Part II – Behind the Scenes with Philip Winchester

Last week we learned a bit about Philip’s childhood growing up between Montana and London. This week Philip is giving us a peek into how he and Megan finally were able to be together on the same continent in the same time zone!

Philip is starting his post-drama school career in London and Megan has graduated high school in Montana, USA. When in doubt, assume that we’re both laughing even harder than in Part I.

Like all of us, actors are more than their jobs.

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Philip: I start my career in London and she finishes high school and goes off to college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. We just always kept in touch, every once in a while we’d talk to each other. We took a break, a “no communication” break for a year in 2006 – 2007. Then, I was coming through New York with – this is 10 years later, by the way – I was coming through New York with Ian McKellen and King Lear and she called me, out of the blue.

She said, “I’m in Africa and I’m coming back to the States. I just felt like reaching out and saying hi.” I was like, “Wow, it’s been a long time.” She replied, “Well look, I’m flying to Minneapolis next week, I’m going to be back in Bozeman. I just want to know if you’re going to be in Bozeman.” I said, “It’s funny, I’m going to be in Minneapolis next week because we’re going to play the Guthrie [Theater].”

I get to Minneapolis, we tech the show and then we had a day off. I went to the airport and met Megan. I remember [laughing], we sat in the baggage claim of Minneapolis Airport for two hours just talking and looking at each other going, “So what does this mean? You’re working at an AIDS orphanage in Kenya, you’re teaching… I’m acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and traveling. I go from here, to L.A., and then back to London. What are we going to do about this?”

So we sort of put a pin in it. I went back to London but we kept in communication. After “Lear” was over, I was making plans to move back to California. Megan said, “Well how about I’ll move down to California and then we’ll at least be in the same place. We’ll at least be in the same state for the first time in 10 years, and we can give it a try?” And I thought,” yeah, okay.” We were making plans to do that when Robinson Crusoe came along, and I found out that it was shooting in Africa. One of those young moments that changes your life.

I said to her, “Hey, I know you love Africa. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I don’t know what the digs situation is. I don’t know what’s going on but do you want to just try it? If you like it, you can stay; and if it’s something you’re just absolutely not on board for, I’ll fly you back to the States.” She said, “Let me think about it,” and ultimately said yes. She came down to South Africa with me when we went to shoot Robinson Crusoe.

That’s incredible!

I think it was really hard on her because it was my first lead in a television series. Both of us [Tongayi Chirisa who played Friday] were cuttin’ our teeth. I mean, it was just me and Friday. [laughing] I was just working my tail off, it was rough.

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With Tongayi Chirisa (Friday) at NBC promo event for Crusoe, 2008.

By the way, I want to tell you, I actually really like Crusoe.

Oh well, thank you! You know what? It’s so funny, after all these years that is what people say, Crusoe. Crusoe and Strike Back, those are the two people always mention.

It’s great because it’s one thing you can watch with everybody.

That was the point of it, yeah!

You did some really good work in that.

We had fun, we did have fun. But oh my God, I just got my butt kicked. [laughing] And here is poor Megan. This poor gal, I was just never home, ever. She would come to set and hang out. She made all these great relationships on set. She has a communications and documentary film background from college, so she was right at home. She would come to set and hang out all day behind the monitors and we would talk. She made tons of friends with the African crew, and we’re still friends to this day with some of those people.

So it was an amazing experience. It was this dream experience. We were put in this incredible beach house in Plettenberg Bay. You could throw your pillow out the window into the ocean. I mean, it was preposterous. [laughing]

Gorgeous!

I said to her, “Look, if we decide to do this, it’s not always going to be like this is!” [laughing] She said, “No, it’s totally cool.” Of course, Maneater comes around and we’re living in student housing in Scottsdale, Arizona, next to the spring training and the baseball field! [laughing] It couldn’t have been more different. But it was beautiful.

So she is a trooper and she’s my best friend. I think that’s what it came down to. Because there was another decision on that trip when she saw what was going on [the work load]. She said, “Well look, we need to figure this out, because I’m going to go back to teach in Montana, unless this is going somewhere else?”

Ooh, there’s some honesty.

I just didn’t have time. [sighing] I was wrestling with “I don’t have time, but this is a person we’re talking about. This isn’t just an assignment you’re not turning in. This is a person. This is a heart. This is important.”

