exactly. It can be easy to forget that actors, especially high profile actors, are not the characters they play. I’ve gotten some really nice feedback on our previous conversations that they’ve helped people to appreciate you outside of your roles.      

Yeah, I mean not that people think I’m anything but human [laughing] but, if we can help shine more of a light on it, that’d be great. And going back to what you just mentioned, I think that, possibly to my detriment, maybe it’s not so much that I’m not a huge fan of social media, but I think I’m incredibly private. I’m digging around in that stuff, trying to figure out why that is. But I do appreciate that social media, particularly the direction that you’ve taken the fan page, really does allow an audience on a bigger scale to learn about people.

Thank you! That’s my goal so that means the world to me. Now, let’s back up a little bit. You grew up in Montana — your mom’s British, your dad’s American – that seems to really surprise some people. [laughing] How did that come about?

My mom was a registered nurse, and she was working for a family in Trinity Bridgers, Montana. She was working as a house nurse to a young man who had been hit by a drunk driver – his name was Clint Winchester – and she was working for the Winchester family at the Winchester Black Angus Cattle Ranch. So Clint is my father’s youngest brother.

My father Jay is the middle of five brothers to Dwight and June Winchester. He was working on the ranch with his dad, and helping out with Clint, helping out with the house. He came in one day and there’s this nurse taking care of his brother, and he’s like, “Hey!” [laughing] And she’s got this great accent, and she’s beautiful, she’s an English rose! I think one thing led to another and it didn’t take long, it was probably about a year, and they ended up getting married here in Montana.

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So, those two worlds really collided — my mother and her very British background and “Montana.” [laughs] Though, she was raised on a farm, it wasn’t like this really “upper crust, British to-do” thing. She was a worker, you know? She grew up on essentially a British ranch. Her father had horses and cattle and they did haymaking in the summertime, so she knew what hard work was. So, meeting this young guy from Montana, they fell in love, and they got married and that is sort of where the story begins, here in Bozeman. They got married and moved to Belgrade, which is where I was raised.

I was born in Bozeman, Montana, and then raised between Belgrade, Montana and essentially Greater London, the northern part of London in a little town called Radlett.

What are your earliest memories as a child?

That’s a great question. Some of my earliest memories are at my grandparents’ ranch in the Trinity Bridger, on other side of the Bridger Mountain Range. They had this long, asphalt driveway, and I had one of those old-school trikes with the big front wheel. I would put on a Superman costume and I would bomb that trike down that asphalt hill into the gravel on the bottom, and spin out! Or at least it felt like it at three and a half, four years old. [laughs]

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Alex Kane in training.

On the other side of the pond my first memory is that I was kind of left to my own devices a lot of the time. I would put on my Wellies – which are like, field boots. Here in the States they’re like Muck Boots, right?

I’d put my Wellies on, and I would cross one fence and go under an electric wire, because the horses were in that field. Then I went through a big brush full of brambles and berries, walked into “the bottom field” where the farm is, and there was creek that ran through it. I had a little bamboo net. It was a bamboo pole, and a bit of wire, and some cheesecloth. I would catch minnows in the creek and put them in a Mason jar. That was it, that was paradise. Those are my first memories here in the States, and then over in England.

I think we had very similar childhoods. [laughing]

I wouldn’t trade it for the world, it was amazing!

Exactly! I grew up here in New York. My town, it’s so small we’ve only got one red light.  I’ve lived in big cities, and I’ve lived all over the country, but ultimately we all end up coming back to our little one-red-light town.

Isn’t it funny?

Where kids still get to do that, to have that freedom.

That’s right. There is something human and necessary about all that.

Yeah, I agree. It’s how kids learned responsibility, and learned how to take care of themselves. Sadly most kids don’t get to do that anymore, to have that level of freedom.

