Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Day in Ros na Rún, Part 2

In Part 1 of My Day in Ros na Rún, I told you how this adventure came about, what my husband Mark and I did during the day we spent in Spiddal visiting Ros na Rún, and what it’s like to be an extra and film a scene on the show. In this installment I’ll talk about the time we spent with the cast and crew and try to give a better sense of who and what it takes to bring a show as complex as Ros na Rún to the screen.

I mentioned last time that Annamaria Nic Dhonnacha (Bobbi-Lee) and Marie Bheag Breathnach (Mo) were our hosts and tour guides. Marie was filming that day, but it was Annamaria’s day off, which made it even sweeter that she came in and spent her entire day with us! When we first entered the lot we saw “Cóilí Jackie” rushing from one place to another near the green room—I never spotted him again and we didn’t get to meet him. As I mentioned earlier, when Marie and Annamaria took us to see hair and makeup, Máire Eilís Ní Fhlaithearta (Caitríona) was in the chair and we chatted with her a bit. She’s lovely, and definitely has a mischievous twinkle in her eye—and is also beautiful, even with her hair in rollers and her makeup only half done! She popped into the green room a time or two later on, too, but she finished her scenes pretty early in the day and then we didn’t see her again.

While touring the set we ran into and were introduced to Niall Mac Eachmharcaigh, who plays John Joe, and in the green room we met Pól Penrose (Colm). We saw them both here and there throughout the day, especially in the green room, and I enjoyed talking to both of them—I didn’t get to chat with Pól as much, but I talked to Niall quite a bit. They’re both very nice guys. I should stop saying that because it’s going to get repetitive, but everyone genuinely was really nice! Stupidly, I didn’t manage to get photos taken with either of them. I was bad about picture-taking because there was so much going on and I was a bit overwhelmed by it all.

We were introduced to Seosaimhín Ní Shuilleabháin (Laoise) only in passing in the green room—she was popping in to grab something and was then called back out, so she’s the only cast member we met whom we didn’t get to say more than hi to. Seán Ó Baoill, who plays Adam, is one of the Ros na Rún cast members I’d developed an online friendship with, and he was kind enough to do a Q&A for the blog, so I was really hoping I’d get to meet him in person, so I was happy when I ran into him in the green room. He was just back from a trip to New York, so we were lucky to catch him! Seán is a very funny guy with a great sense of humor, very sly and dry, and another born storyteller. His wit definitely kept us laughing. He was in and out of the green room the rest of the day with us, as was Danny Mac Eachmharcaigh, who plays Niall. Danny wasn’t familiar with my Ros na Rún Recaps blog and I was a bit embarrassed when, after Annamaria told him about it, he actually pulled it up on his phone and started looking at it while sitting right next to me on the sofa! Especially since, uhh, I might have talked…just a little bit of smack about his character a time or two. (I made sure I pointed out that it’s all done with love! And I actually genuinely do enjoy Danny the actor and Niall the character.) Danny is also a really good guy and fun to talk to, and it was interesting hearing his take on what it’s like being on the show and being a public figure since he hasn’t been on as long as some of the other actors we were talking to.

The episode we’d watched just before visiting featured a really nice scene between John Joe and baby Jay, so while we were in the green room I mentioned it to Niall Mac Eachmharcaigh who plays John Joe, which led to a conversation about the fun and challenges of working with small children. I was sitting next to Danny Mac Eachmharcaigh (Niall) at that point, who has a lot of scenes with Liam Óg, and it was interesting to hear from different actors about their experiences working with different babies and children. It seems sometimes on-set kiddies are perfectly happy, but other times they get anxious if they can’t see Mommy or Daddy, but then other times if they do see Mommy or Daddy they want to go to her or him, and sometimes they just want to stare at the boom mike hanging over their heads. (If you’ve ever noticed TV babies who keep looking straight up, that’s why.) But everyone also concluded that Niall/John Joe is just plain good with children, and he admitted bashfully that babies do really like him.

I met Yvonne Ní Laife (who plays Úna) very briefly, and only on the café set where we filmed our interior scene because she was sitting right behind me. I tried to be careful all day not to be presumptuous or get in the way while people were working, but she initiated a little conversation with us between takes and was absolutely lovely, talking about how exciting it is to visit a TV set when you’re a fan, and how memorable it was for her when she started out and how she still finds it kind of magical.

As I mentioned earlier, we also met Pól Ó Griofa, who plays Mack, and he was around a lot of the afternoon in the green room, and is a really nice guy. He is immediately likeable and very funny, and since Mack is one of my favorite characters, I was very glad we got to meet Pól. (For those of you who are wondering, Mack’s famous stubble is real and is not CGI added in postproduction.)  