She said the most brilliant thing to me one night. We were sitting on the beach. I was exhausted; I’d done another 16-hour day. She said, “Philip, this has been great. I want you to know that I love you. And I would like to be with you; but, I don’t have to be with you.”

And I was like, “Huh.” Again, one of those little bumps. It’s just a TV show, it’s just a job. Look at what’s in front of you and give it the attention it deserves.

I knew that I wanted to marry her. I knew that I wanted that. I think I was just waiting for the show to be over; I was waiting to have some more energy. I think a lot of the mistakes that guys make are that they want to have all their ducks in a row before they ask that question. They think “I want a bank full of money, and a house, and life insurance,” and shit like that. It just doesn’t work like that.

Exactly, you’re exactly right. You do those things together.

So I had seen this ring in a magazine on the airplane when we were flying to South Africa. It was a South African company and I called them up. I think I used all of one of my paychecks on Crusoe. [laughing] You know, it was my first job [lead] so I wasn’t making much money. I used all that paycheck on one episode to get this ring shipped down from Johannesburg in the armored car. [laughing] I kept it at the production office because they had a safe. I let the production designer and the producer know about it. If you remember, in “Robinson Crusoe,” there is that beautiful tree house, right?

Yeah, yeah of course I remember it! [An idea of what the tree house looked like from the Crusoe episode “Bad Blood.” Friday isn’t quite feeling himself. Unfortunately “Crusoe” isn’t available streaming but is readily available on DVD.]

It was our last weekend in Plettenberg. We worked six-day weeks, so I believe it was a Sunday. It was our last day off, right? I said, “Hey, babe, I have a photo shoot. It’s on Sunday evening.” We had a date planned. She was like, “Yeah, that’s fine. It’s work, that’s what you’re here to do.” But she was gutted, I could tell.

But what she didn’t know was that I’d told Jonathan Lee, our production designer, and Jeff Hayes, our producer. So they’d organized the team of production designers to go up [to the set] and they lit hundreds of candles all over the tree house. [pause for everyone to say “aww!”] From the crow’s nest, all the way around the bunk area, just everywhere, there are maybe a thousand candles. It was so beautiful.

On the way out there my phone rings in the car, Megan answers it. It’s Jeff Hayes, the producer – I’d set this up – and he said, “Listen, can you please tell Philip that the photographer’s going to be late?” And Megan was like,” Yeah, yeah, I’ll tell him, I’ll tell him.” So she hangs up the phone and the first thing she says is [annoyed tone], “We need to change our dinner reservation.” [laughing] So I said, “Oh, why? Why?” She says, “Well, because the photographer’s going to be late.” And I was like, “Ah, man, this just sucks.” [laughing]

We get up there, Jonathan Lee and the production team, they’re all leaving. He said “Well we set the candles up for the photo shoot. Have fun, we’ll see you later.” I said, “Yeah, thanks, guys” and Megan just takes off! She’s walking all through the tree house! [laughing] She’s saying, “Wow, this is going to be great! Look at this! It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be a great photo shoot! Maybe this isn’t so bad.”

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Meanwhile, I have this ring in a bit of chamois leather in my pocket, and I’m just rubbing it thinking “oh my God, what am I doing? What am I doing? What the fuck am I doing?!” All the way out there I keep saying in my head, “Why would she want to marry you? You pretend to be somebody else for a living. You don’t even know who you are. Why would she want to marry you? Like, this is ridiculous…” [laughing]

So I’m just second-guessing myself this whole time, right? [laughing] She’s running around the tree house and I’m like [high pitched nervous voice!], “Hey, can you come back over here, honey? There’s a great view.” And she’s like, “Oh yeah, okay, but over here is great.” So she comes up to me and like this gift from God — she has a ring on her ring finger that she wears, and it’s got these little stencils or markings in it — she says, “Hey, do you have one of those toothpicks that you chew? I’ve got to get some dirt out of this ring and clean it up a little bit.” And I was like, “Sure, give it to me! I’ve got a bit of chamois leather in my pocket; I’ll just shine it up.” [laughing]

She gives me her ring, and I’m thinking, “Oh my God! This couldn’t have been any better! This is my David Copperfield moment!” I swapped it for the engagement ring, and I pretend like I’m cleaning it. I go over to her and I produce the engagement ring from the top of the chamois leather and I say “Here you go. Is that better?”

She looks at it, and she looks at me, and it just does not compute. Obviously to her she’s like, “This is the wrong ring dude. This doesn’t make any sense.” Because this is completely outta left field. Then I got down on one knee, and she just said, “I wasn’t expecting that!” [both laughing, hard!]

