Never play Brad Pitt at Boggle or get in Barbra Streisand's way when she needs the loo: Owain Yeoman – Office star Lucy Davis's ex-husband – on life as Hollywood's hottest Welshman
22:46 GMT, 16 November 2012
'I was basically going from being in the school play to auditioning for a 100 million movie,' says Owain Yeoman
Owain Yeoman was barely 25, an Oxford graduate and fresh out of RADA when he got his very first audition, for a part in a swords-and-sandals war film based loosely on Homer’s Iliad.
The film was called Troy and its star happened to be none other than Brad Pitt.
‘I was basically going from being in the school play to auditioning for a 100 million movie,’ says Owain.
‘I was so naive that when they said they’d send a town car [a limo] for me, I didn’t know what it was and said, “Is it the minivan parked outside” I got the part and went to Malta to film and found myself standing next to Peter O’Toole. He said to me, “I’ve never worked on a set this big… so it’s downhill from here for you, son!”’
Luckily, O’Toole was proved wrong.
Not only does Owain now star in one of U.S. TV’s most popular shows – The
Mentalist – but he also got to spend time with Pitt while filming Troy.
you meet him, you can’t actually believe he exists,’ says Owain, ‘but
he’s like a giant kid in the best possible way. All I’ll say is never
play him at Boggle – it’s a word game similar to Scrabble – because he’s
brilliant at it.
'I have visions of him sitting at home playing it with
Angelina, but I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how much he beat
It’s been nine
years since Owain, now 34, moved to LA – a move that not only brought
about his role in The Mentalist but also introduced him to his former
wife Lucy Davis, best known as Dawn from The Office.
The Mentalist, now in its fifth season, stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane – a one-time fraudulent psychic who uses his keen observational skills to read people and crime scenes for clues to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve murders.
Owain, as Special Agent Wayne Rigsby, is part of the investigation team. ‘The reason the show’s so successful,’ he says, ‘is that audiences seem to have an unquenchable thirst for problem- solving murder mysteries.’
Owain and Lucy, the daughter of comedian Jasper Carrott, were trying to crack Hollywood when they met, and eventually married in St Paul’s Cathedral in 2006. The couple divorced after just five years with Lucy citing irreconcilable differences. Owain appears to harbour no ill feelings towards his ex-wife and even credits her with his decision a few years ago to turn vegetarian.
Owain appears to harbour no ill feelings towards his ex-wife Lucy Davis
‘I was playing a marine alongside a huge cast of men in the Iraq War series Generation Kill,’ he says.
‘It was testosterone to the max. We’d become like savages, eating steak for breakfast. Then after I’d finished filming, Lucy and I were having Christmas dinner and she did a switch on me by giving me fake turkey cutlets.
'It tasted like real meat to me, so I stuck with it and lost a load of weight in the process. I don’t get on my soapbox about being a vegetarian, but I feel a lot better because of it.’
The success of The Mentalist ensured Owain was one of the special guests at BAFTA’s ‘Brits To Watch’ gala in Hollywood last year, attended by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
‘One website had run a story saying I was one of Prince William’s best friends out in LA, along with the Beckhams and Elton John, when all that had happened was I’d shown him around Oxford University along with a load of other people when I was a student there. But I told him that and he laughed.
'He was really approachable and we sat there talking about Top Gear, of all things, and he overran his schedule because he wanted to make sure he talked to everyone. I didn’t get to talk to Kate unfortunately, but I could see she was desperate to say The Mentalist was her favourite show,’ he jokes.
‘My claim to fame was that I was pushed out of the way because Barbra Streisand needed the toilet.’
Being manhandled by Barbra Streisand’s minders at a Hollywood party is something Owain could scarcely have dreamed about growing up in South Wales, where his parents still live.
After graduating from Oxford he briefly worked in a bank before deciding his future lay in acting, and after making his film debut in Troy he made a rather more low-key appearance in Midsomer Murders.
‘Everyone else was asking me what Brad Pitt was like,’ he says, ‘but all my mum wanted to ask me about was John Nettles.’
The Mentalist is now in its fifth series and Owain stars alongside Simon Baker
Shortly afterwards, Owain pitched up in Hollywood, which has been his home ever since. Homesickness occasionally rears its head but Owain has fellow Welshmen Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys to call upon should he need reminders of home.
‘We’ll watch the Six Nations rugby in Ioan’s garage, his “man cave” where he entertains his mates,’ says Owain.
‘And Matt will occasionally start daydreaming of a fish and chip shop he wants us to open in Santa Monica. So if the acting doesn’t work out, at least we’ll all have something to fall back on.’
The Mentalist, Friday, 9pm, Channel 5.