Flexibility is important when securing roles in film and TV, so being willing to get physically intimate helps. And as the actor Neal McDonough knows all too well, refusing to take roles which involve kissing and intimacy can hurt your chances of nabbing a part. Indeed, he’s very open about the reasons behind his decision, and sticks firmly to his conviction. But what drove him to take such a stand?
Hollywood is full of famous on-screen romances. Titanic’s Jack and Rose, You’ve Got Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox and Grease’s Danny and Sandy are all memorable couples, and their respective films wouldn’t be the same without them. And in many cases, there wouldn’t even be a movie in their absence.
TV shows such as romcom drama Sex and the City also take a similar approach. They focus heavily on their characters’ social lives, and relationships are a big part of that. Consequently, it can be sometimes hard for writers to avoid depicting intimate scenes between actors.
But of course, not every fictional relationship has to be a romantic one. Furthermore, some actors outright refuse to do physically intimate scenes, and actor Neal McDonough is one of them. The actor has a huge resume, and first appeared on our screens in 1991.
McDonough’s family actually has roots in Ireland, but his parents traveled to the United States before his birth. As a result, McDonough, who was born in February 1966, was raised in Barnstable, Massachusetts, with his five siblings. He has a sister and four brothers, who playfully nicknamed him “Headster” as a child, believing he had a large cranium.
Meanwhile, when McDonough reached college, his life could have taken a very different turn. That’s because he had an aptitude for baseball, and he was offered several scholarships But the future star had a greater passion for theater, and he believed Syracuse was his best option to pursue the arts.
It must have been the right choice for the McDonough, too, because the budding actor’s work paid off in 1991. Indeed, his role in Away Alone that year led to theater officials awarding him with the Best Actor Dramalogue. And from there, the star’s career went from strength to strength.
McDonough then secured roles across a plethora of TV series, acting in shows such as Star Trek: First Contact, The Wonderful World of Disney and The X-Files. He has also voiced a number of animated characters, so some may be more familiar with McDonough’s vocals than his face.
Indeed, McDonough has lent his vocal talents to cartoon series – 1995’s Iron Man, for example – and video games such as 2014’s Batman: Assault on Arkham. But one of the actor’s most influential roles was his stint on 2001’s Band of Brothers. Indeed, the part had an influential impact on both the star’s professional and personal life.
Band of Brothers is a war drama series based on a non-fiction novel by author-historian Stephen E. Ambrose. Hollywood greats Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who worked together on war film Saving Private Ryan, directed it. The result is now widely considered a standard for World War II shows.
The casting director hired McDonough to play Lynn D. “Buck” Compton for the majority of the show’s run. And it was actually quite fortuitous timing; as the actor was on the verge quitting Hollywood entirely and going to work with his parents. Indeed, he revealed as much in an interview with Closer Weekly in January 2019.
McDonough was responding to a question about his supposed lack of recognition in Hollywood at the time. He said, “I was going to give up my Hollywood career. I was going to move back to Cape Cod and work at my parents’ motel and do local theater.” But all of that was about to change after he got a phone call from a certain well-known film director.
“Then I got a call from Steven Spielberg…,” McDonough continued to Closer Weekly. “… He wanted to see me for Band of Brothers, and it was off to the races.” Meanwhile, the actor was asked about what had originally drawn him to the industry. None of his other family members were famous, so what had influenced his decision to take the plunge?
“It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” McDonough continued. “I was the youngest of six kids, and I always loved making my brothers and sister laugh. At school, I was the class clown. I wasn’t good at math or reading because I was dyslexic, but I was really good at entertaining people.”
And it’s also testament to McDonough’s determination that he triumphs over adversity. Not only does the actor tackle dyslexia to read his lines, but he also attributes it to his success. Nevertheless, the actor still faces some hurdles in his daily life when it comes to the condition.
“If you give me something cold to read right now, I can’t read it,” McDonough told Closer Weekly. “I have to go over it a couple of times. But that really helps me have a photographic memory with text. I can look at something a couple times, and I’ve got it, which is a great tool to have.”
McDonough continued, “Dyslexia helped me become an actor in some way. And I’m blessed to be where I am right now.” And feels his parents are partially responsible, especially his father Frank, who served in the army. In fact, the star believes his dad passed on his work ethic to him.
McDonough described how his father Frank came out of the army and went to work on a Ford assembly line. He followed that with a hotel business, which McDonough’s mom, Catherine, helped run. The “mom-and-pop hotel,” as the actor refers to it, sits in the beautiful Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
“What he instilled in me was an honest work ethic,” McDonough said of his father. “If you work hard, great things will happen.” Meanwhile, the star elaborated on another unexpected surprise that awaited him during his time filming Band of Brothers. That’s because he was about to meet the love of his life.
McDonough told Closer Weekly how he met Ruvé McDonough-née-Robertson in England during his time on Band of Brothers. He said, “It was St. Patrick’s Day, and we literally bumped into each other on the street, locked eyes and that was it.”
