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Boys keep Swinging
2015-02-20 : Paul Byrne
As the hit TV series Moone Boy returns, IFTN’s Paul Byrne talks to its two young shining stars, David Rawle and Ian O’Reilly, about those growing pains.

You can tell straight away that David Rawle and Ian O’Reilly are good friends. Mainly because, in fine Irish tradition, each slags the other every one minute and 25 seconds. Approximately.

“Ah, sure, I can’t stand him once we’re off-camera,” says Rawle, giving that resigned smile and middle-distance stare that helped him land the lead role of daydreaming schoolboy Martin in the hit sitcom Moone Boy. “So, I just have to grin and bear this, having Ian sitting right by my side here. Very difficult, but, you know, I’m an actor. It’s my job to pretend.”

“The feeling’s mutual,” deadpans O’Reilly, as he rolls his eyes. “I just have to think about the show, and how important it is that we pretend to be friends, and that gets me through. Once this show is over though, goodnight, Irene. I’ll never talk to the little eejit ever again.”

And that’s when the two best friends eyeball one another, and let out a conspiratorial chuckle.

We’re at Dublin’s Kilmainham Jail, for the world premiere of Moone Boy’s third season, the Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent White-created sitcom based loosely on the former’s childhood growing up in the sleepy Irish town of Boyle, Co. Roscommon. Given that no one in his family - dad (Peter McDonald), mum (Deirdre O’Kane) or older sisters Sinead (Sarah White) and Fidelma (Clare Monnelly) - seems to know what they’re doing, 12-year-old Martin Moone (Rawle) naturally turns to his imaginary older self (Chris O’Dowd) for life advice. Luckily, Martin’s best friend Padraic O’Dwyer (O’Reilly) also has an imaginary friend (Johnny Vegas), and is the type of free spirit/nut job who isn’t averse to turning up to school in make-up. On a Tuesday. For no reason.

PAUL BYRNE: Still a thrill, going on set, or is it another day at the office?

IAN O’REILLY: Everything’s still fresh, and exciting, because this is all new to us. Every episode throws something new at us, not just in the plotting, but in how it’s shot, all that.
DAVID RAWLE: It’s funny, talking to your friends at school, and they casually ask, ‘So, what are you doing tomorrow?’. ‘Oh, I’m just going to work’. Not the usual plan for a young schoolboy. Not in this country, anyway.

What do your friends make of your TV stardom?

IOR: They don’t really pay it any mind now. It was a bit of a strange one, on the first season, but now it’s just boring to them.
DR: That first season, you’d get a lot of, ‘Hey, are you Moone Boy?’, and once you said yes, there’d be that none-too-impressed shrug. Very humbling.

Given that this is the third season, do you find yourself examining the mechanics of this profession, both in front of and behind the camera?

IOR: I’m definitely intrigued by how the actors handle themselves, how they work. We learnt a lot from them in regard to professionalism - big word there - and everyone was just giving us tips pretty much every day.

Love all the characters here, but Padraic O’Dwyer is a wonderful creation. Like Spike Milligan as a little chubby boy. Did Chris and Nick give you any specific instructions on how to play him - such as, ‘Okay, Padraic is one magic mushrooms all the time’...?

IOR: That’s just me in real life!
DR: I’m glad you said that first. Only Padraic might be a little bit smarter.
IOR: That’s true. Actually, I’m completely different to Padraic. And there was no real talk about how I should play him. Chris and Nick just told me to do whatever I thought was right, and eventually, I kinda got this idea to base him on older people that you might meet in the country. ‘Alright there, Martin, howya doin’?!’. I didn’t feel he was really a teenager; I went more for people in their sixties and seventies. They’re always the funniest people in my mind - they come out with the funniest things.
DR: I remember when I got the part, and the local paper ran a piece about it, and I’d have old people in the town coming up to me, saying, ‘Ah, sure, when’s the play on? What’s this new play you’re in? Mooneland, or something like that?’.
IOR: ‘When’s your new serial coming out...?’.

David, do you find you’re channelling Chris, given that he based it on his own childhood?

DR: Well, before we shoot anything, we always do a little read-through, and I remember at the time there were a bunch of references, especially in the second season, that I just didn’t get at all. Schillaci - what is this word? A bunch of names in there that sounded like dodgy pasta dishes...
IOR: Chris would also encourage us to improvise some lines, by shouting out directions off-camera. Nick would do that as well, and there would be new lines just coming at you all the time.
DR: The script can change at any minute. If the two of them felt the scene wasn’t really flowing, they’d just improvise some new ideas on the spot. And you sometimes got the biggest laugh of the show that way...

It’s quite a unique experience, being part of a hit TV show at such a young age. What has being in Moone Boy thought you outside of the set?

DR: Mainly not to take life so seriously. To have fun, as much as you can.
IOR: We’ve learnt a lot when it comes to that old life experience idea. Making Moone Boy is a pretty amazing opportunity to learn so many new things, and it was kinda like you got an idea of having a job without actually being a job. If you know what I mean. It was too joyful to be called a real job.

And what about living through Chris’s late eighties and early nineties childhood - did you learn much from your time travels?

IOR: We learnt that there was a lot less social networking back then, which I think made life so much better. People actually talked to one another back then. Half the time now, people are in the same room, and they’ll text each other. I was over in a friend’s house the other day, and rather than get up off her arse and go tell her brother something in the next room, this girl just texted him. I couldn’t believe it. It was just down the hall, and there was the person you’re trying to get in touch with.

Were your parents okay from the start with their beautiful young boys becoming actors? If you were to ask Peter McDonald right now which country he’s in, he wouldn’t be able to tell you...