And I hope I said something kind and nice, I completely forgot [what he’d planned] because I was so nervous! But she did say “yes,” which was the goal. [laughing] Once she said yes, Jonathan Lee had left a chilled bottle of champagne and some wine glasses under that bed that Crusoe lies on. So I got that out and we had champagne in the tree house as the sun was setting, and the vervet monkeys were coming out and the Knysna-Loerie was flying around, this beautiful bird of paradise that flies around there, and it was really magical, really beautiful.

I have a painting in my office that was painted by Jonathan Lee. It’s the original production design of the tree house, and he wrote the date of the engagement and gave it to us after that night – which was really neat.

Oh wow, that’s amazing!

It was really special. We actually ended up getting to our dinner reservation, and what was so fun was, Kieran [Bew], Sam Neill and his wife were all there, and we all had dinner together. It was just brilliant.

Did they know ahead of time? I mean, he [Kieran Bew*] told me about your getting engaged in the tree house and then everyone having dinner but not the details. Did they know ahead of time?

Yeah, he totally did because we were out practicing that big sword fight that we had at the end of the show [Crusoe}. Mark [Dexter], Kieran and I were all rehearsing down on the beach, and I said, “Guys, I’m going to ask Megan to marry me today.” They were like, “Oh my God, this is great!” Then we realized “We can’t keep rehearsing, this is ridiculous!” [laughing] God, it was a long time ago now but it does feel like yesterday.

[*BTW, if you’ve not seen Kieran Bew as Bill O’Hara in Warrior on Cinemax get on it! You’re missing out on one HELL of a performance in an amazing show!]

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Working out some pre-proposal jitters with Kieran Bew.

It wasn’t that long ago. What ten years, eleven years almost, right?

Yeah, yeah, it’s ten and a half years, because we got engaged that summer, and then we got back to Montana. It was September, I think. We wrapped in September and we got married that December.

Whoa, that’s fast to plan a wedding!

Yeah, but we’d known each other [for so long], we knew we wanted to just make it happen. So we did it that Christmas. That was the one the best decisions that I have ever made in my life. It was great. I’m very, very lucky.

It sounds like she really grounds you and speaks truth to you.

She does and that’s times ten now that she’s a mother. I can see that in her, the growth and the woman she is. It’s just brought out that so much more now that she’s a mom. She’s an incredible mom. The way she talks to the kids, the way she plays with them, and helps them learn, helps them grow, and loves on them, is just beautiful. You don’t think about those things when you’re asking [someone to marry you]. I certainly didn’t think about those things at the time. I was thinking that I’ve known this gal my whole life, she’s my best friend, this is a logical thing to do, this makes sense.

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You realize later down the road, wow, it’s one of the hardest things in life. In marriages people change. If you’re looking for it or if you work on it, you change together; or, if you don’t change together, you learn how to be okay with that. Over the ten years, we’ve been fortunate, we’ve grown together. We’ve done a lot together, and now with kids that’s just amplified so much more.

Well I guess that naturally leads us into your wedding.

Yeah, sure! So we were engaged at the end of Crusoe. We thought “Let’s make this happen. Let’s make it fast.” We decided to do a wedding over Christmas break. We were almost positive that no one would come because it was so last minute, and it was winter in Montana. [laughing] But our families, they just totally anted up and everybody came out of the woodwork. It was amazing! We got married on December 28th just outside of Bozeman. It was basically in, for all intents and purposes, it was a big barn with a fireplace at one end of it. [laughing]

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I should tell you I’ve seen pictures of your wedding and I immediately thought, “Why is there a garage door in their wedding venue?” [laughing!]

Yeah, totally! [laughing] There was a garage door at one side of the barn! We tried to get as many local people involved as we could so we had beers from the local brewery in Belgrade, “Madison River Brewing Company”. Howie, one of the guys who worked there, was also our bartender. Now he works at another brewery in town. He’s so awesome and every time we see him it’s “Do you remember how much fun that was?”

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We had decided that we wanted to do soup and bread, and just like “hearty foods” and beer and wine for our meal. Everyone would just get in line [buffet] to do that. Growing up, my mom worked at the Best Western GranTree Inn in Bozeman, and one of the ladies who worked with her in the restaurant, her name was Sue. Sue was also working at a gas station in Belgrade with a woman named Frannie. They did the meal for the wedding.

