Derry-born actress Bronagh Gallagher has come a long way since playing backing singer Bernie McGloughlin in the 1991 comedy musical 'The Commitments'. She has managed to carve herself a successful career both Stateside and closer to home, with appearances in box office hits such as 'Pulp Fiction' and theatre productions such as 'War Horse'.
When six-time Academy Award-nominee Glenn Close finally decided to bring perhaps her most cherished character, Albert Nobbs, to the big screen, Gallagher found herself with a role in one of the year's most highly-anticipated films, acting alongside Close and Tony Award-winner Janet McTeer (A Doll's House). IFTN caught up with the Gallagher, who is gearing up for the Irish cinema release of 'Albert Nobbs' this Friday (April 27) and the release of her second album.
How did your role in 'Albert Nobbs' come about?
Well Janet (McTeer, who plays Gallagher's cross-dressing 'husband' Hubert Page) suggested me to the director Rodrigo García, and the producers, and obviously Glenn was one of the producers and she thought I'd be a very fitting actress to play Cathleen and they completely ran with it. I literally had to turn up and know my lines, so that was a great honour to have that offer.
Tell me about your character Cathleen in Albert Nobbs?
Cathleen is the wife of Hubert who is a cross-dressing lady played by the brilliant Janet McTeer, who is the supporting lead in the movie, with Glenn Close at the helm playing Albert Nobbs. Janet and I play a lesbian couple living in Dublin in the 19th century and obviously because of the controversy that that would have caused, Janet is dressing as a man throughout her life, and I am playing the wife character in the marriage. So I come in on the Dublin side of things when Glenn’s character moved to Dublin to try and find work in the workhouses. The movie sort of kicks off there in the Dublin hotel where they work.
Who played Cathleen in the Broadway version?
Do you know I don't know who played Cathleen in the Broadway version, that's a very good question. I'm not sure, the show was very much about Glenn I must ask her actually who played that.
Would you like to tackle the Broadway version yourself?
I would, I love Broadway. Send me there! I played in Broadway before with 'Complicity' and it's absolutely wonderful we were part of the 90 centre festival in New York and it was just incredible, what a city.
Do you prefer Broadway to working on sets?
I love theatre, I have to say I'm a big theatre actress in that sense and I spent a lot of time in theatre here in London. I worked on the West End when War Horse opened there two years ago and we went from the national theatre where we performed for six months and then the show was such a huge success at the National it transferred to the West End. I had an absolute ball but 18 months straight is a long time to play live when you've eight shows a week. It's a real graft. I have to say my heart does lie in the theatre.
Where are you based?
I'm based in Queen's Park in London.
How does it compare to living and working in Ireland?
I did try to live at home in about 2002 and I bought a beautiful house back in Ireland. But I was just constantly having to come here [London] for meetings, even a half an hour meeting I'd be coming twice a week so it kind of just stopped working for me. So I just decided to move back and I love it and I love going back when I can. I recorded my second album in Ireland last year and this year and it's ready to be released now. I've got the best of both worlds.
When is the album due for release?
The album will be released on May 25, we're going to tour Ireland for that initial release and then we're back here then, and then we're coming back for the Westport Festival. On some of the songs I collaborated with bands that I'm using which is great but there are no vocal collaborations. The album is self-titled, it’s called Bronagh Gallagher. We're just about to announce the tour. I recorded the album in Dublin with Conor Brady and Paul Byrne in Phonic Studios on Abbey Street in Dublin. I mixed it in Dublin and mastered it here in Abbey Road. I produced it myself.
The first series of BBC comedy ‘Pramface’ has been picked up for a second season. Will you be returning?
I don't know yet. It's possible that it's going to happen but I won't say yay or nay because it hasn't been official. But it had great success.
Do you prefer doing comedy to drama?
No I love the straight stuff, comedy is very hard work. I'm a very serious head so I love the serious work. I love the educational work.
Do you think there are more opportunities in London and elsewhere compared to Ireland & Northern Ireland?
No, I think you create your own opportunities. I think that's a default in our minds. With organisation and hard graft I think you can get things off the ground and by not letting your brain and fear stop you from doing things. I think it's all about how you affect people with your attitude and energy. I think Ireland is as fruitful a place as any.
Have you any tips for actors trying to break into the industry?
Write your own work and perform it.
Have you written any of your own work?
I've written both of my albums. I've written the last album completely, I love doing that through music. I've definitely thought about writing work, like a one woman show, but I suppose I do it through music. If you want to act and you're not acting then write something and do it.
Do you think there's enough support in Ireland from the film industry, like from the IFB/Arts Council etc?
I haven't directly gone and looked for it myself but I think if people take you seriously and people know that you're not a messer and that you're really determined to do it I think you will find support. You'll find that there's a lot of hidden bursaries for the stuff that people want to do.
If you had to choose music or acting which would you choose?
I love both, I suppose I'm probably more excited about music because it's work that I've written myself and that's very exciting, but I do love both. I'm excited about the task in hand now to promote the record and play with my band. The gigs have been going down really well.
What will we see you in next?
The album is taking up most of my time but I also have another film coming out called 'Grabbers'. It's another comedy. I play a barmaid who runs the bar sort of like Mrs. Doyle meets somebody from Scooby Doo but it's good fun. It's a kind of love story between Lisa (Ruth Bradley’s character) and Ciarán, (played by Richard Coyle). It's a good laugh, it was filmed in Donegal and Belfast, it's very well done it looks great.
- ‘Albert Nobbs’ is in Irish cinemas from Friday April 27.
- For a free download of Bronagh Gallagher’s latest single visit her website, www.bronaghgallagher.com.