The last member of the cast we got to meet was Domhnall O’Donoghue (Pádraig), who also wasn’t filming that day, but came in just to meet us. He and I had also become online friends over the years and we played a bit of text-tag during the afternoon as he was trying to figure out when would be a good time and place to meet us. He sent me a message while I had my phone turned off because we were filming, and I think he and Annamaria played phone tag for a bit, and eventually they arranged for us to meet at An Cruiscin Lan for drinks at the end of the day. You’re probably tired of hearing it, but Domhnall is also a wonderful guy: very smart, funny, thoughtful, kind, welcoming, and generous. He’s one of those people where you can just tell that there’s always a lot going on in his head, and it was really fun to get to know him better personally, but also to hear his thoughts on the show, its role in Irish culture, and the portrayal of gay characters, with all the privileges and opportunities and responsibilities that come with having such a powerful media voice. You can tell he’s a writer because he thinks and talks like one! (I mean this as high praise, if that’s not obvious.) I feel like I learned a lot and got a better understanding of Ros na Rún as an institution, the Gaeltacht and Ireland, and the media from talking to him—but in a completely enjoyable way, because he’s such a nice easygoing guy, and also hilarious.

There was a funny moment when we tried to get a photo of the 4 of us before Annamaria left. Domhnall asked a lady at a nearby table if she’d take a pic of us and it was clear she’d recognized and been eyeing the TV stars while trying not to be obvious about it. So she seemed pleased and excited when they went over to her and asked if she’d come take a picture! (I think she was also checking Mark and me out to see if we were “anyone,” but of course we aren’t, so she only got to meet 2 famous people that day). She was very sweet, and the little conversation they had was in Irish so I didn’t get most of it, but I did hear her use the English word “superstars!” So anyway, nice lady at the next table over in An Cruiscan Lan, thanks for taking this photo!

One person I sadly didn’t get to meet but want to mention is Brídín Nic Dhonncha, who plays Gráinne. She’d been very sweet and helpful during the planning of our trip to Galway, and we were looking forward to finally meeting in person, but then at the last minute her little boy got sick and then she caught it too, so we weren’t able to see each other. The perils of trying to make plans during cold and flu season! But Brídín was so kind and generous that I feel like I know her even though we haven’t actually met.

Of course it takes a ton of people to make Ros na Rún, most of whom the viewers never see, but we certainly see the efforts of their hard work and creativity. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of the crew and behind-the-scenes folks and they were all absolutely lovely. I particularly enjoyed chatting with Máire, Anna, and Caitríona when we visited hair and makeup, and with Ger in in the costume department, whom I stopped to talk to and enjoyed the conversation so much I had to be dragged away! The Ros na Rún wardrobe room is amazing. It’s not huge, but it’s on two levels with a set of stairs going up to a sort of loft area, and both levels are absolutely packed from floor to ceiling with racks of clothing divided in several ways. All the characters have their own sections labeled with their names, which is where most of their clothes live, but then there’s also a section on one side of the room labeled by day of the week where they’ve set aside costumes that will be needed for filming that week. Needless to say, Bobbi-Lee’s section is a treat to behold! Lots of sparkle there, like the woman herself! It was also fun to see one of Berni’s iconic pink café shirts on a shelf waiting to go to the laundry. I was about to ask to see Pádraig’s section because he’s had so many gorgeous new clothes this season that I wanted to see in person, but then I discovered everybody else had basically left without me so I had to go catch up with them!

I wish I’d had more time to talk to Ger, because not only does she have a lot of interesting info, but she’s also just a funny, smart person to chat with! We talked about some of the fun and challenges of dressing the characters, about shopping trips to buy them new clothes, and about how much fun it can be to really dress a character to the nines for a special occasion when we’re used to seeing him or her in, say, a work uniform, or jeans and a sweater. Somehow in the course of the conversation a comment I made in one of my recaps came up, in which I’d raved about how much I loved a particular outfit Mo was wearing once (a black wrap top with dangly red jewelry that made her look like a fabulous Spanish lady), and it turns out Ger was the one who’d put that outfit together and was very proud of it, so it meant a lot to her when she saw that someone had noticed—even if it was only me! (Funnily enough, Marie didn’t remember the outfit even though she was the one wearing it, but she did remember how happy Ger was at the time.) As you may know, the Ros na Rún costume designer since day one has been Blánaid Ní Nuanáin, and I got to meet her while we were in that part of the studio as well, but she was on her way somewhere so we basically only got to say hello.

