Too big for the family car at 11 years old, the Roscommon actor grew up to develop an addiction to pizza, an intolerance to boredom and a chronic inability to wait in queues. And don’t even think of challenging him to a game of ping-pong... Interview by
On family car trips, pizza addiction and the best night of his life
What sort of child were you?
A quiet, content little boy. I was the youngest in a big family and the dreamer. Then I hit 11, grew in the summer holidays and went back to school six foot tall. It defined me. At that age you don’t want to stick out, you want to fit in and I couldn’t even fit in the family car.
When did you last feel really happy?
I did Broadway, playing Lennie Small in Of Mice And Men. Every night when I got through the show, no mistakes, no problems, I genuinely felt incredibly happy. I was nervous as it’s my first Broadway play – a huge thing and I was really anxious about messing it up.
What has been your biggest achievement?
There are two. Finding someone who puts up with me [Chris is married to broadcaster Dawn O’Porter], and who feels the same way about everything I do, is just not what I ever expected. Then my TV show, Moone Boy. It’s been an incredible experience because it turned out exactly as I wanted it to. It’s one thing to act but it’s a very different thing to write.
What are you best at?
I’m an excellent table tennis player – a tribute to my misspent youth in a lot of different youth centres in the west of Ireland where table tennis was one of the main competitive sports. You won’t beat me.
What would you like to be better at?
I’d like to be a lot better at saying ‘No’ to pizza. I have put on two stone – most of that is pizza and I’m not stopping. I’m still eating slice after slice. It’s become a habit. Please help me.
What is your best character trait?
I’m very loyal. I keep in touch with every one of my friends from home and I try and stay working with people I’ve worked with over the years and repay people who have been kind to me by trying to get them work. I think it’s hugely important to keep the people you love and respect close in this business and in life generally. Everyone goes through tough times – I’ve had times when I have struggled for work and things just haven’t gone right – so when they do and things go well then you share that around.
What is your worst character trait?
I’m horribly impatient. Queues drive me mad. I have a terrible habit when my wife and I are doing the weekly shop in Sainsbury’s of filling up the trolley then ducking out for a cigarette as soon as we get to the queue. I always come back to settle the bill though.
What is your biggest fear?
Being bored. A lot of the decisions I have made in life are to stop myself from being bored. I once worked in telesales when I couldn’t get work as an actor. I did everything from bar work to building work, but telesales was the death. I had to try to persuade people to up the direct debits they made to charities
‘My best friend told me: “You are the guy a girl talks to about men like me.” I was devastated. it made me feel totally irrelevant’
but it was the same script, same routine, day in day out. It can drive you crazy.
What or who do you dream about?
I used to play football quite seriously as a teenager and embarrassingly my most common dream is about playing football. It’s a Roy of the Rovers scenario with me scoring the winning goal or being carried off the pitch by cheering mates and I’m always about 16 or 17.
Who do you most admire?
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a man I hugely admired. When I was a drama student he was a theatre director and I used to try and see any play he’d directed because they always felt so true and honest and exactly the sort of work I wanted to do. I worked with him briefly in The Boat That Rocked and he was the most lovely, lovely man. Everyone who knew him talks of him with such respect.
What is the worst thing anyone ever said to you?
When I was in my late teens one of my best friends said to me: ‘You are the kind of guy a girl talks to about men like me.’ He meant it. I was devastated because at that stage all I wanted to do was be attractive to women and it made me feel totally irrelevant and pointless. I did later use the line for a pretty despicable character in Cuban Fury with Nick Frost… so it came in useful.
What is your most treasured possession?
On the top of my fridge I keep my old construction hard hat. It’s a reminder of a year of getting up at 4am, taking two buses and the Tube to a building site run by Russian builders. I was an unskilled labourer, a hod carrier, lugging bricks, eating fry-ups and grafting on anything I had to. I’d be learning lines on the site. I’d shout them out and the Russian builders would repeat them back to me. I keep it with me to remind me I’ve been very, very lucky.
Describe the best night of your life
The Dublin premiere of Bridesmaids was the most incredible night, a point when things changed for me. We screened the film, everyone loved it, we went to the Savoy, then myself and a group of cast and crew went on to some bars, bumped into people I knew and ended going back to a load of houses till some ridiculous hour. It felt to me like all the stars were in the right place, that my life had come back to Ireland and everyone was happy for me. It was the most unbelievable feeling and there was an awful lot of alcohol.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who really gave it a go. I’ve really pushed myself. It was my decision to give it a go in America. After the success of The IT Crowd all the agents want you to stay over here because they know they can get you work, but I wanted to take that one step further. I could have fallen flat on my face but it worked. Moone Boy (Series 2) is on DVD and to download on iTunes