26 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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Features & Interviews

IFTA Q&A Series: Siobhán Cullen on Acting
15 Apr 2024 : Luke Shanahan
To mark the 21st anniversary of the IFTA awards, we are showcasing Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry.

We find out about their approach to craft, working on the projects they’ve been nominated for, and the best piece of advice they’ve been given in their career.

Siobhán Cullen is IFTA-nominated for Best Lead Actress - Drama for Obituary, as well as the Screen Ireland - IFTA Rising Star Award. Cullen has appeared in films such as The Inside and The Limehouse Golem, and co-starred in IFTA-nominated The Bright Side in 2021. Since 2022 she has played Caroline Sheridan on IFTA-winning drama series The Dry. She has acted since she was a child, having first appeared on stage at the Abbey in 1998. This year she will star with Will Forte and Robyn Cara in Netflix’s Bodkin.

IFTN: What do you look out for in a script?

SIOBHÁN: “I want to finish a script and feel like if I can't be a part of the project, I'll be the first person to watch it.”

IFTN: How do you prepare for auditions, and what advice would you give to younger actors?

SIOBHÁN: “I really enjoy the audition process, however, I don't necessarily have a concrete formula for how I prepare. It changes on a case by case basis, but the common denominator is always the script. I read as much as I can, as often as I can. For me, it's not a case of learning my audition scenes off by heart but rather reading around them, familiarising myself with the world of the script and getting to know the character so I feel a comfort and an ease in the playing of the scene. If I were to pass on any advice it would be to remain open in your preparation. Leave room for curiosity and discovery in the audition itself and try to enjoy it!”

IFTN: How did you approach playing your character in this film, and how much rehearsal was involved?

SIOBHÁN: “We were very fortunate on Obituary as we had about a week before we shot anything for rehearsal with our director John Hayes. This time was spent either one-on-one with John, or with the rest of the cast, discussing and developing relationships. It was a real gift to get to know each other and how we all work. Luckily Danielle Galligan who plays my best friend Mallory is someone I've been friends with for years, so we had an existing relationship that we could draw from. I hadn't met Michael Smiley though, who plays my father, so this time was especially useful for us. It was also incredibly helpful being on location and spending time in Bundoran. Like our fictional town of Kilraven, it's a small quiet coastal town so being in that environment allowed me to get in the right headspace for Elvira.”

IFTN: What Irish actor/s have you been most impressed by recently?

SIOBHÁN: “I'm spoilt for choice on this one! It's exciting to see so many wonderful Irish actors shining in international productions as well as at home. Éanna Hardwicke blew me away in The Sixth Commandment and I am always in awe of Alison Oliver's work - I can't wait to see what they both do next.”

IFTN: What director or actor would you most like to work with and why (Irish or international)?

SIOBHÁN: “Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favourite filmmakers so I would of course love to work with him. He's a true auteur who can jump genres seamlessly, making stunning films that always allow the actors to excel. I was also so surprised by the beauty and lightness of touch in Celine Song's directorial debut, Past Lives. Given her theatre background, I think she would be fascinating to work with. In terms of actors, Sandra Hüller gave two of the best performances I've seen last year so to have the opportunity just to watch her work would be a dream. I've also been a fan of Andrew Scott's work on stage and screen for a long time. He is an incredibly empathetic and generous performer, and I would be very lucky if I got to work with him one day.”

IFTN: We are often our own worst critics. How do you combat this as an actor?

SIOBHÁN: “I think a touch of self-criticism is important. To be able to discern why something works or doesn't work is a valuable skill. It's how we continue to learn as actors and develop our taste. However, I do often have to remind myself that I don't have an objective eye and at the end of the day, what I think of my own performance has no bearing on the final product.”

IFTN: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

SIOBHÁN: “Be kind. Be a collaborator.”

Director Colm Quinn discusses documentary Ransom 79
Oscar-nominated Todd Field discusses directing at IFTA Masterclass
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