Yeah, that’s right. And that’s the hardest thing for me personally, being a parent, is the letting go. Like, when you see the impending injury coming and you let it happen. You let it unfold, because hopefully it’s not going to be too bad. Like yesterday, my daughter was riding her bike around the backyard. We have a little bit of sidewalk and a little bit of grass, and I could see she was taking this corner too fast. I gave her a couple of warnings, and then it was up to her.  And of course, she binned it. [chuckling] But you gotta let ’em do it. You gotta let ’em skin their knees and learn. But, ugh, it’s hard as a parent. Man, it’s tough.

Oh, especially when they start crying. [sighing]

Oh, I know, oh. [shuddering]

So you’re the older brother, correct?

That’s correct, yeah. I have a younger brother named Ian and we’re seven years apart.

Ooh, that’s quite an age difference.

Yeah, it was. He [was born in] 1988.

Tell me about you as a big brother.

[laughing]  We were so far apart growing up but I remember having these huge Nerf tournaments. When we were younger, they didn’t have the Nerf stuff that they have now, which is just incredible. This [Nerf] artillery that they have now shoots, like 1,000 darts in 10 seconds!

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Nerf wars Winchester style

Exactly! We actually had to throw them. [laughing]

Yeah, that’s right, we had to throw them! [laughing] We had the Nerf bow and arrow, and we had this thing called the Master Blaster. It shot these golf ball sized foam balls. I remember just standing on either side of the hallway and having these big tournaments where we would shoot at each other. It was basically playing war. Like, if you got shot in the arm, you lost the use of that [arm], or if you got shot in the leg, you had to hop around, and so we really enjoyed that. [laughing]

But I don’t think I was the best big brother because I just wasn’t around much. I think that I was involved with friends and going out. He was so much younger than me. Right up until I started coming back from drama school and from London for holidays, did I realize that he had become a young man.  He certainly had his own opinions, his own talents, his own desires and things like that. So that was really interesting.

I remember one Christmas in particular, coming back and I think he had been playing the guitar for about a year. I was talking to him about a song I liked, a Coldplay song and he was like, “Oh, it goes like this.” He just hummed it and played it, picked it out on his guitar.  And I thought, “Wow, I hate you, you’re so talented!” [laughing]  He’s just incredibly gifted. He now lives just outside of Belgrade. He’s married and has three kids of his own. He’s a great father and a really neat guy.

So you two really only got to know each other more as adults.

We did get to know each other as adults, yeah. As kids it didn’t make sense. I just wasn’t around for that.

Tell me more about when you were really young. Is that when your dad was bringing you to theater at night? What are your first memories of that?

It was when I was really young. My mother worked at a nursing home here in Bozeman. My father was going to Montana State University and he was washing dishes at a restaurant called The Apple Tree. To make ends meet, right? We were living in a mobile home, in a trailer court just east of Bear’s Truck Stop. Now it’s all booming there. [laughing]

My mother, working nights, she slept in the day when I would go to school. She would pick me up after school, we would go home for a little bit while she would get ready and then we would go to the nursing home probably at 5 or 6 in the evening. I would sit in the lobby of the nursing home, and I met some of the elders, some of the patients. I knew some of the nurses, and I would play with my dinosaur.  I had an Ankylosaurus dinosaur and a caveman that I got for getting good grades on a report card. I would play with that for hours and hours.”

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Even his Ankylosaurus was a badass

When Dad was done with his shift at The Apple Tree, he would come and pick me up, and we would go back home. There were some evenings when he didn’t have work but he was rehearsing plays, so Mom would drop me off at the theater. This was Montana State University, MSU – they had a theater called the Strand Union Theater, and it had this wonderfully quirky back entrance.

There was a big garage door on the ground floor where you could pull props in and out. They had a theatre group there called the Underground Theatre. There was a spiral staircase that wrapped its way up into the workshop that was behind the stage and then you walked onto the stage, this lovely proscenium arch stage and theater. My memories of that are of like the smell of the paint, and the smell of the plywood, and the lighting, and all the names on the back of the stage, in the back of the flats that were behind the stage of the people who would come through.

