One of my ‘not a recap’ blogs during season 5 was called ‘A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime.’ . My chance exchange and subsequently getting to know Vinny, had ‘a reason’ written all over it.
The more we spoke, the more I wanted to get to know, the more he shared, the more I learned his story wasn’t simply ‘a cool insiders take on the set of Outlander’ but one of overcoming adversity and grabbing a hold of your life and making shit happen.
Let me tell you about Vincent. He experienced a very happy childhood in the small village of Westquarter in the Town of Falkirk. As the youngest of four, he would spend his days climbing and exploring in the glen next to his home. It was as a child his love of animals was sparked due to his mum who was known in the village as the ‘go to woman’ for animals in need. Vincent was her helper in caring for those injured animals as they fostered them back to health. They also had many pets at home to love and shower their affections on.
“Like most kids I was full of fun and cheek, I could also be a little brat who came close to a walloping more than a few times.”
As Vincent grew up, all that running and jumping through the glens led to him excelling at sports and athletics. He concentrated on football and was also tipped for a promising future as a 100m sprinter. Sadly, he was plagued by persistent knee injuries so his running spikes were hung up by the time he turned 16. Not one to sit still, he stayed in the gym, took up boxing and later, Krav Maga self defense. This led him to the very impressive achievement of becoming an instructor.
I am going to fast forward to the story of Vincent finding Outlander. Many fans have said Outlander changed their lives, it undeniably transformed how Vinny was living his.
“I had lost my home, my business, my physical health and can say I was in a very dark place. I guess that darkness got darker round about this time, I was suffering insomnia due to anxieties about my health and hadn’t slept for about 30 hours when I started watching Outlander. I had been awake for over a day and finally started getting tired about episode 3, but I managed to keep my eyes open until the first season was finished.
The more I watched the more alive I felt. Like from nothing else before it had put some sort of fire in my belly to get back in the rat race instead of giving up. This may sound corny but I feel watching Outlander kinda saved my life. Within a few months I was on the show.”
As I mentioned before, Vincent was a very active man. His caring nature had him working on an NHS community mental health team. Life doesn’t always go the way we plan, in 2009, his life started taking some turns Vinny could not have predicted.
“Whilst playing football I slipped on the wet pitch, going into the splits, usually I’d be fine but the match had just started and I didn’t have time to warm up or stretch beforehand. I went down with a high pitched scream. It was kinda like when you’ve been walking and went over on your ankle, at first it’s really bad, then you start moving and the pain eases. It eased enough for me to carry on. We were low in numbers and this game was one I had arranged for my mental health clients to participate in. It meant a lot to me and the guys that I was playing with. I had pain but thought it would continue to ease off. I worked round it.
In April of 2009 I collapsed and spent 3 weeks in hospital with a minor brain injury. All physical health took a back seat for a while. I had cognitive challenges to deal with, a year of rehab and a year and a half off work. I did eventually get back working and training. I was still having groin pain but I became used to it.”
This is something many of us with chronic pain do, isn’t it? We learn to live with it. Keep moving forward until – something else kicks our knees out from beneath us. Vincent’s battle was not behind him yet.
“In 2016, I aggravated it more, leaving it difficult to walk. At hospital a scan showed I had fractured my left hip years earlier and torn the labral muscle in my groin. Having left this untreated and continuing to train led me, at 35, to require a double hip replacement. I was devastated, a year earlier I had passed all my training to become a Krav Maga Instructor. With that though, I had caused a cam and pincer impingement and osteoarthritis spread thru my hips from the fracture. I even lost an inch in height.
I spent the next year of my life on elbow crutches until my surgery. I had a Chromium cobalt hip put in, this is a new type, stronger with a larger femoral head. That was supposed to allow me to go back and teach self defense, unfortunately I took a reaction to the metal. I spent a bit longer in hospital than I should have, couldn’t do physiotherapy for the first 4 months due to my leg being twice the size of the other one. From there I got a blood clot, stopping in my groin. 5 months later I got another extensive clot that started down the bottom of my leg to my groin. This required me to be on blood thinning medication for life. That meant I couldn’t go back to Krav Maga, it was too dangerous for me. Krav is pretty full on, one of the reasons it’s so effective.“
An expression I have used before is “The teacher will appear when the student is ready”. Our heart and our mind will be open to receive the messages we need to hear. It seems quite apparent when Vinny talks about his exposure to Outlander, that is exactly what happened.
