7 July 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Sister Act
02 Mar 2015 : Paul Byrne
'Moone Boy' returns on Monday, March 2nd at 9pm on Sky One
Moone Boy may have put both of them on the map, but Sarah White and Clare Monnelly have very different ideas about acting.

As it is with real sisters, Sarah White and Clare Monnelly are incredibly alike whilst also being polar opposites.

It’s clear from the moment that these two friends - who play sisters Sinead and Fidelma, respectively, in Sky 1’s sitcom Moone Boy) - have very different ideas about this whole acting lark.

“I’ve just always, always wanted this,” states Clare, flatly.

“Whereas I’m really not so sure,” deadpans Sarah. “I’m sure there must be a far more sensible job out there for me. One where I don’t have to get up at 5am.”

We’re at Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol heritage house and museum, for the world premiere of Moone Boy’s third season. The rest of the Moone family are here, and it’s clear that, after three years together on this Chris O’Dowd-created and led sitcom, the actors have become something approaching a family. Veteran Irish actors Peter McDonald and Deirdre O’Kane are behaving like any proud but worried parents, as young David Rawle (who plays their youngest, Martin Moone) and Ian O’Reilly (who plays Martin’s surreal best friend, Padraic O’Dwyer) morph into Pete’n’Dud for the afternoon, and White and Monnelly whisper conspiratorially.

PAUL BYRNE: Given how long you guys have been playing Sinead and Fidelma, does it still feel like work, shooting Moone Boy?

CLARE MONNELLY: Well, it’s certainly still fun. I was very lucky in that I got cast straight out of drama school, and it’s just been a baptism of nice. Everyone’s so easy, and the craic on set - largely thanks to the two young lads - is just great. It makes it more fun than work, yeah. And that’s still the case, of course. Never a bad atmosphere on set. Never too much shouting.

SARAH WHITE: No, never too much.

Which one of you allowed yourself a little break from waitressing when you heard you’d been cast, walking out into the street to let out a little scream...?

CM: That was me. I was serving noodle in Wagamama in Dundrum, and I had my phone in my apron - which you’re not allowed to do - and I knew when it went that it was going to be about Moone Boy. Crept out, had a little scream, and then slipped back in to finish my shift.

SW: I never heard this story. That’s a great way to celebrate...

And how was it for you, Sarah, when you found out?

SW: It was my first audition, ever, and then there were the callbacks. My parents kept telling me to not get my hopes up, but, what’s the point otherwise? I was delighted at every stage, and when I actually got the phone call, high-fived my mum, and she just kept the woman on the phone. Halfway through dancing with joy, I realised I had to choose carefully which friends I called first, to tell them the news. That kind of stuff is very important. You don’t want to be told something you hadn’t heard from the source. It was a happy night out though.

Was it really a baptism of nice? You must have been nervous...

CM: Definitely nervous, but almost immediately, you’re struck at how easy it all seems to be, working on a film set.

SW: I had images of long, long waits, and tempers flaring - all the usual cliches about a difficult set - but, there just seemed to be this air of silly all the time. And we were getting the work done too, which made it all seem so easy.

CM: What struck me, given that it was my first job ever, was the amount of people needed to make a show. It felt like you were at Electric Picnic, but everyone’s actually working. It made you realise how important it was for you to be on the ball. All these people would be working to get a scene ready, and if you came in and dropped the ball, it could be a few more hours, if not days - depending on the light - before you might get another shot.

Luckily, Chris O’Dowd, the loveable star of The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids, had created Moone Boy. Not Russell Crowe, the thoroughly unloveable star of Gladiator.

CM: That would have been a very different kind of show. Probably not a comedy.

SW: What was great about this kind of set was being able to ask questions about how everything worked. The atmosphere was so friendly, you could just ask anyone what it was that they were doing. All the stuff that will come in later. It’s all a learning curve.

CM: I had no idea what I was doing at the start. I didn’t even know which way to look, but then realised that they’d placed stickers for your eye line. I was sorted after that. I was too busy catching up to be taking notes like Sarah.

Has the success of Moone Boy had an effect on your career?

CM: Yeah, my agent tells me that it makes it much easier to get me into the room, so to speak. To get auditions. Even when I got the audition for Moone Boy, just five months after drama school, that was a thrill. And when I got the recall, I remember meeting a friend afterwards, and I said, ‘I was just in a room with Chris O’Dowd and Declan Lowney. I could die happy’. At that point, I wasn’t really expecting to get the gig itself.

Did you feel you had to cram for Moone Boy - watch all of Chris’ work, watch all of Declan’s work...?

SW: Well, there wasn’t much cramming to be done when it came to Father Ted. Knew them backwards already.

CM: I did sit down with my boyfriend, who’s an actor as well, and we just went through the credits, to figure out what everyone did. In terms of the script though, there was nothing you had to do but learn the lines.

SW: I was amazed that David would learn all the lines, but also all the names of everyone on the set. Everyone. And what they did on set. He’ll go far. If not in film, certainly in politics. I can never remember names.

So, does it all feel like a career now?

SW: Well, I’m in this for the long haul...

CM: Whereas I want to study law too. I would have to do law and acting on the side, rather than the other way around. I don’t think you could really study law on the side.

You could combine the two, and become a lawyer who specialises in representing troubled actors...?

CM: And do you know, that would be a good market to get into. Plenty of work there. I’d give a discount to Sarah, of course. But not the rest of the Moone family.

Are there any other sitcoms out there that are rockin’ your world?

CM: I’m loving Parks And Recreations right now. Binging on that. Also, 30 Rock is just perfect. Love those shows.

SW: I’ll only allow myself Moone Boy. Got to keep the viewing figures up.

Have you met any of your heroes behind the velvet rope yet...?

SW: Meeting Steve Coogan when he guested was amazing. I had to control myself from blurting out how much I loved all his stuff. Especially since his Baby Cow company produces the show. It took a lot for me not to say, “Knowing me, Sarah White, knowing you, Steve Coogan’...

Chris has stepped behind the camera for this series - notice any changes...?

SW: Not a one. Chris was always there every time we were shooting anyway, either acting in the scene or checking that the script he’d written was working. So, you know, there’s be no need to adjust our sets at all.

SW: It feels like we’re a little closer though to what was going through Chris’ head though, because there’s always that work-in-progress side of him going on. Means that a scene can change in a second, and it’s often so much funnier for it.

And what about the fame, the glory, the fans...?

SW: I’ve only been recognised maybe three times, and I like to think that’s because I’m so much hotter than Sinead.

CM: That’s exactly it. I’ve had situations where we’d be on a bus tour and someone would ask me if I’m that girl in Moone Boy. And I’d eventually say yes, only to have the word spread through the bus and for everyone there to decide, no, that can’t be her. She’s just pretending because she looks a little bit like Fidelma.

So, future plans?

CM: Always looking for the next project, either on stage or on film. I’ve written a one-woman play, and I’m hoping that people will connect with that. It’s called Charlie’s A Klepto, and it’s just me on my toddler. Love the challenge of that.

SW: My future plans basically involves finally achieving world domination. And learn how to play bridge.

Moone Boy Series 3 returns to Sky 1 March 2nd

Over 4.6m allocated by Creative Europe to Irish screen industry in 2021
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