I remember specifically sitting in the dressing room for dress rehearsals and performances, watching all these guys and gals get ready. I remember the smell of the oil stick makeup, I think the Ben Nye makeup, [laughing] the smell of the oil stick makeup as they put it on. And then walking upstairs and watching people get ready — putting headphones on and listening to music, or doing vocal warm-ups and physical warm-ups. I would have to hide backstage when they would go do the show.

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Classic Ben Nye stage makeup kit. There is no mistaking the smell

You didn’t have TV prompters or anything back then so I just listened from backstage.  I remember being taken in by that community, just naturally. It seemed like it was the most natural thing in the world. These people told stories. They did everything together:  they built the set, they found their costumes, they problem solved — together. Looking back on it now, that’s probably what was so appealing about it. It was this group of people, A. telling stories, and B. they were problem-solving together. They were all looking for the way into the story together.

Because I’ve had this time off right now and I’ve been kind of digging around in my past and asking myself questions like that –  why? I think that’s a big part of it, that there was that group of people working for the good of the show. In my mind as a kid, it wasn’t political. It wasn’t anything but “let’s tell a great story, and let’s get out there and do the stuff.”

 Of course, there was sword fighting some nights [laughing] and I remember my dad directed Zoo Story [by Edward Albee]. At the end of Zoo Story one of the characters is stabbed by the other character, right? It’s just two characters on the stage the whole time, and I was…I was just…I was in absolute shock.

My dad pulled me backstage and he showed me the actor who been stabbed, and he pulled up his shirt and showed me he had a blood pack on. He showed me the knife, and how it [the blade] went into the handle. In that moment I thought, “Okay, that was incredible. How do I get to do that? I want to tell stories and I want to make people feel how I feel right now.” So that probably was the mustard seed that was planted, and little by little it just took hold.

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Good times with a retractable blade!

That actually was a question I had, “Was there one moment?” Or, was it just taking it all in for so long and living it? Was there really that “one moment” that you could remember? Obviously there was.

There definitely was that moment; but, then there would be the wrap parties. I remember going to the wrap parties and hanging out with the actors, and the producers, and the production team, and the stage designer — the family, the community that it takes. Everyone celebrated together, and it was beautiful. And it’s still that way. That’s what’s so beautiful, the stuff you don’t see about a production. Most of the time it’s pretty gorgeous, but it’s a pretty thankless endeavor. When you sit down and look at it, and you think, “How are we going to pull this off?” Yet, somehow it works, just through grit and determination. Yeah.

Yes! When you’re a little kid, it’s all so magical and it all feels so important. You don’t realize it’s just a small production. [laughing]

Yeah, exactly. [chuckling]

Yet, no matter what setting you’re in doing that work, it’s all the same.

Yeah. That’s right.

It all feels that important whether it’s Strike Back or Community Theater. It’s all the same when you get down to that human experience level.

That’s right! I remember, in the three years of drama school, there are a few moments that stick out, and one of them was doing a…it was a little bit of Shakespeare. It was a speech that I was doing with a friend of mine who actually ended up dropping out and becoming a police officer. It was just us. We were rehearsing in this space in London, in Hammersmith called The Emerald Centre, and it was just a complete tip [dump]. Essentially it was an abandoned warehouse. [laughing]

There were often days that we would come in, like on the Monday morning after a weekend, and there had been an illegal rave in there and it was just trashed! [laughing] Stuff everywhere, but we’d sweep stuff to one side and we’d get on with our work. And that was that. [chuckling]

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A little Shakespeare work.

I remember doing that little workshop on Shakespeare with this one other actor, and it being one of the most powerful experiences of drama school, because it was the words. All we had was the words, and this dirty cement floor, and each other. [chuckling]

We sat down and we just said the words. We did that in front of the class, each person did different speeches and showed each other. The whole point of the exercise was “just tell the truth.” Just tell the truth. And that moment was so…it was like a lightbulb went off. I thought, “Wow, it is this hard and this easy to be an actor.”

