15 August 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Colm Meaney (Actor) Training Spotlight
21 Sep 2007 :
Colm Meaney
Credits include iconic 'War of the Buttons'
What advice would you offer an aspiring actor?

I think good training is important. I think it stands to you. A lot of people think you can just walk into this game and wing it, and yeah some people do, but to be a complete actor capable of making the most of the opportunities that come your way, good training is essential. I also think for the personal psyche it gives you the confidence and the ability to get out there and do it. So get a good training is the first step.

Given the fact that you left Dublin in the 70’s and the changes that have occurred in Ireland since then, do you think, if you were a young actor today, you would have made the same decision to leave?

Good question, I don’t know. [long pause]

I’m amazed by what goes on today because when I was coming up to be an actor there was only one way to start and that was through the Abbey Theatre. I went into the school of acting there and I was given a contract with the company at the end of my two years training, so it was a very good way to come into the profession. It wasn’t available to everyone and I was very fortunate to get it. Today, obviously that’s changed.

When I first went to London in the 70’s, it was like – that’s it, you’re gone, you’re never coming back. You might as well have gone to Australia as to go to London. When I come back home now, I hear about young actors going over to LA for pilot season and I’m astonished. I think it’s great, I love the fact that they have that view but it’s night and day to what I experienced.

I think it’s not just in this business though. Really when I went to America in the 80’s it was already changing. When you think of my mother in tears and everything because I was going to America, and it’s that old race mentality where you have a wake for people who were going away because they’d never be seen again. I would say “look I’ll be back soon, it’s not that far” but it was already starting to change. And I love the fact that people have the freedom to go back and forth now.

And do you think you’re still learning at this stage?

Yeah, every now and then something crops up that you haven’t dealt with before and you learn that way.

You hosted a Masterclass at the Galway Fleadh a few years ago, what’s your style of teaching?

I’m not a trained teacher so I wouldn’t have a set style. My value is in a questions and answers session where people as me what they feel they need to know.

What’s been your most interesting question?

It often comes up about training and stuff like that. You’re also asked about what kind of method you use and how you approach a character, things like that. Frankly, I don’t have a set method, each character requires a different preparation as long as you prepare I think it doesn’t matter how you do it.

With ‘Kings’ obviously I had to work on the Irish, other films you might need to learn some specific skills, if he’s a cook or a mechanic. Sometimes you need to get into the head of somebody and it’s a complex psychological element and that requires research.

Key element in your success to date?

You have to get breaks, but I think you have to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they do come your way, that’s what I said about training. I got very good training at the Abbey and it’s a shame it doesn’t exist anymore. It was theoretical and workshop and we were also used in the company for smaller parts. It was almost like an apprenticeship which was very useful. I had good training and I think I’ve always been a character actor. I’ve never had the leading man doldrums.

What actors that you have worked with, or seen their work, inspire or influence you the most?

I think in the early days we were all influenced by [Peter] O’Toole. He was definitely a huge dominating presence. I also loved Steve McQueen, a tremendous film actor, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino. I think Pacino is amazing, I just watched ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ again a couple of weeks ago and I just seen ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It’s the greatest Shylock I’ve ever seen, you can almost smell him. He’s great.

And after nearly 30 years in the business, what are your ambitions now?

Keep going and hopefully find interesting parts to play. Like ‘Kings’, if you’d asked me ten years ago would I do a film as-gaeilge, I would have said no, so mark that one down. Keep going with it yeah.

Colm Meaney's list of credits include:
Life on Mars (2007) (TV)
Kings (2007)
A Lobster Tale (2006)
Five Fingers (2006)
Stargate: Atlantis (TV) (2004-2006)
Caved In (2006) (TV)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (TV) (2005)
Turning Green (2005)
Layer Cake (2004)
The Murdoch Mysteries (2004) (TV)
The Boys & Girl from County Clare (2004)
Intermission (2003)
Random Passage (2002) (mini series TV)
R.U.S.H. (2002) (TV)
How Harry Became a Tree (2001)
The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999) (TV)
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) (TV)
This Is My Father (1998)
Snitch (1998)
Con Air (1997)
The Last of the High Kings (1996)
The Van (1996)
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995)
Ripple (1995)
Scarlett (1994) (mini series TV)
War of the Buttons (1994)
The Snapper (1993)
Under Siege (1992)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Far and Away (1992)
Into the West (1992)
The Commitments (1991)
Come See the Paradise (1990)
The Dead (1987)
Omega Syndrome (1987)
Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (1987) (TV)
Playboy of the Western World (1983) (TV)
Easter 2016 (1982) (TV)
Roses de Dublin, Les (1981) (TV)
Nailed (1981)
Z Cars (1978)

Barry Ward on Acting
Joe Murtagh on Writing
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