“I was physically broken and had almost given up mentally. To be honest, I was a wreck. The magic of the show really stirred something inside me to get myself better, it gave me a goal. it made me want to be a part of it. I binge watched all available episodes in about 5 days, I was hooked.
The effect Outlander had on me is pretty hard to explain. From the start I couldn’t turn the television off. I think it was a combination of many things that really had an effect on me, It being filmed entirely in Scotland and about Scottish history. The way fact and fiction were mixed with time travel, something that would have probably put me off watching it if I knew. *laughs* The attention to detail from costumes to sets, colourful characters and some Scottish humour added in amongst the serious stuff. I won’t forget the amazing chemistry between Jamie and Claire” *smile*
It was such a pleasant surprise hearing about Vinny’s love of the show and his desire to be a part of it. Not only because it made us both ‘fans’, which you know, cool, but in that it galvanized him. He made this huge change in the trajectory of his life due to that desire. I was even more excited to talk to him about it.
Let’s do this thing, shall we?
I know one of the first things people will want to know is what the process was like for becoming a supporting artist on Outlander? “It was a lot simpler than I thought, after getting over the initial self doubt, thinking I wasn’t capable of this type of work. I did my homework on casting agencies and sent an email off. I was invited to an open day a week later and was pleased to get signed up that day.“
I’m not sure it would be so simple for everyone, you have a pretty specific look, pretty rugged. That must have been a fantastic feeling. Now, as a fan, what was that like? Showing up for work on the first day? “My heart just started pounding thinking about being there *laughs*. It was a crazy surreal, pinching myself moment, if I’m honest. I was the first on set, arrived an hour early and I hadn’t slept a wink the night before. I was so afraid I would sleep in and ruin my chance of being on the show.“
I can’t say as I blame you for any of that. I would have reacted much the same way. I probably would have camped over night, but I think I’m a bit more dipped in the crazy than you. You have provided a fantastic video for us of behind the scenes – the fans will be sharing the hell out of it. Can you tell us what the ‘rules’ are for the supporting artists? “Ahhh … A few of the things would be to always be on time, be polite and courteous to everyone you meet, listening to direction, remaining upbeat and knowing when to be quiet. Be positive. *smile* In between shooting there is always some sort of hilarity going on somewhere, there are a few included in the video“
Many supporting artists just fade in and out of the back ground, we don’t get to see their faces, you on the other hand, we can pick you out frequently. Share what scenes fans can find you in. “I can be seen throughout Ep04, The Company We Keep, usually working my stall or in the pub salivating over the offerings of whisky. I was the Brownsville Butcher, a role I absolutely loved. When I arrived on set, I remember thinking how real the pigs heads, rabbits and birds looked that were displayed on my stall. It wasn’t long before I realized the attraction the flies felt was real *laughs*. Ironic that I turned vegetarian 27 years previously *laughs*. I realized straight away that it is more authentic that they were real. I didn’t have to, but I had no problem chopping and dicing whilst the cameras were rolling.
In Ep07, The Ballad of Roger Mac, after being enlisted into Jamie’s Militia I can be seen carrying Isaiah Morton into the medical tent after he has been shot in the lung. He’s a big lad, my back felt it the next day.”*laughs*
Speaking of the authentic sets, even though you all are supposed to be in North Carolina, you are working in some tough Scottish conditions. That Brownsville set up is something else but damn, it looked a mess of rain and mud sometimes. “You’re correct there. Some days/nights can be 16 hour shifts at the mercy of the Scottish weather in all sorts of terrain. You can be tired and hungry and knee deep in mud, but it actually gives you an idea of how it really was back in the day. That helps the show be so believable.“
Alright, now I am really curious. What would be a regular day on set for you, as a supporting artist? “Well you usually arrive on set (early), sign in so they know you’re there, into makeup or costume then time for a very large (with lots of options) breakfast to keep us fueled for the day *smile* Grab a cuppa and chat with colleagues before we head off to set. The makeup and costume guys come round to check we are all spot on and good to go, they continue this regularly throughout the day in all weathers.