We did our wedding tasting of soups in the kitchen of a Town Pump [gas station]! [laughing] At this point I remember being really proud. I thought it was really cool we were involving as many people from town as possible. Looking back I can remember some sideways glances from my wife being like, “honey, this probably isn’t normal. Maybe we could hire, like, a catering company or something?” [LAUGHING!]

We did the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, right? [laughing] But the thing about it is that it turned out awesome!

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Exactly, I love it! I absolutely love it!

Yeah, right?! We had that blue-pebbled camping-ware, the old school camping dishes? It was just stacked on a buffet. I think we had beef stew, cheddar cheese broccoli soup and, like, potato soup or something. A bunch of bread, and beer and wine, and that was our wedding. [laughing]

That sounds perfect! But then I should tell you that I had chicken barbecue and beer and wine at my wedding. [laughing]

[laughing] That’s great! Somehow my beautiful bride, when it was all said and done and I pulled up in my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee, she got in. I don’t know why, but she did. And we drove off up into the mountains. It was great! [laughing]

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Oh, that’s awesome. People just get too stressed out over weddings. Did people come, did you exchange vows, did the rings go on, and did you have a good time? That’s all that matters.

Yeah. It was so fun! Someone said to me at the wedding something which was really brilliant and I wish I would have heard it the day before. [laughing] “You are basically throwing a party for everybody you love.”

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Exactly and they are there because they love you.

Yes, yeah. If they don’t get to chat with you, that’s not the end of the world. They get it; it’s all good. Just enjoy it. But it can be really stressful. I remember feeling a bit of stress because so many people came from so far. I wanted to have a chat with everybody. But it turned out to be really wonderful. Then we had a couple of nights in a cabin up near that ski hill that we were talking about earlier… and then we went to Iceland for our honeymoon.

Ooh, nice, very nice!

Yeah. It was, except that it was winter. So… a major thing that I missed was that it was 23 hours of darkness every day. So that was a little bit of intel that I neglected to find out. [laughing]

[laughing] Oh my God! Well ok, that could have its advantages.

Yeah, for awhile, but I was thinking we were going to see the Northern Lights and all these other “outdoor things” and it [the weather] was just socked in. [laughing]

Oh, no! [laughing]

We actually left early! [laughing] We did the Blue Lagoon. We went up to Ranga, and did some really cool things. We had planned two weeks there, but about a week in we were like “okay, we’ve watched The Wire, we’re on, like, the fourth season of Lost, we need to leave! This is crazy!” Somehow we got on a flight and jumped back to New York. [laughing]

Oh, this is a part of the story I left out! [laughing] So…my bachelor party, I was opening a beer bottle with the back of a hatchet…

As you do… [OMG, seriously Philip?!]

…and it was slippery and I chopped off a part of my finger…my trigger finger on my right hand.

So we were up in the mountains, middle of nowhere up in the mountains and it’s like 20 below out, right? My buddies are like, “You’re not going down. It’s your bachelor party. You’re staying up here.” I was like, “Okay, whatever.” [laughing]

We peeled off what was left of the top of my finger. They poured a bunch of Knob Creek bourbon on it. They taped it shut with duct tape and splinted it with a plastic spoon, and we kept playing cribbage and doing silly things, like you do. [laughing]

[Wait what, cribbage??]

Well… I woke up the next morning with my hand just throbbing! This was two days before the wedding. Anyway, long story short, I got maybe six stitches. Another axe wound, right? [laughing] In my wedding pictures you can see I’ve got this bandage on my finger.

Yes! I’ve wondered what that was! [mystery solved]

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Axe wound #1

They gave me a sulfur based antibiotic. [Oh no, I can see where this is going!]

Halfway through Iceland, literally like three days into being married, Megan starts giving me gum and mints and suggesting, “why don’t you go brush your teeth” all the time. Finally she says, “Hey, baby… I don’t know what’s going on, but you fucking stink!”

I was like, “What?! What do you mean?!” She said, “We’ve known each other a long time. I would know if this was “normal.” But something’s not right with you.” [laughing] I said “Well, I don’t know what’s different. I mean, I’m taking my antibiotics…”

I look up at my antibiotics, and sure enough! So there I was on my honeymoon thinking “Oh, it smells like rotten eggs because we’re in Iceland.” It was me! It was leaking out of me! The sulfa smell was leaking out of me! It was just rotten egg smell leaking out of me. So it was a glamorous and romantic honeymoon, which every year I try to make up for by doing something. We try and go somewhere and I try not to take antibiotics or injure myself before we do anything! [laughing]

That is just too funny! What an absolute comedy of errors the whole time!

