Sky announced yesterday at their Winter showcase held in the Guinness Store House, Dublin, that they are partnering with Irish actor Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, I.T. Crowd) in commissioning a new 6x30 series for the channel, which is co-written and starring the actor.
‘Moone Boy’, set in and scheduled to film in Ireland in the New Year, is a partnership between Irish production company Grand Pictures, Baby Cow, Sprout Films and Hod Cod productions. It tells the story of 11-year old Martin Moone, a young boy, living in Boyle, Co. Roscommon in 1989. Martin, who has a unique perspective on life, is aided by his imaginary friend Sean Murphy played by O’Dowd, in negotiating life as the youngest in his chaotic, scatter-brained family.
O’Dowd was on hand at the Sky Winter showcase yesterday to help announce the series and spoke to IFTN about hosting the British Independent Awards, ‘Moone Boy’, the success of ‘Bridesmaids’ and what is next for this rising star.
Chris, who was hosting the British Independent Film Awards on Sunday night seems to be in great spirits, and although admittedly a bit tired from his hectic schedule, he goes from table to table of journalists all eagerly awaiting his arrival to get a few words with him. As he arrives to the IFTN table he kindly asks how everyone is doing and relaxes with his pint of Guinness before being asked about hosting the BIFA awards, “Oh man,” he says, “it was a big night and a lot of fun. I had such a great time but it was terrifying. I don’t know if I would do it again, as an experience it was unique.” Irish talent was honoured at the awards among them Irish actor Michael Fassbender who took the Best Actor gong for his performance in ‘Shame’. “It was great,” Chris says, “there was loads of Irish there and loads of Irish people nominated. Domhnall Gleeson was there who I know so that was fun, Brendan Gleeson and Seamus McGarvey. It was fun but it is a kind of a weird thing to do. I didn’t want to just go out there and do the normal kind of thing so I did a dance and showed a YouTube video.”
The idea for ‘Moone Boy’ as a series Chris tells IFTN was born out of a conversation with Lucy Lumsden, Head of Comedy at Sky after Chris partook in Sky’s ‘Little Crackers’ season last year for Christmas with his short ‘Capturing Santa’.‘Moone Boy’, which will count towards Sky’s commitment to deliver 50% new home grown programming, takes an interesting twist on the imaginary friend’s idea with Martin Moone only being able to imagine up a plain 35 year old man instead of a superhero or fictional character as his imaginary friend. When asked about this Chris says, “Ya it’s just like a bearded man in his thirties. I’ll just be a guy in a suit but the point is I guess that the kid doesn’t have an imagination and that is kind of the joke. My character I play is called Sean Murphy, it is the most common name in Ireland, we’ve checked it out and that is what he has imagined.”
The show will include both live action and animation to help Martin’s childhood pictures come to life. These will be designed and supplemented by Kilkenny based Cartoon Saloon (Skunk Fu, The Secret of Kells). Speaking about the show itself Chris says, “It is a fantastic comedy, I hope, which centres on a 11 year old growing up in Boyle and his interesting and disgusting family. He has an imaginary friend who is played by an incredibly talented actor called Christopher Paul Martin O’Dowd and it’s just a really funny show which has loads of animation and a number of laughs that I think people are going to love.”
The show, which is currently holding open auditions in Athlone, Sligo and Galway to find the star of the show to play Martin Moone will start filming in Ireland from the 9th of January. When asked how important it was to Chris to have it filmed in Ireland he said, “It was essential really, it wouldn’t have made sense for me to do it otherwise. What was great about Sky is they wanted to film it here, they really wanted to bring an Irish show to the market place here and they have been nothing but supportive about doing that which has been great because that wouldn’t have happened with any other channel.” He says that Director of Sky1 HD Stuart Murphy was “instrumental” in wanting the series to be filmed and set in Ireland saying “so it is a good buzz.”
O’Dowd has become hot property as a writer with recent successes seeing American networks enter into a bidding war for his latest comedy series ‘Big Men’, which was eventually won by NBC. IFTN asked him how he has been finding writing ‘Moone Boy’, “It has been great and I have to say I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy. He is the best. It’s been tough but it’s been great.” The show is loosely based on O’Dowd’s childhood growing up in Roscommon and says about the character of Martin Moone, “Well it is me as an eleven year old. All the experiences are experiences I had that we are probably elaborating upon. It is all stuff that happened, like I remember joining the altar boys and finding it like as a clandestine organisation quite terrifying and we do an episode where we do a parody of ‘Goodfellas’ within the altar boy organisation and it is called Godfellas. We went with it and it’s quite a seedy and terrifying ordeal.”
The success of ‘Bridesmaids’ internationally means that Chris has become a recognisable name both here and abroad. The movie made over $100 million at the box office last year. Speaking about its success Chris said, “I was surprised by the success of it everywhere. I thought it would do well, I just didn’t think it would do so well I guess. When we were shooting it to be honest I thought this is really good, but when I saw it I was like oh they (the female cast) are amazing because I hadn’t seen what the girls were doing so then I thought this is going to do incredibly well, and it even surpassed those expectations. The night we had the premiere here in Dublin was one of the best nights of my life.”
Chris has had an impressive list of co-stars throughout his career including Bill Nighy, Phil Seymour Hoffman, Jack Black and Paul Rudd to name but a few so IFTN asked had he ever found himself being star stuck, “Oh all the time,” he says, “but you know how I deal with that, this is going to sound silly, but there is no point in being star stuck. I am very conscious that I don’t want to waste my few bits here basically being intimidated by the person who I am in a scene with so I deal with it off camera if I can.” When asked if he learned anything from his co-stars he said, “I learned a lot from people like Philip Seymour Hoffman. I remember working with him and just watching him. What I loved about him was he kind of behaved on set like I like behave on set. You are focused or whatever but not everything has to be serious. You know have a laugh and then get down to work and do as well as you can, don’t take yourself too seriously,” and he cites Jason Segel as one of his favourite co-stars. “January Jones was great,” he says, “but I think she was terrified of me. Honestly, I mean she is a handsome woman and I am sure I made that known to her so the day we were shooting our bedroom bit, her boyfriend was there. I mean she was clearly terrified that I would touch her.”
Chris is continuing to write and when asked which he likes better, acting or writing? he replies, “I love both and I love it all. I love a bit of exec-ing as well, that is quite fun. It seemed off the back of Bridesmaids, I didn’t feel anyway like there were the right films right there, that going off and writing stuff was probably the right move and I am happy that it worked out like that. So I will write these two things and then I’m going to write a film with my brother.” IFTN asks Chris how he will find working with family and he quips, “It is going to be a nightmare. No, it’s going to be great you know, as generally happens, he’ll do the work and I’ll take the credit.” Speaking about what is next for him he simply replies, “of course I have the Olympics. I am doing the floor gymnastics, wait until you see me in my Speedos!”
‘Moone Boy’, is co-written by Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy. The series will be directed by Declan Lowney (Little Britain, Father Ted) and produced by Ted Dowd (Gavin and Stacey, Nighty Night). Executive producers are Henry Normal, Gina Carter, Paul Donovan of Grand Pictures and Chris O’ Dowd. The series is expected to air on Sky next summer.