But there was just one thing McDonough needed to do before pursuing his future wife. He continued, “The next morning, I called the woman I was dating at the time and said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not going to work out with us anymore. I just met the woman I’m going to marry.’”
Indeed, that’s exactly what McDonough did, and he’s been with his wife ever since. He told Closer Weekly, “Almost 20 years, five kids and just one heck of an awesome life later, to have her as my partner in everything, I’m just the most blessed guy I know.”
So the question remains, why does McDonough refuse to take part in on-screen physical romances? Well, he’s very upfront about his reasons, which are a combination of dedication to his wife and his faith. Indeed, like many Irish families, McDonough was brought up Roman Catholic.
Ireland’s Catholic church has approximately 3.7 million members in its community, making it the country’s biggest religious denomination. McDonough is a proud member of the faith, and shows his conviction through his steadfast no-romance stance. He revealed to Closer Weekly, “I won’t kiss any other woman because these lips are meant for one woman.”
In addition, McDonough says he doesn’t want his children seeing him with another woman onscreen. He told the Christian Examiner as much in August 2016. He explained, “… Killing people on screen – that’s fake, that’s not real. When you’re in bed with another woman on screen, guess what? That’s real.”
“I don’t like that kind of stuff,” McDonough continued. “Especially now with kids. I don’t want to have my kids say, ‘Hey Dad, what are you doing with that lady on screen?’” But the actor ’s rule is a bit more complex than that, though; because it’s also about his devotion to God.
“Life is about honoring God,” McDonough added to the Christian Examiner. “And [it’s about] being the best human being you can be, and giving praise to God in everything you do.” With this in mind, he says he also won’t take the name of the Lord in vain when he’s onset. However, things haven’t always been easy for the devout actor.
And McDonough explained during his Closer Weekly interview that his limitations have cost him several roles. He said that’s the reason the Scoundrels team fired him from the comedy drama show, adding that “it was a horrible situation for me. After that, I couldn’t get a job because everybody thought I was this religious zealot.”
For their part, ABC, the network that airs Scoundrels, refuted these claims, claiming that a casting change was the reason for McDonough’s dismissal. Regardless, for a period afterwards, the actor struggled to find work. And it’s a problem he thinks comes from how others see his dedication to faith.
“I am very religious,” McDonough admitted to Closer Weekly. “I put God and family first, and me second; that’s what I live by. It was hard for a few years.” But some show creators were so determined to cast McDonough that they worked around his no-romance clause. And that’s how he came to be in Desperate Housewives.
McDonough recalled, “When [creator] Marc Cherry signed me I said, ‘I’m sure you know, but I won’t kiss anybody.’ He was like, ‘But this is Desperate Housewives!’ I said, ‘I know.’ He paused for about five seconds and said, ‘All right, I’m just going to have to write better.’ And we had a great time.”
Things improved dramatically for McDonough after Graham Yost, the producer of Band of Brothers, contacted him with an offer. The actor said, “… [He] called me and said, ‘Hey, I want you to be the bad guy on Justified.’ [And] I knew that [it] was my shot back at the title.”
McDonough has been in the spotlight ever since, and has found his go-to role: bad guys. he told the Christian Examiner, “You can either be the guy who kisses girls on screen, or make a career at people who kill people on screen. As an actor: How do I make money at this thing?”
There’s less of an emphasis on giving villains screen smooches, and as McDonough previously stated, movie deaths aren’t real. He continued, “I love acting. So the bad guy thing came up, and that has been my niche for a long time now.”
Since Justified, McDonough has experienced somewhat of a career boom, mostly in villain roles. For example, he played the mysterious criminal Damian Darhk in DC Comics’ Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. He also stepped into the role of Sean Cahill, an antagonist and prosecutor in legal drama Suits.
It’s not all black twirly mustaches for McDonough, though. Indeed, 2019 has seen him play the role of a character who isn’t as clearly defined as a hero or villain. In sci-fi TV series Project Bluebook, McDonough plays General James Harding, a military man trying to contain alien conspiracies.
In his interview with Closer Weekly, McDonough described his latest character. The actor said, “It’s not so much that he’s a good guy or a bad guy. He’s a patriot, and he’s going to do the right thing for his country, no matter what.” And it’s a role he can relate to personally.
“He totally believes the U.S. is the greatest country ever, as do I,” McDonough said of General Harding. He said his dad was an American patriot since he emigrated. The actor continued, “…That’s deeply in my blood, so when I get to play guys like I did in Band of Brothers or Flags of Our Fathers who bleed red, white and blue, it’s great for me.”
Moreover, the role is in keeping with all of McDonough’s religious beliefs and acting stipulations. He revealed, “As a devout Catholic, I believe certain things. Who are we as human beings on this planet to say that God might not have plans in other places? To think it’s just us is a bit myopic.”
McDonough added, “If you believe in spirits, why can’t you believe there be might extraterrestrials? Who knows?” Regardless of where his career takes him next, the star is loving life. He concluded, “It’s pretty remarkable all the people I’ve gotten to work with, and all the places I’ve gotten to travel to. And believe me, I appreciate every second of it.”