Domhnall Gleeson interview for Black Mirror
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Your work to date has included True Grit, Never Let Me Go; you won an award for playing Bob Geldof in When Harvey Met Bob. What, from your backlog of work, are you particularly proud of?
There's plenty. That's the favourite child thing, I suppose. I'm proud of most of the work that I've done - not the stuff that I've done, but the stuff that I've been in. Certainly The Lieutenant of Inishmore would be a highlight. I did an Irish film called Sensation, which was a huge step-up in terms of responsibility, and I really enjoyed that - that was a great experience. And Anna Karenina, which I finished last year I thought was gorgeous, and I'm very proud to have worked on that as well. They'd be some of the highlights, but there's loads of others, I'm leaving out some incredible people I've worked with - obviously the Coen brothers - I'll just start listing all the things I've done in a minute.
Moving on to Black Mirror, what's your story about?
It starts off being about a couple. And then there's an accident, and the girl is left alone. It's about dealing with mourning, I suppose, with the mourning process, with being alone, but adding in a technological slant which is very interesting and very odd, but which makes for some really great questions and moments, I hope.
Is there an element of morality tale about it?
I wouldn't say a morality tale, but it does ask some really interesting questions in a way that some of my favourite films ask really interesting questions. Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a brilliant film about love and loss, and it's all set in a really brilliant framework. I thought of this as being similar, on a smaller scale, because it's a shorter story and it's on television, but it asks some similar questions about the mourning process in a similarly interesting way.
You're starring alongside Hayley Atwell. How was it working with her?
It was great, we had a really good time. Hayley carried the show. I was kind of hopping in and out. God, she was working so hard, she had so much to do, and so much intense stuff. So when you come in, I think you have a responsibility to try and nail your scenes, but also to try and be nice to be around, because everyone there is working so hard, you're the only one who gets to go home early every now and again. So she was fantastic, I really, really enjoyed working with her.
Did you watch the previous Black Mirrors to get an idea of the genre?
When I read the script, I just thought it was amazing, and my brother had told me about Black Mirror before, so I'd checked out a couple of the episodes already. I'd seen them before I got the part and really enjoyed them - I thought they were fabulous.
You're from an acting background, but you've said in the past that almost put you off pursuing it as a career. Is that right?
I think that might have been taken a little bit out of context, it's more just that it wasn't a path I naturally gravitated towards. I don't think anyone wants to be defined by what their parents do. So I naturally skewed more towards writing and directing, and then acting made its way into view, I suppose.
Now that the acting is going so well, do you still want to pursue the writing and directing?
Yeah, I think most actors would say that they're interested in writing and directing on some level. Yeah, I chip away - I've made a couple of shorts and I've got a feature film on the go, but the acting is certainly my job, and it's what I'm concentrating on most at the moment.
What was your dad's reaction when you announced that you wanted to go into acting? Was he supportive?
Yeah, of course. Parents are supportive of their kids generally, you would hope. There's a lot of pitfalls to being an actor, but myself and my brother, who's a fantastic actor, we've got a pretty good attitude about it, so my dad was happy for us to do what made us happy.
Aged 23 you went off to Broadway to great acclaim [starring in The Lieutenant of Inishmore]. What was that experience like for one so young?
It's funny, you never think you're young when you're in the middle of it. When I was 23 I was looking back and thinking "Jeez, I'm so old." So it didn't feel like I was so young. I had a wonderful time and I worked with some amazing actors there, there were brilliant people on it. It was an incredible thing, and I got to love New York, but it was very, very hard work. I worked 8 months doing eight show weeks, and then came home to absolutely zero work. I had a long time without working when I got back to Ireland, so I got some sense of the highs and lows of being an actor at that point, which was good.
How do you deal with periods of unemployment? Do they get you down?
Yeah, of course they do. I tend to go into a bit of a depression for a while, and then start writing or directing - that's when I went and made my short films. I work a lot with a friend of mine on the writing front. So that's something which keeps my head busy creatively, so that if no-one else is giving me work can create some of my own.
You did a good deal of work on stage and screen before Harry Potter came along, but in terms of your profile, did that change everything?
Yeah, I think so; I don't think there's any arguing with that. Funnily enough, when you're hired to do a big job, the auditions tend to come along in the period between when you get the job (and its made public) and when the film comes out. In Harry Potter I had about two lines, so once the film came out, no-one was going to hire me really on the basis of what I'd done in that. But in the period before that, word gets round that you're going to be in a big movie, and it's easier to get people to see you.
You've acted with your dad in a few projects - is that enjoyable, or is it a bit strange?
I've always had the same answer for this one, which is that once I'm on a film set, as far as I'm concerned, my dad is an amazing actor who I can learn from. He's incredibly fun to be around on set, and also very, very inspiring, so there's a lot to be learned from him. So when I'm on set with him, I try to enjoy it. I try to take it in in the same way that I did when I worked with Jeff Bridges or somebody like that. I try to make the most of it.