Raw tal­ent

She’s had a string of TV and film suc­cesses, in­clud­ing‘Raw’, ‘The Fall’ and ‘A Date for Mad Mary’ , but the 22-year-old Tara Lee didn’t al­ways see her­self as an ac­tor, she tells Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

Tara Lee was born in the 1990s and can cite cul­tural cor­ner­stones to prove it. Favourite movie? True Ro­mance. First song she knew the words to? Heart-Shaped Box by Nir­vana. Most au­di­ble in­flu­ence on her mu­sic? Mas­sive At­tack.

The dat­ing from these arte­facts is use­ful. In other re­spects – with act­ing cred­its that stretch back to 2004 and a world­wide pub­lish­ing deal with BMG Chrysalis – it can be tricky to re­mem­ber that the Donard-born star is only 22.

And yet con­versely, weirdly, that new deal has been a long time com­ing.

“My dad is a film com­poser,” she says. “And my mum is a badass who raised me with lots of good mu­sic and movies. When I was four years old, I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally bored, so my dad said: ‘Why don’t you write a song?’ So I wrote a song about a man in space and thought I was David Bowie. I kept sit­ting at my pi­ano and work­ing away in se­cret for years af­ter that. At 15, I played a song for my dad. I told him it was Tay­lor Swift at first. And he brought me into the stu­dio a few months later and we recorded about 20 songs. And that’s how I got my deal.”

Hav­ing moved to Lon­don last year, she still misses her dad’s roast po­ta­toes “like crazy”, but she’s fi­nally start­ing to think of that “vibey city”, as she calls it, as home.

“I spent a year af­ter sign­ing the deal trav­el­ling,” she says. “But I al­ways knew that I wanted to write the mu­sic in a Euro­pean city. I just think Euro­pean pro­duc­ers look for­ward. They’re not try­ing to write some­thing that sounds like some­thing that some­one else has writ­ten or to write a hit: they just want to write what sounds good.”

Ac­ci­den­tal act­ing ca­reer

Between fash­ion­ing new songs that have been var­i­ously com­pared with Lana Del Rey and FKA Twigs, Lee has charted an ac­ci­den­tal act­ing ca­reer.

To date, she has ap­peared in the Hen­drix biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side, in Dis­ney’s The Odd Life of Ti­mothy Green (a starry ve­hi­cle fea­tur­ing Jen­nifer Gar­ner, Joel Edger­ton and Lin-Manuel Mi­randa), and in the video for Sinead O’Con­nor’s 8 Good Rea­sons, play­ing the younger Sinead.

Yet at home she is more likely to be recog­nised for her work on the RTÉ series Raw or as Daisy Drake, the best friend of se­rial killer Paul Spec­tor’s (Jamie Dor­nan) teenage acolyte Katie Benedetto (Ais­ling Fran­ciosi) in BBC’s The Fall.

Lee re­ports very dif­fer­ent chats with both sets of fans.

“I was dat­ing Der­mot [Mur­phy] from Raw and when the two of us were to­gether, we got no­ticed all the time,” she re­calls. “Peo­ple would wave and come up and say how’s it go­ing? But when peo­ple recog­nised me from The Fall, the girls es­pe­cially would get re­ally freaked out.”

Act­ing was not a pri­or­ity while she trained in mu­sic and dance at the Na­tional Per­form­ing Arts School. And Lee had al­ready amassed quite a few screen cred­its be­fore she ever thought of it as a job de­scrip­tion. Last year’s award-win­ning A Date for Mad Mary would make all the dif­fer­ence.

“I never, ever thought of my­self as an ac­tor un­til I worked with Dar­ren [Thorn­ton] on A

Date for Mad Mary,” she says. “At school, I never liked act­ing and I thought I was ter­ri­ble at it. But that shoot was so in­tense. I dis­cov­ered sides to me that I didn’t know were there be­fore. Dar­ren is a mas­ter. He’s so good at get­ting things out of peo­ple. I went in not re­ally know­ing what I was do­ing. I left with ac­tual tech­nique.”

Road trip

Those skills have been fur­ther honed by her ex­pe­ri­ences on

Moon Dogs. The Celtic co-pro­duc­tion chron­i­cles a road trip un­der­taken by two war­ring step­broth­ers, Michael (Jack Parry Jones) and Thor (Christy O’Don­nell). Michael has failed his A-lev­els and hopes to re­unite with the girl­friend who seems to have for­got­ten all about him since start­ing uni­ver­sity. Thor, a bud­ding elec­tro mu­si­cian (whose stylings are com­posed by An­ton New­combe of The Brian Jon­estown Mas­sacre), wants to meet the mother who walked out on him when he was a baby. Along the way, they are joined by Caitlin (Lee), a free spirit who se­duces both sib­lings.

“Shoot­ing Moon Dogs was in­sane,” laughs Lee. “I ex­pected ev­ery other shoot to be like that. But its just not pos­si­ble. There will never be an­other Moon

Dogs. When you watch the movie, that’s how it was. We were all driv­ing around coun­try roads in jeeps and cars, and get­ting sea­sick on the ferry and pil­ing into sin­gle beds. It was full force. The direc­tor Philip [John] is a to­tal an­ar­chist. I thinks he cast peo­ple who could do the road trip for real. And ev­ery­thing that you’re see­ing on­screen is al­most a toned-down ver­sion of events.”

She col­lab­o­rated with An­ton New­combe on the mu­sic for

Moon Dogs but is keen to work on a film wherein mu­sic isn’t a ma­jor fac­tor. So next up is Song­bird, a film about a rock mu­si­cian star­ring Co­bie Smul­ders and Noel Clarke, and Schemers, a film about the mu­sic busi­ness in 1979. What gives?

“I’m try­ing to get away from it. Re­ally. But those films were just too good.”

Moon Dogs has al­ready won at least one notable fan.

“I went to one of the screen­ings and the direc­tor leaned over and said, ‘Kim Cat­trall is sit­ting in the back row,’” says Lee. “So I tweeted about it and she mes­saged me back with ad­vice.” What did she say? “‘Don’t for­get to live. If you live a life, you’ll con­tinue to grow as a per­son, and that’ll grow your work.’ It’s been good ad­vice so far.”

Moon Dogs is out now on lim­ited re­lease and is re­viewed on page 11

I never, ever thought of my­self as an ac­tor un­til I worked on A Date for Mad Mary. At school, I never liked act­ing and I thought I was ter­ri­ble at it. But that shoot was so in­tense. I dis­cov­ered sides to me that I didn’t know were there

Tara Lee ‘At school, I never liked act­ing.’ Be­low: With Jack Parry Jones and Christy O’Don­nell in Moon Dogs

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