Jason’s a survivor
WHEN Jason O’Mara was a struggling actor in London he improvised a recipe that saw him through the lean times.
‘‘I got really good at going to the supermarket and buying frozen sausages, which were very cheap, and lots of dry spaghetti and tomato sauce, and basically I lived on that for months,’’ the Irish actor and star of Life on Mars says.
‘‘Right now I still find it hard to eat spaghetti bolognese because of my horrible concoction that kept me alive. There are moments when you think, ‘I must be crazy to go through this’.
‘‘I was in London for eight years and I starved . . . the actor’s cliche. Lived in the garage, lived off girlfriends, stuff like that.’’
An unemployed actor, he managed to wangle a voice-over job of sorts, recording the daily horoscope. ‘‘I was the guy on the line saying, ‘Hi, and welcome to your Horoscope Hotline for Tuesday the fifth of May’. It paid $5 an hour — it was non-union,’’ he says with a laugh.
O’Mara also read the crossword results on a recorded message. ‘‘Hi, welcome to the Crossword Results Hotline. Here are the answers for all of the down clues. One: zebra, z-e-b-r-a. Really boring,’’ he adds, rolling his eyes.
‘‘It was me alone in a booth with a pile of scripts. It was kind of funny looking back but, you know, I got experience listening to the sound of my own voice and I learned how to do it a little better and got a little voiceover career going, and that helped supplement the theatre I was doing and the times I wasn’t working. So that was probably the moment when it started to come together.’’
Things have really come together for O’Mara, 36, who has appeared on Grey’s Anatomy, Men in Trees, The Closer, The Agency and In Justice.
In Life on Mars, he plays a time-travelling NYPD detective who finds himself suddenly thrust into 1973 after a car accident. Not surprisingly, the character struggles to adjust to this technologychallenged world.
O’Mara had no idea his life would take this turn when he was munching spaghetti and calling out horoscopes. One day he got a call from the US asking him to appear in a pilot for a new show called The Agency.
‘‘Moving to the States was completely a huge decision, even though I said I didn’t have a decision to make,’’ O’Mara explains. ‘‘Looking back, it was quite brave really, or maybe it was just stupid. I just went. I didn’t even think about it.
‘‘It was a big risk and I was putting everything on red and letting the wheel spin. Thank God it worked out.’’
O’Mara was raised in Sandycove in County Dublin.
After battling through high school, he, along with 1200 others, applied for entry to Trinity College. He was one of 25 chosen for the drama-theatre course.
He has, however, long been fearful of committing his life to acting. He has doubts even now about whether he can do it.
‘‘It never really ends. Every time you play a new role you think, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to make this character human?’ It’s always a challenge and I’ve heard very seasoned actors say the same thing, so it’s not just me,’’ he says.
‘‘There are always doubts. I think every creative person has doubts as to whether they can do it.
‘‘The best part of the job is the phone call to tell you you have it, and from there on in it’s just plain old hard graft and preparation and panic, but you have to get over that because you can’t be panicky and act at the same time.’’
Life on Mars star Jason O’Mara has done the hard yards.