In Montana were you a good student? Did you earn good grades?

I remember school being entertaining. I don’t remember ever taking it very seriously, especially as a kid. I think I was perfectly average.  I know in high school I was bare minimum, right? [laughing]

Unless I liked it, if I liked it, then that was “let’s go!” But if I didn’t like it, or if I didn’t understand it and I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand it, I was struggling, I found it hard to admit that. It’s interesting, because I can see that in my daughter now and I’m like, “Oh, sweetheart, it’s so much easier just to admit it.” [laughing]  “It’s okay, just say you need help.”[sigh]

I was very fortunate because I had a group of guys growing up, right from third or fourth grade on.  We were just this ragtag group of guys and we’re still best friends to this day. Right through high school we had, not necessarily accountability, but that sense of support going through things. Because, of course, in the group there was the guy who dated an upperclassman first and kind of disappeared for a year, then when they broke up he came back into the group and was like, “Sorry, guys.” [laughing]  There was the guy who tried smoking first, and the guy who kissed a girl first, and the guy who… all those things.  All of those “firsts” with this group of guys.  I was fortunate to have this, again, community.  To have people to speak with, and compare notes with, and admit weaknesses with – which was neat.

Looking back, it was a game changer for me because, for whatever reason, I just was sort of a shitty student. My aptitude toward learning was in direct confrontation with my play. I just wanted to play. I wanted to be outside, I wanted to ski, I wanted to hike, I wanted to play golf, and I wanted to do theater.  I was able to flick a little bit between things.  I was a choir-drama nerd, but also I was active.  So I could kind of hang out with the jocks too, you know what I mean? Not that it mattered. And looking back I’m just like, “Ugh, you idiot! Just get on with it, get on with it. Why did you make it so hard on yourself?” Because at the time, you have no idea. [laughing]

Yes I definitely know. Ugh. [laughing]

I had a thought this morning when I was making some coffee, I thought about my girls getting up to go to school. I talk to young actors and I talk to young people, and I just want to say, “Look, when people say you have your whole life in front of you – they are not kidding. If you’re struggling with school, or whatever it is, and you think, ‘Oh, this is it. I mean, this is it. If I don’t make it through this, it’s over.” That’s just not true.  It’s not.  You have so many options out there.

It helps to do the school, it helps to get through that stuff, but you’re like 18 years old. You’ve got at least another fifty really good active years if you take care of yourself.  That’s a long time. I didn’t sit my GCSDs because I knew I was going to be an actor.  I never did my SATs because I was like, “I’m going to go be an actor.” But looking back on it, it was because I was being lazy. I frickin’ hoped I was going to be an actor; [laughing] but, I didn’t want to study and I didn’t want to put the work in. Which, looking back, is just ridiculous, right?

Having spent years working with college students I also think maybe, “no, that might be a person who just really knows what he wants.” You could take your GRE any time; you don’t have to be 18. We’re never limited to just one thing in life. [Oops, I should have said SAT! You definitely have to take that before you can get to taking the GRE!]

No, totally, and you’re absolutely right.

So if acting didn’t work out, then you just go back and take it then. It’s never too late.

Yeah, exactly. [laughing] It was interesting, my parents were great and it was my mother’s idea, I believe. She said, “If you’re going to be an actor, then you’re going to go train in London.” And I said, probably full of testosterone and a 17 year old’s attitude, I said, “Fine. Let’s go.” And she said, “And you’ll live with my mum.” And I went, “Even better. Let’s go.” And so I graduated, and I flew out two days later.

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I’d totally hang with Philip’s Nan!
Wow!

And never came home again. Never moved back home full-time, right? I would visit but, that was it.