Oh, it was! “You must love me, sweetheart, because this is just, I mean…” Wow. [laughing]

Nowhere to go but up? [laughing]

Right? Nowhere to go. But then…from New York to Montana… we both got food poisoning on the plane! The first week back in Montana, the first three nights, we spent apart. I said “I’m not going to be married to you and have you watching me rainbow yawning every 10 minutes! I’m going to go live with my parents.” So I went and stayed with my parents for, like, 72 hours. [laughing]

Oh my God! [I’m dying!]

So that was some real romance there! [laughing]

[laughing] What are a couple examples of how you have made up for it?

Well, last year we got to go to Hawaii, which was just absolutely brilliant! We went to Kauai, just the two of us. It was great! Maybe it was a year and a half ago now, she wasn’t pregnant yet. Last year we were in the south of France, which was really great. We do try and do lots of little road trips. Big Sky is just down the road. We’ll go down there and we’ll stay in Big Sky for the night, We do little “staycations” where we’ll be close to home. This time of year being in Montana, we’ll go camping or go hiking. It’s great.

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Yeah, it’s the perfect time for that, nice cool nights, so the campfire is just perfect.

Yeah. You need one, you need the campfire. It’s so great.

You guys waited quite awhile before you had children. You were able to have quite a bit of time as just the two of you before Charlie came along. What was that change like?

We did and it was on purpose. We wanted to be together and get to know each other individually before we added kids to the mix.

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That’s so smart.

It’s funny, because we’re both like, “Gosh, now that we have kids I wish we would have started sooner. We’d have so much more energy.” [laughing] But on the flip side of that, I feel like we’re better parents because we know who we are as people and we know who we are as a couple.

With all of the travel and with Strike Back right in the middle of all of that, we weren’t going to have kids. We got six years into it and we thought, “Well, gosh we’re having a really good time.” Looking back, I think it was pretty selfish, but at the time we just thought, “We don’t have time. We’re enjoying the world, we’re enjoying traveling. We are able to pick up and go wherever we want at the drop of the hat and see friends. If we had kids, we can’t go and help friends or family out.”

Then, while filming the last season of Strike Back in Thailand, Megan’s father went in for a routine heart surgery, and he arrested on the table.

No! How awful and you were so far away!

They were removing old cables from his pacemaker, they nicked him and he bled out. He died for a minute, and then they brought him back. This was the second time this happened to him. He was in a coma in Minneapolis. Before the surgery, Megan called to say, “He’s going into the surgery.” I was going to bed in Thailand and said, “Call me if anything happens,” and she said, “Okay, I will.”

I was on the 20th or 30th floor in this building in Thailand, and [I didn’t know] I didn’t get a signal. I woke up in the morning, looked at my phone – nothing. I got dressed, got in the elevator, went downstairs to have breakfast, and my phone just lit up. I had seven, eight messages from Megan.

That was the episode [of Strike Back: Legacy] where I hurt my arm. They wrote it into the episode that I hurt my arm because Strike Back, for all the things that were tough on that show, we had a production team that just said “Well, you have to go to Minneapolis.” There was no question. They stuck me on a flight, I think, 48 hours later, and I flew to Minneapolis for a day. I called MJ [Bassett] and said, “I want one more.” She said, “Fine, no problem. You can have one more. I’ll figure it out in the writing. Just get on that plane after the weekend.”

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Strike Back family

I think the process of being with Bob and being with the family in Minneapolis, he was never alone. He always had someone by his side, whether it was a brother, a sister, his wife, his kids. We saw the power of family. Once Megan was through all that, and she was there for weeks helping him and hanging out with him. He has made 100% recovery, just by the grace of god.

When she got to Thailand, we started this conversation about family. She asked me, “Philip, what are some of your best memories in England?” I said, “Well, sitting around Sunday roasts with my grandmother’s family.” She said, “Yeah. I don’t see how it gets better than that. So why don’t we at least try?” I was like, “Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”

It happened right away. It happened a lot sooner than we thought it would. So that was six years into our marriage. Charlie was born the February after we finished [Strike Back]. Remember Sully hurt himself? I think it was right after that. We had to postpone Strike Back.

