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

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

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

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