Without even knowing it, I was entering the adult rat race. It was difficult because Montana is such a beautiful place. But when you’re a kid, and especially 20 years ago, it was boring. I thought, “Oh, there’s nothin’ to do here.” I didn’t want to study but it was boring so “I gotta get out!”  But, then you grow up a little bit and you live life a little and, like you said, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to get back.”

[laughing] Exactly! I so know that feeling!

In drama school, again I was just kind of a shitty student. I was a shitty student at drama school too. I remember the first year, I was totally… well, it was the Romeo and Juliet thing. I was in love with my high school sweetheart, with Megan. She was in Montana, and I was in London. We were writing letters to each other every night of the week, and burning through phone cards, because that’s what you did back then. [laughing]  Drama school played second, third, fourth fiddle to all of that.

But somehow again I lucked out and had a really amazing mentor in drama school who was one of the heads of the drama department.  He took me under his wing and said, “Just keep your head down, just keep going.”  It took until that third year, but I’m really grateful for that.

What do you think he saw in you that made him say, “Okay, I’m going to take this kid under my wing and mentor him”? What do you think he saw?

I don’t know.  I’ve asked him that, and his response was something along the lines of, “I could see that you would work. I could see that you wanted it. That all the masquerading that you were doing, underneath all that, there was someone who was going to work. You were going to make it work.”

Looking back, I’m grateful for that, I’m incredibly grateful.  It’s embarrassing to think that I was covering it up so much. Or just didn’t care, maybe it was?  But now after drama school, and after working, and after being so fortunate with project after project, I love learning. That’s the biggest thing about time off, I want to keep learning.

So whether it’s law, or tactics, or languages, or the things that television and theater have taken me into, those things are just so satisfying to me. It’s fun to see how life can come full circle.  Even if you really, truly believe “Oh, I’m stuck with that,” or “I don’t want to do those things,” probably deep down you actually do want to do them. You’re just afraid of failure. And I think that’s probably what it was with me.

You just decided okay, I’m going to play it safe? I’m going to do the minimum; I am not going to let myself be vulnerable. And then what, I’m going to get back to Montana?

Yeah, exactly. I thought, “They’ll probably kick me outta drama school and you know, whatever.” [chuckling] My dad came over to London, and I remember, we walked down to the pub down the road by my grandmother’s house and we had a pint of Guinness. “Look, bud,” he said, “you got a good thing goin’ here. You can leave, and you can come back to Montana, and you can work on the ranch and bag groceries at the supermarket.  Uh, yeah. If you want to do that, you can do that – and your mom and I will support it.”

I was just like, “Huh.  Well, that’s interesting.” [laughing]  Then fast-forward a year later, my dad was over to see the first production that we did in the third year, our first showcase show. We did “The Master and Margarita.”  Ultimately, the agent that I chose to go with, from that play I was offered a meeting with that agent. So it was neat, again full circle.

And just those decisions, as a parent, as someone who’s growing older, I do look at the younger generation and I just think, “Guys, when people say “your choices have consequences,” they fuckin’ mean it.  Just listen to that. Let that soak in a little bit. Because if you only knew, right?” [laughing]  Your choices have consequences and your actions have consequences.  This is not the internet; you cannot blindly troll somebody.  Your real life has ramifications.

Again, there are these huge moments throughout my career, my life, and certainly in my younger days when I was making poor choices and by the grace of God I think, every once in a while someone just stepped in and just bumped the cart back on track. Just little bumps here and there kept it from totally derailing [laughing] over the course of time.

Clearly there had to be that little voice inside your head that at some point was telling you, “Okay, I’m screwin’ up. I need to figure the path back to I want to do.” Were you just discounting that, just trying to hide that from the world? What was that voice saying to you when you were alone and feeling guilty about what was going on?

I think I was probably running away from it most of the time. That’s why when we started doing shows in the third year, I was able to throw myself into the work. I really found solace in that. I found something that, like a lot of actors, it really fills that hole for a while. Of course, it’s only temporary, because anything like that is, right?

Yes, that’s right.