I actually remembered to ask one question I’ve always wondered, which is whether there’s a sort of design dossier for each character that describes their style, their looks, the colors they wear, and so on, and was told that yes, they do exist and they serve exactly the purpose I’d imagined!

Another person I was excited to meet was producer Deirdre Ní Fhlatharta, whom I recognized from interviews and articles I’ve seen and read about the show. I was surprised that she actually knew about me and my Ros na Rún Recaps blog, and she thanked me for the work I do and told me it meant a lot to the people who make the show to have such loyal fans. We talked about how important the show is socially and culturally, and also about how it’s just plain GOOD and fun to watch, and it was one of my favorite conversations of the day. Throughout the day we ran into a few people who knew of me, or at least knew that there was somebody out there writing Ros na Rún recaps, and that was very strange, but very nice! A couple of times when I was being introduced to someone it went something like this:

—X, this is Rich. He’s visiting us from America.
—Hi, Rich! Nice to meet you.
—He’s the one who writes the recaps.
—Oh, RICH! That’s you?!?

I’d been told that some of the cast and crew read, or are at least aware of my blog, but to actually hear people talk about it was really weird but wonderful. It was like, “Wow, I guess they actually DO know about what I’m doing!” A number of people were really interested in how I discovered the show in the first place, including why an American with no known Irish roots decided to try learning Irish, and how I got started writing the recaps, and what my process for writing them is and how long it takes me to do one.

Annamaria and Marie explained to us that there weren’t very many actors on the set that day compared to some days, and that there was also a second crew filming on location elsewhere that day. The fact that it was apparently a slower day compared to some meant there wasn’t as much going on, but it worked out to our benefit because it meant we really had free rein to see all the sets and spend as much time as we wanted on them without having to worry about getting in the way or making noise. Of course I would have loved to meet everyone, but I also think I would’ve felt overwhelmed, so I was happy to be there on a day when things were not quite as hectic as they sometimes are.

We had one other Ros na Rún-related encounter a couple of days before we headed out to Galway. Mark and I went out for drinks with Daithí Mac Suibhne, who played Eoin on Ros na Rún and is now in the middle of a gigantic storyline as Emmet on Fair City. Daithí is one of my all-time favorite Ros na Rún actors, and was also my first-ever Twitter follower when I started writing Ros na Rún Recaps. We’d become virtual friends over the past couple of years, so the first night we were in Dublin, he took us out for drinks at a pub near our hotel, and he could not be nicer or more fun to hang out with. He’s kind, genuine, hilarious, and extremely smart, and having a pint with him was a great way to spend our first night in Ireland. Mark and I had basically been awake since the previous morning with only a couple of hours of sleep, so we might not have been at our sharpest, but Daithí was kind enough not to point it out.

I’ll admit that for the first few minutes I was starstruck and a bit carried away by how surreal it was to be seeing someone from TV in real life. It was like, “This is someone I’ve seen on TV, and here he is in person, and he can SEE ME, and he is talking to and interacting with me, and THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE.” But Daithí’s such a fun, genuine, down-to-earth guy that within a couple of minutes of sitting down and getting settled with our pints it felt more like, “OK, we’re hanging out chatting with our friend Daithí who happens to work on TV.”

The most thrilling moment of that night was on the way to the pub when we almost got hit by a car while crossing the street. I had a momentary flash of, “Oh my God, I’m going to be in the newspapers as that American who got killed that time Emmet from Fair City got hit by a car!” Fortunately, we dodged the car and all three of us lived to tell the tale. A number of people in the pubs recognized Daithí, so there was a bit of light squealing and some, “I’m the biggest fan of the show, all my friends will tell you that about me!” and some posing for photos, and he was a true gentleman about all of it. I also enjoyed it when I could see people sneaking looks at him because they knew they knew him from somewhere but couldn’t figure out from where. I also overheard a guy whispering to his friend at the bar, “Isn’t that your man there from Fair City?”

I’ve talked about what we did and who we met, so next time, in the final installment of My Day in Ros na Rún, I’ll talk about what it’s like to walk through the sets, what surprised me about the physical layout of the place, and my encounter with the giant plastic ice cream cone from the shop! As always, thanks for reading, and please leave any comments or questions you have below! 

Most of all, thanks to everyone we met for being so kind to us, spending their time with us, and making it such an amazing trip!

(EDIT: Here's the link to the third and final chapter!)

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