2 July 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Son of the Father
26 Feb 2015 : Paul Byrne
'Moone Boy' returns to Sky One on Monday, March 2nd at 9pm
One of our finest comic actors, Peter McDonald talks to IFTN’s Paul Byrne about the return of ‘Moone Boy’, the renaming of ‘The Stag’ and throwing his Oscar weight around.

It’s pretty much impossible not to like Peter McDonald.

You’d have to watch ‘Spin The Bottle’ - the 2004 big-screen outing for the sublime 2000 sitcom ‘Paths To Freedom’ - eight or nine times in a row before you might, just might, have a bad feeling about the Dublin actor, writer and director.

It goes beyond the good work - besides Paths, other treats include ‘I Went Down’ (1997), ‘When Brendan Met Trudy’ (2000), ‘Your Bad Self’ (2010) and ‘The Stag’ (2013); it’s pretty much impossible not to like Peter McDonald because his default position is a smile, and he seems incapable of bulls**tting.

It’s one of the reasons McDonald is so good in ‘Moone Boy’, playing the put-upon paternal patsy at the head of a slightly wacky family trying to make sense of it all in the small and very Irish town of Boyle, Co. Roscommon. Based largely on co-creator (alongside Nick Vincent Murphy) and star Chris O’Dowd’s own childhood there during the 1980s and 1990s, Moone Boy returns on March 2nd for its third season, with David Rawle once more in the title role as the daydreaming young Martin Moone, getting advice from his imaginary older self (O’Dowd) when he’s not battling his older sisters (played by Sarah White and Clare Monnelly) and mum Debra (Deirdre O’Kane), or trying to make sense of the surreal musings of his oddball best friend, Padraic (a show-stealing Ian O’Reilly).

Paul Byrne: It must feel pretty easy, stepping into the role of Liam Moone after three years?

Peter McDonald:‘Well, because the scripts are so well-written, and the comedy is so tight, you’re just trying to do them justice. But knowing Chris so well, there’s definitely a quick understanding of what he’s aiming for. He moved behind the camera too here, but that felt very natural. It feels like a family, and the stories reflect that. Having a grandchild come along, and all the other growing pains that come with a great big Irish family.’

Were there ever reference points early on from Chris about the tone here, what he wanted from you as Liam?

‘I don’t think there was ever a discussion over the tone, no - just a lot of shared laughter. Funny is funny, and it’s very easy to recognise what works and what doesn’t work. So, I guess all Chris ever really needed from any of us was a little work and a lot of fun. Because this is a lot of fun. Even when you’re getting up at 5.30am on a cold Irish winter morn, there’s a tingle of excitement going on too. Which is how it should be for every gig, of course, but it’s not always the case.’

‘The gags are just so consistent on Moone Boy though, and the development of the characters tends to be quite smart - you believe these guys - so, a joy, a pure joy...’

So, can you reveal much about the new season? Sharon Horgan plays an old flame of yours that may cause some rumbles in the Moone household...

‘How fine would that be, if Sharon Horgan was your ex-girlfriend. She’s incredible, Sharon, and it was very easy to have the wandering eye whenever we were playing a scene together. I’m sure she has that effect on a lot of married couples. Plenty of men have been given the evil eye all the way home after saying hello to Sharon Horgan. She’s not only beautiful, but she’s so completely, wonderfully hilarious. What’s not to fall in love with?’

You and Deirdre O’Kane must feel like the parents of this young cast, especially the boys, who were only hitting double figures when ‘Moone Boy’ started...

‘Well, the real parents were often on set - Dave’s mother, Bernie, and Sarah’s mother, Marguerite - so, you got to know their real families. Which did make you feel like protecting them that little bit more. Mainly, you’re having fun with them. They would have been 10-ish when they started, and right from the beginning, the two guys were such smart, witty guys. You never felt like it was going to be work, having to shoot scenes with these kids all day long. It was just great fun. I kept wondering, was I this smart when I was 10? These guys grew up in a small town in the West, and I grew up in Dublin, and yet, they made me feel like a yokel.’

You’ve had a lot of experience in comedy, both in front of and behind the camera - being Oscar-nominated for your 2011 short, ‘Pentecostal’. Do you have to control the urge to give advice on how a scene should be shot...?

‘Oh, I pull rank all the time. I carry an imitation Oscar with me, on a gold chain, so I can wave it at people as I make my point. Works like a charm. It’s got to the point where Chris and everyone else just says nothing and nods. They are that humbled by my advice.’

‘In truth, everything’s wonderfully loose on the set. Chris and Nick like to hear suggestions, and they both have an unerring nose for comedy. Something could be going quite well, and he’ll just suggest a twist in the phrasing, and boom, it works beautifully. The hardest part is keeping a straight face when Chris is shouting out new lines that have just come into his head.’

There’s always the potential for a hit TV show to make it to the big screen. You pumped up for that?

‘I’m always pumped up. That’s how I roll. Actually, a big-screen leap would be a lot of fun, so, yeah, I think we’d all be well up for that. But, it’s all business, decisions made behind closed doors, and we’ll just have to wait and see.’

Talking of the big screen, I was surprised to see ‘The Stag’, your fine 2013 comedy, has been renamed ‘The Bachelor Weekend’ for the US market. ‘The Stag’ not a reference people would get over there...?

‘Yeah, that was part of the issue. We really didn’t want to change it, but a stag does not mean over there what it means here. You can only expect a certain amount of box-office in the US, and you don’t want to hinder people’s path to it. The big market for a movie like this in the US is the on-demand market, and the distributors there were determined that we come up with a title beginning with the letter A or the letter B. That’s when people start searching through the menu, they generally get through A, B and C before they give up looking. So, myself and John Butler - the guy I co-wrote the film with, and who directed it - reckoned we should just called it Aarse - with a double A, just to be sure. In the end, the title change worked very well, and it found an audience. So, that made the change easier to accept.’

Talking to the boys from Moone Boy earlier, they joked about getting themselves ready for a scene. Do you have any rituals that get you into character?

‘Not that sticks out. You do need to get on the set with that character ready to roll. Sometimes, it might just take a jumper to trigger that feeling, but this is after you’ve studied your lines, studied your character, and it’s just about turning on that switch. On something like ‘Moone Boy’, it helps to have a few rehearsals, to get the giggles out, and then just let the scene flow.’

‘Moone Boy’ Series 3 debuts on Sky 1 on March 2nd.

Aoife Crehan on Writing and Directing
Catherine Walker on Acting
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