It just is. There’s a hole in our soul that we try to fill with “stuff” all the time; but, ultimately it’s all sort of lacking, really. Right? But I think just through the courage of friends and the power of community, that I finally just said, “What am I doing? You can’t live your life like this. You can’t just be so cavalier about everything. You have to exist and react in the moment, and listen.  Just listen.  Just be still.”

I think the irony is that drama school taught me a lot about the stillness on stage but it also taught me a lot about stillness in my life.  About being with people where they’re at, regardless, it doesn’t matter. Just be with them. And I’m still working on that. I’m working on that all the time. [laughing]

How were you different in school than you were at home? Most kids are very different at home that they are in school…

I was the class clown all through grade school and high school. It’s interesting how it all feeds into ultimately what you’re trying to do. I was the class clown because it felt good. It felt good to make people laugh.  It felt good to get up on the stage and do silly things. It wasn’t technique or it wasn’t theater, it was just being goofy. Right?

Ultimately, obviously there was something I was searching for in all of that, and it was more important, I thought at the time, than what I was there to do, which was the schoolwork. What became the homework was how do I make people laugh? How do I find a good joke? I remember getting joke books at the library and trying to dig through to find jokes that nobody’s heard, trying and remember them, and trying to figure out new twist to them and things like that.

I had a drama teacher in high school who, our freshman year we did The Foreigner [Larry Shue.]. I played the lead character in The Foreigner and that was very physical. It was very funny, very big and gregarious, and a lot of people at school were like, “Hey, good job with the play. It was very funny”.

Then our sophomore year he came to me and said, “We’re going to do Inherit the Wind [Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee]. And I said, “I’m not doin’ it.” He said, “What do you mean ‘you’re not doin’ it?”  I said, “I’m not doin’ it. I don’t want to do a drama. I want to make people laugh.” I remember him… not being very kind, [laughing] but I also remember him saying “So be it. I’ll get someone else.”

I just remember that feeling of “Oh my gosh, did I just make the stupidest decision?” [laughing] Of course it was just a school play, but it was a very big moment in my life.

From that day on, well we didn’t have a relationship so my high school drama career sort of fizzled out after my freshman year. My father came in and directed a play at the school. We got a big group of friends together and we did a play called Black Comedy [Peter Shaffer]. I did productions up at Montana State University, I did little bit parts in plays up there. My senior year I did Grease [Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey] in Livingston at a theater called The Firehouse.  So, I was able to do theater, but that bridge with my teacher in high school was burned, unfortunately. That’s really interesting actually thinking back on that. That’s really interesting.

Have you ever rebuilt that bridge, or that was it?

Interestingly enough, I think I would be very willing to do that. I’ve run into him a few times in town and it’s very clear that he’s not. [laughing]

Oh no! [laughing]

Yeah that’s fine, I’ll let sleeping dogs lie on that one. That’s cool with me.

Did you have a job in high school?

I totally did. My first job, I had a paper route growing up.

Ha! My little brothers had one when we were little…which ultimately meant that I also had one, you know when one was sick or…

Right, exactly. [chuckling]  When I first started, it was after school every day. So I’d get home, there would be a stack of papers in the driveway and I would take them in the house, fold them up, put them in my bag, hop on my bike and deliver the papers in my neighborhood. I think the most I ever had was 70? I had, like, 60, 65, 70 papers at the most. Then I remember it went to mornings, and then it went to mornings seven days a week. I remember, being in high school, that was just, ugh… [laughing]

It was great though, because it taught me grit, you know? No matter the weather, you had to get out and deliver those papers.

Oh yes, no matter what!

That was great. I appreciated that. After I left, after I quit doing the paper route, I worked at a restaurant next to a truck stop called Country Kitchen. I started out as a dishwasher, then I became a host, and then I became a waiter. So I got my waiter credit. [laughing]  Then the restaurant kind of fell into…something happened and I think they may have started just laying people off. That job lasted about a year. The longest job I had was I worked as a bag boy at an IGA in Belgrade. My high school job was working as a bag boy.

