Thursday, August 3, 2017

8 Questions with...Domhnall O'Donoghue

Have you ever wondered what really goes into making our beloved Ros na Rún, or what the people who make the show so great are really like? No? Well, too bad, because I’m introducing a new feature I’m calling “8 Questions with…”, in which the talented folks from Ros na Rún give us a little insight into the show, their characters, and themselves.

Our first victim guest is the incredibly wonderful Domhnall O’Donoghue, who plays everyone’s favorite restaurant manager, advice-giver, and all-around good guy ... Pádraig! In case you’re not aware, Domhnall is also a terrific journalist and author, and his debut novel Sister Agatha: The World’s Oldest Serial Killer is a laugh-out-loud charmer and a complete joy to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Without further ado, here’s… 8 Questions with Domhnall O’Donoghue!

What is your favorite thing about being on Ros na Rún?
Where to begin! Connemara is one of the most magical places in the world. Like so many others, I used to go there as a child every summer. So, when I uproot there for six months each August, I feel like I’m on my holidays! The cast and crew are all close friends of mine and we enjoy a wonderful dynamic on and off set.

Additionally, the show is continuously attempting to break new grounds with its storylines so from a creative point of view that is something that really excites me about being on the show. For instance, it aired the first gay kiss on Irish television about 20 years ago. For Pádraig, the new season might not have any dramatic kisses but it is certainly going to be a rollercoaster!

How do you think you and Pádraig are similar, and how are you different? How do you think you would get along with him in real life?
Apart from the fact that we kinda look alike? Bada boom!

I think most actors draw upon their real-life experiences when playing a role so a little bit of you will always reveal itself in your performance. I think we both are grafters, always looking for new opportunities, professionally and personally. Pádraig makes friends easily – he is almost chameleon-like, changing his colours to match the environment that he’s in – and I think that is something most actors can relate to as we are always going from job to job, collaborating with new people. Yet, he still extremely grounded, having experienced a lot of personal growth in the years since arriving in Ros na Rún.

I also think we are both romantics at heart. The upcoming season will reveal a lot more about Pádraig and his backstory – I won’t say anything at the minute but a lot of questions will finally be answered!

When it comes to working in the service industry, Pádraig is far more patient than I ever was. As a student, I worked in many bars and, once, a manager asked me to clean some vomit in the toilet so I whipped off my apron and hightailed it home, never to be seen again!

I’d also like to think that we would get on in real life – we both love a good gossip so there would be plenty to discuss!

The Pádraig/Adam storyline was one of the highlights of season 21. What was being part of that story like for you?
Thank you so much for saying that – it is extremely rewarding to hear such feedback. We, as a team, worked so hard to give that storyline depth and nuances. When the stakes are high, it always runs the risk of veering into melodrama but I hope we managed to avoid that and kept it rooted in reality.

Soaps like Ros na Rún are so privileged in that they are welcomed into thousands of homes each week and are given the platform to present topical stories like the one with Pádraig and Adam. Viewers like to be challenged and asked to think outside the box.

With this privilege, however, comes responsibility. Our brilliant scripting department is well aware that telling such sensitive stories – particularly those relating to minority groups - must be done in a balanced and fair way. There’s no place for sloppy stereotypes. I received so many correspondences after the storyline was aired from gay people over the world, praising it and commenting that they could relate to it. That makes our jobs worth it.

What do you think viewers would be surprised to know about making the show?
I think, in general, viewers don’t realise how unglamorous filming can be. Talk to any of the actors in Ros na Rún or any other soap and they will have endless stories about filming in the lashing rain or in Baltic conditions, for example or having to perform some tricky stunt a dozen times. Worse again, we have just six months to film over 80 episodes so once the new seasons start, you hit the ground running and don’t stop until wrap. Despite reports to the contrary, acting is not for the faint-hearted!

Another aspect that often surprises people is how well the actors get on with each other despite their characters being rivals on screen. For example, when I first joined the show, Pádraig and Gráinne were arch enemies fighting over the managerial position in Loinnir. In real life, Brídín and I are as close as can be!

Is there a funny/weird/interesting memory or anecdote about the show you'd be willing to share?
Máire Pheitir who plays Máire is the image of my mother who is also called Máire! When we work together, I feel like I’m hanging out at home and I think that natural chemistry comes across on screen. Oh, don’t be fooled by her character’s piousness – in real life, she is as bold as brass and I’m mad about her. She’s a fellow Scorpio, which might explain that.

One more… Two seasons ago, Pádraig had a fall and his back was badly hurt. At the time, I thought my performance was worthy of an Oscar, such was my commitment! About a week later, in real life, my back went on me for the first time ever and it was only then did I realise properly how a person suffering from such an injury should walk and move. What I had been doing on set was awful! I’ll know for the next time…

If Pádraig went to karaoke, what song would he sing?
It would probably be something from Madonna’s back catalogue – who doesn’t love a bit of Madge! I wonder if Pádraig is a better singer than me. I haven’t a note in my head. Last Christmas, my aunt joined us for dinner. We had a few bottles of vino and started a sing-song in the evening. With the Sauvignon Blanc freeing her from social decorum, my aunt blurted out, “You’re an awful singer, Domhnall!” She wasn’t too much better herself, I’ll hasten to add.

In addition to acting, you're also a writer. How do you think being an actor makes you a better/different writer, and how does being a writer make you a better/different actor?
I have always said that regardless of the medium, all art is storytelling and they can’t help but complement each other. Whether you’re a musician, a poet, an actor or a writer, we are all telling stories, just in different ways. When I wrote my first book last year, I found myself becoming really interested in creating a world of colourful, larger-than-life characters, something that definitely sprang from my instincts as an actor. After all, that’s what actors are interested in – people.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I recently got back from a press trip to Jamaica on behalf of Irish Tatler Man and it was the most magical week imaginable. It was a fitness and well-being retreat so we were doing yoga, snorkelling and hiking in the most exotic locations.

A highlight was a night’s stay at the Jamaica Inn, which has welcomed the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Noel Coward and Winston Churchill over the decades. It was a home from home for James Bond author Ian Fleming and it was in the hotel’s bar where the line ‘Shaken not stirred’ was coined. Double 0 Heaven, more like!

And there you have it! A million thanks to Domhnall O’Donoghue for helping to inaugurate this new feature, for being a good sport, and for being a star in every sense of the word! Go raibh míle maith agat, a Dhomhnaill, and apologies if I totally bollixed up the Irish there.

Readers, I’ve got a couple more Q&As in the works already, but who would YOU like to hear from, and what would you like to know about the show? Leave a comment and let me know!

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