Thailand was really up and down, lots of big things going on. We took a six month hiatus. By the time we started back up in Budapest, Megan was heavily pregnant. So she left Budapest at the beginning of December and came back home to Montana.

I went to Thailand and did two more weeks in Thailand, where we finished all the coverage on Sully. Then I came back to Montana just in time for Christmas and January. Then we had Charlie February 4th…or 5th? Shoot! My brother’s birthday is one of those days too, so I always get mixed up. [laughing]

That’s not good Philip! [laughing]

I know that Jaymes is the 14th because it’s Valentine’s Day. Oh, that’s terrible. Terrible! [laughing]

With the second one, it was sort of a similar conversation. We though “one is great. We have a healthy little girl. She’s a kick in the pants; she’s just so much fun! Do we really want to do this?” It was one of those things where it was well, let’s try. This time it took a little longer.

Megan has such great relationships with her siblings. I saw the relationships between my mom’s siblings. My brother and I were learning more and more about each other and it was becoming really great. We talked about “what’s the longest relationship you have in your life?” It’s the relationship you have with your siblings and your cousins.

Right, exactly.

So we’ve been blessed with two beautiful, healthy, little girls and this is just it now. It’s funny, because you work your whole life to be in a situation where you can do the things you love, and that hokey thing of “if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life.” It’s kind of true, you know? You work hard – you work and you work and you work – and you get to this place that you’re thinking, “gosh, things are actually working out.” Then I look at these little ladies and I think, “well, so?” [laughing]

They are everything. The work, it just gets sidelined so quickly and so effortlessly. So, yeah it’s amazing. It’s been a great adventure. And Charlie is February 4th. She’s February 4th.

You looked it up, didn’t you? [laughing]

I totally did. [laughing]

[laughing] Yeah. I always wondered how my parents remembered five different birthdays. But, they always did.

Megan, my wife is amazing. We’ll be sitting down at breakfast and she’ll look up me and go, “Do whose birthday it is today?” I’m like, “Baby, I don’t have the foggiest idea whose birthday it is today.” She’s so good at that. [laughing]

I really think that it’s like spelling. You either can do it or you can’t. You’re either good with dates and birthdays or you’re not. I am so not. I can’t remember any dates. But I can spell! [laughing]

Join the club. Join the club. I just don’t know where that stuff resides. Where does that stuff live? [laughing]

So now that Charlie is really at the stage where she is developing her own personality, her own way of doing things, what of yourself and what of Megan do you see in her?

That’s a great question. She has a love for being outside that both Megan and I have. We get cabin fever pretty quickly, and she’s just like that. I remember during those SVU days when they would come to visit me in New York [City]. She would get two or three days into it, in those New York winters, and she was running up and down that hallway like crazy. “Dad, we need to go somewhere. We need to do something!” I was like, “Baby, I know. I know we do.” [laughing]

We’d walk down to the Chelsea market, or we’d walk over to the gym, or walk to work. She just loves, loves being outside. With that comes this real adventurous, sprite spirit that I see and that’s her mother.

She’s kind like Megan. She’s thoughtful like Megan. She’s always putting other people before herself, which is a really neat thing to see in your kid. Then she’s fiery too. She’s got that, “wait a second, that’s not what I meant.” [laughing] She’s got that attitude of, “no, we need to talk about this.” So she has that. From me, she has that “go from nothing to a million miles an hour really quickly” side. [laughing] It’s so interesting to see that.

It’s also so interesting to see these completely unique characteristics pop up when you go, “well, that’s just Charlie.” She adores animals. She adores them, and she knows so much about them. We’re constantly reading animal books. From a very young age, I think the most common thing that’s said between getting up in the morning and having breakfast is, “Hey do you want to go hunt bugs?” Every day, can we go hunt bugs in the morning? She’ll pick up centipedes and worms; she’ll catch bumblebees in the house and let them go outside. I mean, she loves bugs and she loves animals. That’s definitely unique to her and that’s been really fun to watch develop, over the last two years specifically.

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Charlie loves bugs!

I think that was the biggest fallacy that I had somehow grown up believing, that you actually had control over who your kids are. [LAUGHING!] Megan and I joke — you try and teach them not to be assholes and then, it’s like those things that you put up when you go bowling, in the gutters. You try and keep them out of the gutters. But really, they come out knowing exactly who they are. [laughing]

You just kind of have to get out of the way some of the time. Some of parenting is just learning to get out of their way. And some of it is keeping them out of the gutter. But a lot of it is just going, “okay, I’ve just got to shut up and get out of the way. This is who she is.” [laughing]

Yep! [laughing] Are you seeing any unique characteristics in Jaymes yet?