“Would you like paper or plastic?” That was my gift. [laughing]

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Yeah, but, you know, you got to meet all of the movers and shakers on a weekly basis, so…

[laughing] I totally did! It was great. I loved it. I was working … I wasn’t digging holes, but I was filling bags. I got to go outside every few of minutes, you know? I wasn’t standing inside looking at a computer, or doing things like that. I really dug it, and I worked with really fun people. To this day, I can walk into IGA and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” Which is really neat.

Well, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that my mother’s whole side of the family were restaurant people. So I grew up in restaurants. I love waiting tables, absolutely love it.

Oh man, it’s a lifestyle though, right? If you’re a restaurateur, it’s a lifestyle. It’s like being a pub owner. It’s just your life.

Yeah, it is. It is. You notice I do not do that anymore, but, if I have to fill in or help out I love it. It’s really like you’re doing a performance the whole time that you’re there, because you have to be so many different people to the different types of customers who come in. It’s pretty fun.

Yeah, that’s true. There is definitely an element of performance and switching on and switching off when you do it.

Yeah, exactly, and it’s really nice, good, hard work, you know?

I remember that to this day. So often with shows you’ll have a big cast dinner or a big party somewhere and you’ve got tons of waiters and servers walking around doing things. I’ve never forgotten how brutal that is, how much just capacity it takes. It just takes so much out of you.

Yeah, it does. . People treat wait staff like anybody can do it, until they try to do it. Then they realize “uh, this is really hard!”

You cannot be a good server, a good waiter or waitress and be stupid. [laughing]

No. No, no. You can’t. You don’t last long. [laughing] It’s really not easy and I never forget that.  Much respect.

Okay let’s switch it up a bit. You’ve said that Megan was your high school sweetheart. How did you meet?

Her brother Matt and I are the same age, his birthday’s in March as well. He’s been my best friend since third grade, so I grew up around his family so I’ve just always known Megan. It’s funny; we had this thing in Belgrade called The Fall Festival. I can remember riding my BMX over to Matt’s house, makin’ sure my baseball card was makin’ the right motorbike noise on the back spoke. [laughing] Nah, I don’t think I was that dorky at that age, ha!

Anyway, I rode my bike over there and knocked on the door and Megan answered. “Hey, is Matt home?” She’s like, “Yeah. Let me go get him.” And, I don’t know what…something about that moment, something about her, I don’t know what it was, but I was like, “Hey!” [laughing] Again, a little seed was planted.

FB_IMG_1521924376307
“Hey!”

For years we would just see each other and be like, “Hey, how’s it going?” “Good. Yeah, things are good,” and nothing ever happened… until high school. We dated very shortly in high school because she was a freshman and I was a senior. And then I left. I moved to London. It was definitely absence makes the heart grow fonder. We’d sort of known each other our whole lives, and then gone on a couple dates in Belgrade and Bozeman. I remember I took her out to dinner, we had this place in Belgrade called The Mint, and her parents came and sat across the restaurant from us. [laughing]

What the heck? [laughing]

[laughing] Which was great, because I’d also known her parents my whole life, right?  Her dad was my baseball coach; her mom was my geometry teacher. I mean, it was a small town, growin’ up. [laughing]

Yeah, I know that story! [laughing] Was Megan your first “big crush” in school, or was there another one?

No, when I was a freshman I dated an upperclassman for a little bit. You know, Megan was never on my radar because she was my best friend’s sister. So it was just “no, can’t do that; you just don’t go there” [laughing] Then just little by little, building a friendship over so many years, then…senior year. Maybe it was the pressure of knowing I was leaving. She was definitely that that first love.

