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London Welsh fourth official lands role alongside Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton

08 November 2011

  • Fourth official set for bright lights of Hollywood
  • Harrison to star along side Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton
London Welsh 4th official Nigel Harrison

Photo: Getty Images

London Welsh fourth official Nigel Harrison will miss the Exiles’ local derby with London Scottish to star alongside Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton in a new miniseries charting one of the greatest family feuds in American history.

The 53-year-old actor has been cast in The Hatfields and McCoys, which focuses on the legendary rivalry between the Hatfield and McCoy clans – a feud which almost brought West Virginia and Kentucky to war in the 19th Century.

Costner (Dances with Wolves, JFK, The Untouchables) will appear as ‘Devil’ Anse Hatfield, while Paxton (Apollo 13, Twister, Titanic) has signed up to play Hatfield’s rival Randall McCoy.

Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld, The Count of Monte Cristo) will direct the project, which will premiere next year on History. Harrison’s character is Lyle Simcott of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

I'm really looking forward to filming – Harrison

Harrison landed the part on the back of one audition which took place at Spotlight in Leicester Square. His dvd was then sent to director Kevin Reynolds.

"For the audition there was an instruction from the director that he didn’t want the character to be over the top, but more like Tommy Lee Jones’ character in No Country for Old Men," he said.

"So I watched that beforehand and just played it dead straight and thankfully the director came back and said it was perfect and exactly what he was looking for.

"I’m really looking forward to filming now and working with Kevin Reynolds, who is hopefully doing other projects in the future and if he likes me it could lead to other things."

Harrison heads to Romania, not America, next week for filming and will therefore miss Welsh’s Championship clash with London Scottish – a game eagerly anticipated since Scottish’s promotion from National One last season.

"I’ve no idea where we’re shooting in Romania,” added Harrison. "But with it being set in the Wild West I hope I get to wear a gun and a holster!"

Harrison has been fourth official at London Welsh for the past five seasons, during which time he also coached the club’s Under 15 side. His association with the club goes back even further, however, as father got him involved with the club when he was 14, although his try out for the U19 side one December when not quite go as he’d hoped.

"I got kicked in the mouth and my tongue was split open, so my Christmas dinner that year was a yoghurt through a straw," said Harrison, although he can boast one appearance for the 1xt VX – away to Gosforth RFC.

Harrison’s acting career began when he gained a place at Central School of Speech and Drama in 1979, although not for the first time in his life, his passion for acting would come in to conflict with his love of rugby – not least when skipping Saturday classes so he could play for London Welsh.

"I love acting and I always wanted to act, but I loved rugby at the same time, so it was very difficult. But acting paid the bills," said Harrison, who left Welsh for three years in 1982. He went from the Manchester Royal Exchange to spend two years at the RSC – although he still managed to turn out for Stratford RFC.

"We were about to open in Antony and Cleopatra and I played for Stratford in the afternoon and broke my arm. I had to go in and say I fell down the stairs of the flat I was staying in, but I don’t think they believed me for a second. The plaster had to be disguised in Roman leather."

Harrison has worked with the likes of Helen Mirren, Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta Jones and even Cesc Fabregas, playing the Arsenal footballers agent in an advert for Nike. But none of these quite compares with acting opposite Marlon Brando in the 1992 film Christopher Colombus: The Discovery.

"You couldn’t get near him off set because he has so much entourage around him, but on set I had a few chats with him and he was a very interesting guy. Amazingly still very shy and nervous," said Harrison.

Harrison’s previous credits also include A Touch of Frost, The Paradise Club, The Bill, The Green Green Grass, while his first job fresh out of acting school was playing Jesus.

"It involved me walking down Fifth Avenue in a nightie spouting gospel text to all these New Yorkers – quite an experience for my first job. It took me six months to get the role because they didn’t want me because they thought I looked too much like Robert Powell, who did Jesus of Nazareth," he said.

More recently, he’s toured in the stage production of Stop Messing About – the follow up to Round the Horne. Last year he played a character kidnapped and held by Colombian guerrillas in the jungle for nine months in a docudrama called Get out Alive for the American Discovery channel.