We’re all given our little stories and scenarios that we will carry out for filming etc, it’s great. Sometimes you’re really busy filming and other times your waiting about but that’s the same for everyone. They always set you perfectly for a tasty lunch though *laugh* then after that.. back to set to finish what we started. We always get refreshments and snacks throughout the day. It’s tough going and long days so when you here the director shout “That’s a wrap guys” everyone cheers and thanks each other for the day, it’s a good feeling. *smile* Then it is time to head back on our transport to base and get out of costume. It’s always a good feeling to get my wig off. *laugh* Once I’m back to modern attire, I sign out, say my goodbyes and head home for some much needed sleep. *laughs*
It sounds like you really love this gig, Vinny. I was impressed with everything, they pay so much attention to detail. They really want everything to be as close as possible to how it was back then. I think it shows on screen.. you don’t get flies attracted to plastic animal carcasses do ya? Everyone from SA’s, cast and crew know exactly what there doing. It’s a well organized production.
Was there anything else you learned for your role as a supporting artist? “To prepare for the Battle of Alamance we had to attend Outlander’s military boot camp. We became competent in firing weapons and fighting skills. I also learned more about Scottish history in a few months on Outlander than I did at high school.“
Has your experience on Outlander sparked you to do more in the world of entertainment? It certainly has. My first week of working on Outlander finished on a Friday, I had booked an intensive acting course for that weekend. I continue to train as much as possible. I have a few short films under my belt and a small role in a feature film due to start when lock-down finishes. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many featured SA roles in various productions. I was also the stand in for John Cena in the upcoming Fast & Furious 9. My goal has changed and hopefully I can gain more work on the acting side of things. If not … I know I can keep myself busy doing as I am just now.
If Vinny’s past is any predictor for how his future will look, I have to say the next chapter of his life is about to be written BOLDLY and BRILLIANTLY. Many of us go through very dark times, in fact, the world is facing some of it’s own as I type this. Looking around, focusing on individuals who moved forward when it hurt but they did it anyway, can not only uplift us, they can inspire us.
“I hadn’t put on my information I was disabled or about my hip. I was pretty good at masking my limp. Up until then I hadn’t moved any faster than a walk for a few years. One day the director asked me to do a certain thing for a scene, which included running on uneven muddy ground, I wasn’t going to say no to him. *laughs* He didn’t know my problem. He helped me realize I was capable of more than I thought. My physical health has come leaps and bounds from that day.”
I was so pleased that Vinny and I crossed paths, from across the ocean. We both agreed that these things aren’t mistakes and I know that someone, somewhere reading this…needs to hear his story.
Now before we go, you all know what to expect from an ABOotlanders #TheLOVELANDERProject interview – we end with pure silliness because – HELLO! I’m a Canadian knobsicle.
We have invited Vincent Van Craig for a lovely dinner – providing him with these Albertan delicacies of A) Moose Droppings B) Beaver Tails C) Prairie Oysters D) Taber Corn. Which does he choose & why? “Oooooh lets see *laughs* was tempted to google but I promise I didn’t, *laugh* O.K here goes. I’ll pick Taber Corn, its seems the safest, maybe the closest to being vegetarian friendly” *laughs*
You can find Vinny on social media, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Do try and ease him into the fandom, o.k? We don’t want to scare him. Actually – with all he has been through, I think he can take it.
I want to thank Vinny, for not only allowing me to interview him, but for putting it all out there. It isn’t an easy thing to do. Sharing such a personal story with a stranger, who then puts it out to the world. Once again, it shows a strength of character many can admire. I know I do.
Until next time, be well.
ABOotlander L🖤ve – Previous Interviews – Julia LeBlanc/VideoQueen Summer & Ginger from Outlander Podcast CastDr.Joe Abernathy/Wil Johnson CastAdrienne-Marie/Suzette Beth Wesson/@PixieTwit Connie Verzak@ConnieBV Karmen @OutLandAnatomy Jane @RRankinFans CastSera-Lys McArthur /Johiehon CastCarmen Moore /Wahkatiiosta CastKikkiFleming/ Lesley