When I moved to London, I had shoeboxes of…do you remember the airmail envelopes that were also letters? You would lick them up? They were cheaper to send… boxes and boxes of those. [chuckling] We would send each other mini tapes. We had dicta-phones, and we would send each other messages on those tapes. We’d make each other… you know, you didn’t have Spotify and all this stuff then. You hoped you caught it when a song came on the radio, and you would press record on your tape player and record the radio, you know? [laughing]

airletter-1968-cheetah-m
Airmail letter paper from the “olden days.” You folded it up into an envelope and licked it sealed.

Oh yeah, I remember. [laughing]

You didn’t even…we didn’t even buy tapes that could record. You just taped over the top, remember? If you put a piece of tape over that little, where that…

Yes! Yeah, the tab. [dying!]

Yeah the tab! My god, so many people are going to be listening to this going, “What the fuck? How old are they?” That’s great! [laughing]

My first “music system” in my room was a hand-me-down from my dad’s uncle, and to play tapes, I had an 8-track adapter. So I put a tape in this big clunky 8-track adapter, and I slammed it into the 8-track, and that’s how I played my tapes.

Oh my god, I remember those things! One side of the 8-track would just end in the middle of a song and you’d have to turn it over…in the middle of a song!  [convulsions!]

It was so awesome! I remember, it was blue, one of those crazy…it looked like a medical device, it was so big and funky. It was just awesome. I distinctly remember that! And going to Sacks in Belgrade, it’s a Salvation Army kind of place. I’d buy the biggest speakers I could find. I would hot wire those speakers up to the sound system. I had no knowledge of amps or wattage. It was just like “if you put big speakers on them, it will be louder.” That made sense, right? [laughing]

6a00d83452989a69e20134817f03fa970c-800wi
8-track to cassette converter. Google both in case you have no idea what we’re talking about!

Oh, it was dreadful. How my parents put up with that in the basement? I’m sure some of them were connected backwards so they were only playing…oh, it was just dreadful. Me listening to, what were we listening to back then?  311 and Everclear and Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and oh, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy… I went through a whole “that” phase. So funny, so funny… that’s the little white horse that went by. Anyway… [laughing!]

[laughing] Yeah, oh heck yeah! Oh “kids today” don’t know what they’re missing out on not having “mix tapes” to express yourself! [laughing]

No, they have no idea what they’re missing out on. [laughing] The fact that my four year old thinks that the iPad only works on the airplane is wonderful. I will get slammed for being a bad parent for that, but I’m going to ride that until the wheels fall off. [chuckling]

Are you kidding? No, that makes you an outstanding parent.

She gets so excited! I’m like, “Charlie, what are you most excited about on this trip?” She’s like, “Dad I get to watch whatever I want on the airplane.” I’m like, “That’s right, baby. Yes you do.”

Yet she still picks the same things she watches at home. [laughing]

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. She watches the same shows. Ha! Bless her.

IMG_20190409_194024[1]
The Winchesters
__________________________________________________

…to be continued in part II next week!

Part II centers on Philip and Megan. Philip takes us on the journey through their engagement, wedding and honeymoon that honestly had me in tears…of LAUGHTER! If you laughed during any part of Part I, you ain’t read nothing yet!

Thank you for sharing this with friends and other fans and please leave us your comments. Feel free to leave questions that possibly could be asked in the future.

Special thanks to: Grainne Nugent for yet another fabulous cover image edit and her unflinching commitment to getting the job done; Jennifer Sinclair for her proofing skills and for helping me believe I just might be someday; and as always Kelsey Nolen my partner in crime in all things Strike Back-y and more. I’m ready for that “special” podacst!

 

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara says:

    Dab Thank you very much for this wonderful job! And thank you Phil!
    I’m sorry because my English is not good, so I can’t use podcasts…
    I can’t wait for II part! Bye

    Like

    1. Deb Foster says:

      THANK YOU! This made my day Barbara! I’ll pass this on to Philip as well. I’m extremely happy you’re enjoying this series. It makes all the work more than worth it to receive feedback like this. Thank you so much! Deb

      Like

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