25 September 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Darklands stars Dane Whyte O’Hara & Damien Gildea speak with IFTN
11 Nov 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Darklands stars Dane Whyte O’Hara & Damien Gildea
IFTN previously caught up with Darklands stars Dane Whyte O’Hara (Damien) and Damien Gildea (Wesley) to find out more about how the pair got involved in the project, working with director Mark O’Connor and the on-set dynamic.

The final installment of Darklands airs tonight, Monday, 11th November at 9 pm on Virgin Media One.  

Created by Mark O’Connor, Darklands is set amid a gang war in a small Irish town and tells the story of Damien Dunne (O’Hara), a 16-year-old schoolboy with aspirations to become a professional MMA fighter whose life is turned upside down when his gang-affiliated brother, Wesley, goes missing after a drug deal goes wrong. With Wesley out of the picture, Damien begins to feel the pressure to step up as a provider for his family.

This series is produced by Parallel Films and Stalker Films for Virgin Media Television, in association with Freemantle Media, Screen Ireland and the Broadcast Authority of Ireland.

Darklands has proven a ratings hit, delivering on average viewership of 400,000 per episode across all platforms. The series has strong appeal amongst 15-44-year-old viewers, delivering on average 23% share of viewing in its slot and was the most-watched programme on the Virgin Media Player last month.

We caught up with Damien and Dane at the Darklands press launch to find out more about Virgin Media Television’s original crime drama.

IFTN: How did you find watching it on the big screen for the first time?

Dane: Half and half.  Nervous for myself, but it was amazing. The team behind it was brilliant and after seeing all that it's just completely amazing.”

Damien: “Completely overwhelming to be in the front row in the cinema watching the screening of a national television show you're going to be in-“

Dane: “With the lads..”

Damien: “-with the lads yes. It was incredible.”

IFTN: I'm sensing there was a good dynamic on-set?

Damien: “From day one it just-“

Dane: “It was some craic.”

Damien: “- it just seemed to take off. We were in on day one together doing the brother scenes and just let that grow. We started laughing straight away. We just clicked like that.”

Dane: “Even from the read-through people started thinking that we clicked like actual brothers. The chemistry was there. It was brilliant.”

IFTN: That's ideal. So it all felt a bit effortless when filming together?

Damien: “Yes it was just playing. We were just having fun like you would with your own family. That's what it turned into.”

IFTN: How did you both get involved in the project?

Damien: “I did a self-tape and then I got a call for Wesley when I was in London. I was like… is it worth flying back because there's going to be a hundred people in for this. I had a feeling that I really wanted this character. I put in a lot of work over the weekend. I changed things around in London. I flew back, came in, met Mark, met everyone, did the audition and I fortunately ended up getting the part. It all just worked out. Thankfully!”

Dane: “I saw it on Facebook, well my mam saw it and sent it to me. I was like I'd love to go for that but I missed the part where they were looking for a lead role. People think I'm joking when I say that, but when you see words on a page that you're immediately attracted to, ‘Looking for martial artist for a TV show’, you're like, boom, yes I'm going for that. Submitted it in and they were like yes that's brilliant. I thought I got something in the background, something small. They're like we'd like you to go for the lead. I was happy enough to go back and back and back. Then I ended up getting it. It was class.”

IFTN: I was told that during the audition some of the production team weren't even aware that you had the MMA skillset and that they were just impressed with the actual audition itself.

Dane: “I didn't even know that. That's class. I remember they were asking me, "You actually do martial arts?" I was like yes. ‘Show us some.’ It was a four by four cubicle space and I'm there doing these kicks in the air. Mark's sitting there in his chair like a little villain going, ‘Yes, like that, like that.’ It was cool. It was cool.”

IFTN: And were you aware of Mark's work prior to it?

Dane: “Definitely.”

Damien: “That's what made my decision to fly back.”

IFTN: What was it like working under him? Especially for you Dane, seeing as it was your first time on set.

Dane: “He's like my long lost brother. We clicked immediately. He's great to work with. He's always there for you. He’s looking for your best interests. That's what I love about Mark. No matter how many people are in your ear, he's making sure, ‘You like this, are you all right with this?’ ‘Let's do it.’ Shout out to Mark!”

Damien:  “Yes absolutely the same. From day one he's open, ready and he listens to everybody; absolutely everybody. No-one gets missed. He gives everyone the attention they need and makes sure everyone's happy. If things aren't working or things are, he's open to change making sure the scene works for everyone. He's a fantastic writer and director. I'm keen to work with him sometime in the future.”

IFTN: For people who haven't seen the show yet, what can you tell me about your characters?

Damien: “We're brothers. I play Wesley Dunne. He's the elder brother. He's a bit reckless.”

Dane: “He's a divil.”

Damien: “He had a similar path to Damian when he was younger, but because there were struggles in the family he ended up getting into drugs to provide for the family to get money. He doesn't want Damian to go down that path. He's doing what seems like a bad guy thing to do whatever he can, but it's really to provide for his family, his younger brother and sister, his mom and dad to make sure they make ends meet.”

Dane: “Wesley's really the provider of the family because the Dad has a job and stuff like that but Wesley is the one who is bringing in the bread really. I play Damian. He's a young kid who's grown up with all this around him. From this very young age, he's making decisions that will impact him for the rest of his life. No matter which way he decides he has to stick with it because it's the only way he can go down. He only has a couple of things working for him. Growing up in the area he is, it's either dream big or don't dream at all. He's not easily influenced but he's a sweet kid who we see get manipulated.”

IFTN: And with the MMA side of it, which obviously features quite prominently within the show, were you given tips on how to get it as accurate as they were trying to portray it?

Dane: “I was shown how to not punch someone, which was harder than I expected. I've never been so tired after not even hitting anyone. It was good. They just told me what they wanted and then I did it and they were like, ‘Yes do it again, but do it 20 more times.’ It was difficult but it was good.”

IFTN: What was your favourite moment during the making of the series?

Damien: “Oh favourite moment…”

Dane: “Meeting this one.”

Damien: “… when you go into it there's that anxiety of, are things going to click and work. Especially day one you land onset and it's me and Dane doing those things together. I suppose it was actually day one, realising that this is going to be a wonderful thing. We just played it from the beginning and it just took off. Knowing that it was going to be this experience and it was going to be playing and fun all the way through. We had each other’s backs. It was day one meeting and just getting through it.”

IFTN: Would you have the same answer?

Dane: “Exactly the same answer.”

IFTN: Just the relief of knowing that it clicked.

Dane: “I was having fun ever since I went to the first call-back. It was different. It was brilliant. I loved it. And then you got into filming and you're like, ‘oh this gets better’. Then you finish and it gets even better. And you watched yourself and you're like top class. Loved every moment of it, every single moment.”

The final installment of Darklands airs tonight, Monday, 11th November at 9 pm on Virgin Media One.  

Director Ciara Hyland discusses Cogadh ar Mhná
Tony Kearns on Editing
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