Westside's Xavier Horan on playing dumb and training with the SAS

Xavier Horan as Phineas O'Driscoll in Westside.
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Xavier Horan as Phineas O'Driscoll in Westside.

When Xavier Horan isn't acting, you'll most likely find him at the gym.

He won't necessarily be working out though – in between acting jobs Horan moonlights as a personal trainer at Auckland's Ludus Magnus gym, taking group classes two or three days a week.

The 34-year-old actor likes to keep himself fit – he's played rugby league all his life, was once a boxer, and has also played representative touch rugby as well.

Westside: The Ted West gang. (from L to R) Daniel Musgrove as Lefty, Pana Hema Taylor as Bert, David de Lautour as Ted, ...
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Westside: The Ted West gang. (from L to R) Daniel Musgrove as Lefty, Pana Hema Taylor as Bert, David de Lautour as Ted, Xavier Horan as Phineas, Todd Emerson as Bilkey.

Add three children to the mix, and a wife, Nicole Horan, whose job as a TV producer – The Bachelor NZ anyone? – means he occasionally ends up running the family household fulltime and you've got one pretty busy guy.

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Horan has been on our screens – both big and small – for more than a decade now, and this week he returns to the small screen as "black Irishman" Phineas O'Driscoll, Ted West's gang muscle in the second season of Westside, the prequel to Outrageous Fortune.

Westside season two: There's an important boxing match on the cards for Phineas in episode one.
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Westside season two: There's an important boxing match on the cards for Phineas in episode one.

What's the best thing about playing Phineas?

The best thing about playing Phineas – and it isn't easy – is that a lot of people think he's dumb. But I think it's just that he's a very deep thinker. And I love his honesty. It can easily be misread sometimes, but I enjoy that, you know?

He's just really black and white. With him you're either honest or you're dishonest – there's no sarcasm or beating around the bush, because if you do beat around the bush then he'll get on top of you straight away. So he struggles with sarcasm and that type of humour. He takes things quite literally.

Westside: Sophie Hambleton and Xavier Horan as Carol and Phineas O'Driscoll.
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Westside: Sophie Hambleton and Xavier Horan as Carol and Phineas O'Driscoll.

How close is the Westside cast?

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We're real tight – a very, very close relationship, all of us. Particularly the boys. We've got huge respect for each other – and we each get on really well with the girls as well.

Last year, when we did series one, I'd done a tele-feature called The Kick with David de Lautour (Ted West) and Pana (Hema Taylor, who plays Bert) and I had done The Dead Lands together, but I'd never met Dan and Todd (Lefty and Bilkey respectively) before.

Westside season two: "Episode 10 is going to be like f...ing Guy Fawkes!" says Xavier Horan.
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Westside season two: "Episode 10 is going to be like f...ing Guy Fawkes!" says Xavier Horan.

So when we finished our read-through as a cast for eps one and two and got straight into rehearsal, it was quite awkward just sitting around the room. Us five, we're supposed to be this gang – but thankfully we all came as best as we could with our attitude and as best prepared for our characters, and by the end of that rehearsal we all went up to the pub and had a beer together. From that day onwards, we became the best of mates.

Back in 2014, it seemed like you were in every Kiwi movie going – The Dark Horse, The Last Saint, The Dead Lands. How did you manage that?

That's called hustle brother! (Laughs) Yeah, I was very fortunate that a few things fell into place so once those movies came out it kind of seemed like that. But hey, there's a hundred other Xavier Horans out there just hustling and hustling, and all with a boxful of talent waiting for the right role to release it, you know? There's just a small circle of work that's available to us but this giant pool of actors that are just going for it. So I count myself very blessed to have been one of those guys.

You play an SAS soldier in 6 Days, an upcoming film about the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London, with Jamie Bell and Mark Strong. What was the training for that like?

We were based out in a factory in Avondale for two weeks, and we wore our full kit every single day, from 6am until 5pm. For the first two days, we went through weapon loading procedures. Then for the next 10 days it was four-man room assaults, bus assaults – practical and theory training. And that was all live firing – a lot of gunsmoke man. But they were big on safety, and it's a tribute to New Zealand actors and kind of our standard, you know – they were thoroughly impressed with our learning and with our safety procedures, hence why we went straight into the live firing.

Finally, what's it like being married to the mastermind behind The Bachelor NZ?

Oh man. What was it like? (Laughs) It was a grind, to be honest. Thankfully our two older kids are at that age where they can kind of look after themselves, but we've got a little bubba who's about to turn two in a couple of months, and she definitely needs attention. And my wife, for that first leg of The Bachelor, she was just thrust right into it. Travelling to the mansion was an hour-and-a-half drive, and then 12 hours filming.

My wife, you know, she prides herself on her commitment and work ethic, so even though she could have left when filming had wrapped, she'd make sure she was one of the last to leave, which meant she'd be home at three in the morning and she'd be up by seven or eight – four hours sleep. And then she was off to Hawaii for four-and-a-half weeks. But I suppose we both knew that could happen in our lines of work. We're a team, we've got a good partnership, so we've just got to support each other. It was pretty tough, but I'm proud of her, and I'm proud she's kind of got the recognition she deserves.

Westside season two starts tonight, TV3, 8.30pm.

 - Stuff

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