It’s a long journey from Oldham, Greater Manchester, to Los Angeles. Almost 5,300 miles, in fact. But for Ricky Whittle, it’s been a long journey in more ways than one.
You’ll know his face best from his four-year stint on Hollyoaks as heartthrob policeman Calvin Valentine, as well as his time on Strictly Come Dancing, where he reached the final in 2009.
In the six years since Whittle left the UK, and his northern English hometown, he’s starred in a feature film and several TV shows – the most recent of which is American Gods, the much-hyped adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel.
The show was filmed in Toronto, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, which meant that Whittle spent time travelling across much of North America.
Yet, despite his jetsetting, Whittle has definitely found a home in LA. He tells us exactly what he loves most, from skydiving in San Diego to seaside sunsets.
The best thing about LA is the climate. It’s very relaxed, it’s very warm, everyone’s walking around in yoga pants, shorts and T-shirts, because it’s a holiday destination – it’s beautiful, sunny and bright. You almost feel guilty staying indoors. It encourages you to move and be active. People hike, they work out a lot, because it’s nice out. It’s a completely different mentality.
People here are a lot more positive, it’s a great feeling. Everyone’s quick to pump you up and commend you on anything you’ve done well, whether it be your career or whether you’re dressed well. I think it might be the sun. When England’s hot, in the summer, it’s a different country. It really is wonderful. But as soon as that rain comes in, everyone gets miserable again.
My favourite area in LA is Marina del Rey, in Venice Beach. I wish I’d moved there sooner. It’s a completely different vibe to central LA – there’s the beach, people are doing yoga, they’ve got their bikes. I spend most of my free time there now. Three times a week I’ll sit on the beach and watch the sun set over the water, which is an incredible thing to be able to do. Mother Nature takes over and you forget what’s behind you, a city with all of the smog and the craziness. It’s really special. There are dolphins, sea lions and all sorts of marine life that comes right alongside the beach. All the seals live in Marina Del Rey. The dolphins like to go up the coast between Malibu and Venice. That’s the thing – even the animals here are chilled.
On my days off, I like to go skydiving in San Diego. It’s one of the best things you’ll ever do in your life – it’s really spiritual. You realise you’re so insignificant in this world, and you can’t help but start to re-evaluate your whole life and problems. I always think that, if I land, then obviously I’m meant to be here. I’m an adrenaline junkie and it gives me my buzz. It’s even better if you catch the sunset while you’re doing it.
My favourite restaurant in Los Angeles is C & O Cucina. It’s a beautiful Italian place I always go to in Marina Del Rey. I love Baby Blues Barbecue for pulled pork and steak tri-tips [marinated and smoked sirloin]. America is incredible for meat. Steaks, chicken, and all that fried stuff. The flavours are immense. We definitely don’t know how to barbecue compared to America. For special occasions, I like Craig’s on Melrose. It’s a really nice spot with good food and a lot of variety. One thing I do miss, though, is my Sunday roast – and a good kebab.
Toast, on Melrose, is great for brunch. I also like The Grove, which is part of an outdoor shopping centre. It’s nice to relax in the sun there and chill – and you can do a bit of shopping. If I’ve been working out – at Gold’s Gym, the iconic place where Arnold Schwarzenegger trains – I go to The Firehouse, in Venice. It’s got a great menu that’s very healthy, lots of lean meats, salads, avocados – healthy food that helps you to recharge.
The Redbury is a great hotel. It’s where my family and friends like to stay if they’re not staying with me. Then there’s The Hollywood Roosevelt, which is bang in the middle of everything, They have some huge parties there, and you’re right on the Strip, by the Chinese Theatre, all the stores, and the tourist attractions.
LA is a good base to explore from. You can fly to Vegas in 40 minutes. There a lots of different cities that are pretty close, yet they have very different feels, which I find really interesting. When filming American Gods, I drove down the coast from Toronto. I drove to Vancouver, through Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, all the way back down to LA so I know the whole West Coast. I’d definitely recommend San Francisco, which is a four-hour drive – it’s a lot of fun.
Whittle wears: Kingsman blue slim-fit double-breasted windowpane-checked wool suit jacket, £995; Kingsman + Drake’s silk-grenadine tie, £120; Oliver Spencer Lupin cotton pocket square; Thom Sweeney slim-fit cotton-poplin shirt, £235; [overleaf] Kingsman slim-fit double-breasted overcoat, £1,495; all from mrporter.com. Crockett & Jones chestnut burnished calf oxfords, £420, crockettandjones.com