ACTOR Steve Hay has grown the beard that keeps on giving and now he is worried he can’t afford to shave it off.

Mr Hay moved from Scotland to Oxfordshire in 1992 to study drama and has been here ever since.

Some actors face periods of resting between roles, but father-of-two Mr Hay is busier than ever, after growing a bushy beard for the part of an Irish gypsy in May last year for an episode of the American TV series Outlander.

After that, each role won by Mr Hay required a beard, and he now hopes the facial fuzz will win him a part in a lucrative whisky advert worth thousands of pounds.

The 48-year-old, who lives on a boat near Donnington Bridge in Oxford, said: “Beards are very trendy at the moment but it’s just a coincidence that I’ve got one right now, unless I’m more of a trendsetter than I give myself credit for.

“I needed the beard for the Outlander part and afterwards I thought I would keep it and see what happened. Then the parts I went for needed a beard and now it’s got to the stage where I can’t afford to shave it off.

“In January I was cast as a scientist at the Hadron Collider for a play at the Old Fire Station in Oxford and the beard suited that part.

“I also needed my beard when I was cast as one of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s protectors for The Great Getaway, a film produced by Robbie Moffat – I think Prince Harry’s former girlfriend Cressida Bonas could be playing my wife and filming starts next month.

“I’m also down to the last three for a Canadian whisky advert and will find out in the next couple of days if I have got that. It could be quite lucrative and I have seen the other two guys and their beards aren’t as big as mine so I’m hoping to get the part.

“It’s definitely the beard that keeps on giving and I’m reluctant to shave it off, though I’d like to think that it’s my acting skills as well as my beard that keeps winning me these interesting roles.”

Next month Mr Hay will take the high road to the Edinburgh Festival where he will appear at the Grassmarket from August 10 to August 16 in Turning Leaves, a series of monologues including one by Oxford-based Jaime Woodham, called Oh Danny Boy.

Mr Hay added: “It took three months to grow the beard and it’s now about four inches long – it’s a real talking point.

“It doesn’t take much grooming – I wax the moustache but just give the beard an occasional comb as it has to be bushy rather than neat when I’m acting.

“Later this year I might get a break in the schedule where I could shave it off and scatter it to the four winds and I could always grow it back if I needed to.”

Mr Hay has also spent three days doing voice work for Michael Fassbender’s new film of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

“I spent three days killing, dying, screaming and praying and that was one of the few occasions recently where I didn’t need my beard,” Mr Hay added.