IOR: Not really. We’re all very laidback...
DR: Yeah, but that’s because of all the drugs in our system. Once we get on the cocaine, things get a little hairy...

Is the actor’s life for you then? Do you see yourselves continuing in this field...?

DR: I’d love to. Either in front of or behind the camera, I wouldn’t mind. This is a good start...
IOR: I’m definitely more drawn to the production side of it. I definitely want to do something in the business, mainly acting, but, if that doesn’t work, I’d be very happy behind the scenes.

With Chris having a career on both sides of the Atlantic, there must be some sage advice about the actor’s life from this wise old superstar?

DR: Given that Chris didn’t name his newborn son David means that I won’t really be listening to anything he has to say for quite some time...
IOR: Apparently they’ve already chosen Ian as the confirmation name - so, you know, I’m very, very happy about that.

This is a sub-genre that’s been mined quite a bit before by television - from The Wonder Years to Malcolm In The Middle, and beyond; did you feel the need to go explore, to check out the lineage?

DR: I just love watching Modern Family. I know Moone Boy isn’t really modern - and neither is Ireland, of course - and I know Modern Family’s not really about the kids, but it’s just so funny, so well written.
IOR: This is kind of after Moone Boy, but, the Republic Of Telly, when they have those characters, Bridget and Eamon, I just love that. They seem to be set in the eighties or nineties too, and I just find myself actually feeling their pain.

If you need to truly get into what life in Ireland was like back in ye olden days - the 1970s and ‘80s - just tune into IrishTV.

IOR: Yeah, that works for me too.
DR: I’m just amazed they’ve let a comedy sketch go on for that long.

So, Martin and Padraic are growing up fast - do they still need their imaginary older selves as much?

IOR: Oh, yeah, more than ever.
DR: I think the main reason we need them is because they’re so funny. Mind you, it can get kind of complicated. The fact that you can only see an imaginary friend if he’s your imaginary friend. So, if I’m doing a scene with Chris and Ian is there with Johnny, I’ve got to remember that I can hear and see Chris, but I can’t hear and see Johnny, whilst Ian can hear and see Johnny, but not Chris. And Chris and Johnny are having conversations too.

IOR: I imagine it’s what being drunk must be like.

Amongst the guest stars this season is one Terry Wogan, one of the true icons of TV. Did you get to hang out with the much-loved housewife’s choice?

IOR: We didn’t, no. Terry shot all his scenes elsewhere...
DR: He’s on our TV, presenting this mad version of You’ve Been Framed, where everyone involved is basically a big feckin’ eejit. It’s just the same clips, over and over again.
IOR: Bit like television today...

So, is Johnny Vegas real...?

IOR: Yeah, I think he is. Pretty sure. He brushed off me at one point, and he felt real.

Like any self-respecting screen hit, there’s a Moone Boy tie-in book out there, Moone Boy: The Blunder Years - did you read it?

IOR: Oh, yeah. Great little insights for us serious actors...
DR: It goes into the world of imaginary friends more, and, of course, Martin chooses the wrong imaginary friend, and now has to get swap them...

Did you grow up with an imaginary friend?

DR: Not that I can remember...
IOR: I wasn’t that creative. I picked art for some reason in secondary school.

Besides an American remake being in the works, there’s talk of a movie...

DR: Yeah, it seems Sky are up for it. We’re certainly ready, willing and able.
IOR: We’d love to do it, but, nothing solid as yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.

How are you feeling about the Oscars, David – you’re one of the main voices in Thomm Moore’s Song Of The Sea, up for Best Animated Feature? Are you heading over?

DR: I’d love to go, but, no, don’t think their invite stretches to everyone involved in the movie. I hope it wins, of course, but getting the nomination is pretty great to be walking home with too.

Given that you know these characters inside out by now, and you know the process of making Moone Boy pretty well too, the only danger now is puberty. And any sudden growth spurts. Has Chris put you guys on 20 Major a day yet, to keep the height down?

DR: Not yet, not yet...
IOR: I haven’t grown in four years, so, I don’t think they need to worry about that with me.

Are there plans afoot for the older Martin and Padraic. Time will do its thing, and you may have to go full Adrian Mole on these characters, heading of into adulthood...

IOR: They have said they’d like to do something on Martin and Padraic being older, where they get into different bands and stuff like that as they get older. That would be fun...

How is the show travelling outside of Ireland and the UK?

IOR: I know it’s been in Australia, and Canada...
DR: And on Hulu in America.
IOR: My cousins live out in Australia, and they saw it, said they liked it...
DR: What a terrible thing to say - ‘We liked it’.
IOR: And they were probably lying to me too. Don’t know how many people see it out in the big bad world though.

And what of all that waiting around on set, for the next scene to be set up? Any routines to pass the time.

IOR: We just have the banter - top banter! - in this little caravan that’s set up for us.
DR: That caravan is really cool. Plenty of craic in there.
IOR: We do lots of messing about in there...

As the show grows, do you notice it on set? Bigger caravan? Helicopters to the set?

IOR: Not yet, no.
DR: We’re still in the Ford Focus and the oul’ Skoda.

So, finally, do you guys discuss the future, what you might do with this acting lark? The fact that you both look like a young Ryan Gosling obviously helps.

IOR: Well, now, what can I say...? I can’t think that far ahead - it scares me. I can just about handle the Leaving Cert worries right now, never mind what might be happening to me in ten years time.
DR: Ian sent me a birthday card, and at the end of it he wrote that I was 15, which meant I was halfway to 30. And that scared me.
IOR: That terrifies me. I’m halfway to 30! I’m going to be dead before I know it.

Moone Boys Series Three hits Sky 1 on March 2nd




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