Not yet really but she is the world’s easiest baby. She is so happy it’s ridiculous. She doesn’t really get up and wail. Even in the middle of the night, if she’s hungry she kind of goes, [softly] “Wehh.” [laughing] She just kind of chats up there in her room and she sleeps really well. We’re really fortunate with her.

She is joyful though. We’ll play music when we’re cooking dinner in the evening, and she’ll sit in her high chair and bop up and down and smile. What I can see is her admiration for her older sister already. And that right there, that is makes you say “Worth it. Worth it, the tiredness and the sacrifice, totally worth it.”

Does Charlie enjoy being an older sister? Is she really involved?

She does, she really does, yeah. She’s very involved. She has her baby doll, which is also named James. [laughing] So “James” comes upstairs every morning and sits in her high chair next to Jaymes and next to Charlie. They just sit there and Jaymes has her gibberish that she’s talking. We call it Turkey Mandarin. She’s talking Turkey Mandarin to Charlie and Charlie will make something up and chat back.

There have been some mornings where Charlie has gone up before us, into Jaymes’ bedroom as Jaymes is waking up, and she climbs into the crib with her. We’ll catch her up there just talking to her. It’s just great. [chuckling] She’s like, “I just wanted to talk with her, mom. I just wanted to hang out with her.”

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Charlie & Jaymes

I think the age gap between Charlie and Jaymes, it’s really good. The four years is good. Charlie, of course she’s still just a kiddo, but she knows who she is a little bit. Jaymes isn’t a threat to that because she’s just a baby. There will be some tension, no doubt, in the years to come; however, right now it’s really great. She’s just a little sister.

Charlie’s trying to teach her bits and pieces. We did some sign language with Charlie when she was a kid and she’s trying to teach Jaymes that. That’s been really fun to observe. Little by little, Jaymes is picking up ‘hi’ and ‘milk’, or ‘all done’, and things like that. It’s really fun to watch those lights go off with Jaymes.

And Charlie is old enough that she actually can really help.

Oh, totally! When Jaymes was really new, we call it “chundering,” she was a real chunderbug. I mean, you picked her up, she’d spit up. You moved her, she’d spit up. She was a chunderbug. [laughs] So we were always calling “Charlie, can you get me a burp cloth?”

She’d be like, “Yeah, I’m right on it dad. I’ll be right there.” Sometimes. Other times she’d be like, “No, I’m in the middle of feeding my puma,” or, “I’m in the middle of doing something with my dinosaurs.” You’d be like, “Yeah, but I’m covered in…oh, whatever. I’ll get it.” [laughing]

[laughing] That’s so great! You have to be loving this uninterrupted time with them. I know how hard being a weekend Dad was for you.

I [decided] I was going to give myself the summer off to be with my family and to be really intentional about spending time with them. There were so many moments where my oldest daughter Charlie would say, “Hey Dad, do you want to… “ride a bike? Go catch grasshoppers? Go to the dog park? Go swimming? Go hiking? Go running?” and I could say “YES!” every time, and it was awesome.

It’s been amazing for our relationship and for me as a dad, because it really puts things into perspective. It’s very easy to – we talked about this a little bit in the last interview – it is sort of easy to get into that rhythm of – do your work…get on the plane…go home…be a 24-hour dad…get on the plane…go to work…do it again.” We’re adaptable; that’s just what it is sometimes. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does cost. To be able to be here with no cost, it’s huge.

It’s just pouring into each other; it’s all the little moments that you would miss. It’s a little flick of the eye here, or a laugh about something that you said. The moments when you’re reading stories at night and she’ll say something to me, and I just…it just destroys me. And now I don’t want to miss any of them, because I’ve been spoiled now. But look, I know that that’s not real life and I know we’ve been fortunate.

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That brings us to the end of Part II, taking a break in the story with Philip happily taking a break at home, preparing for the next big adventure!

Next week we’ll change things up with a bit of a “speed round” of questions and some general discussion about how he, as a very private person, thrives in a very public world.

As always, profound appreciation to Philip Winchester for being so generous and open in our conversations. It truly is a privilege to be able to bring these chats to the fan page. Thank you all for helping to create the positive, supportive fan page that facilitates this.

Part III next Monday!

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