ARTS AND FEATURES — 11 February 2014

Peter McDonald in character as Liam Moone

By David Hennessy

Moone Boy, Chris O’Dowd’s incredibly popular sitcom based on his Roscommon childhood, returns to Sky this month. The series follows David Rawle’s 12-year-old Martin Moone as he goes through the trials and tribulations of his school and home life but always with the support of his imaginary friend, Sean who is played by O’Dowd himself. While series one took us back to the eighties with the election of Mary Robinson and the fall of the Berlin wall, series two will relive the euphoria of Italia 90.

Peter McDonald and Deirdre O’Kane play Martin’s parents. Peter, currently onstage in London in Conor McPherson’s The Weir, told The Irish World he loves the role because Liam Moone is far more than just the background “dad” character: “And that continues to grow for Liam. I know Chris quite well. We’re old friends. I had a good gut instinct for what he was driving at and I knew it was going to be really fun so I love Liam. Comically he’s such a brilliantly written character and his possibility for warmth, personal idiosyncracies and foibles and also considerable comedy, was just enormous and hopefully people will enjoy those elements in the second series.”

Sky have always been so confident of the show’s success that they commissioned a second series before airing the first and since then, they have even filmed a third series with Chris himself directing. This faith is well placed with Moone Boy already earning an IFTA and an International Emmy Award.

Moone Boy has always been Chris O’Dowd’s brainchild, has it always been on the cards that he would take the helm himself? “Declan Lowney and Ian Fitzgibbon (directors of series one and two) brought unbelievably great things to the show. Chris and Nick Vincent Murphy wrote the show so they are essentially the creators of the show but I think initially because Chris hasn’t really directed before and because he was in the show, he knew it would have been crazy for him to try and direct the first and second series. But by the time the third one came along, he felt it was a natural progression to do it. I think along the way he obviously learned a lot from the two guys because they did such a great job but obviously the comic tone and vision of the piece comes from Chris and Nick.”

On the show’s future, Peter says: “We’re sitting on two series so there’s no rush to produce a fourth. I don’t ask those questions because it’s in the lap of the gods. I think there’ll be something more from Moone Boy definitely.

“The second series is really funny. I know I’m in it but Chris and Nick (Vincent Murphy) and Ian Fitzgibbon (director) did such a great job on it. It’s as good as the first series and stronger and then in the third series, the scripts have a really high quality and I know that Chris and Nick will always do Moone Boy if the quality remains as high as it has been for the first three series, but it’s been a great show to be involved in.

“When I first read the scripts, I felt that it was a show that was going to last because the nature of the comedy, the accessibility of the comedy and also the warmth of the characters was just brilliantly realised and I think that it’s a show that will be around for a long time in terms of people enjoying it time and time again and they’re great things to be involved in.”

A very special guest appearance in the show’s first series came from Steve Coogan. The eagerly awaited second series will see Johnny Vegas and Simon Delaney reprise their roles as Crunchie Haystacks and Gerry Bonner while The Fast Show’s Simon Day, Bressie and Amy Huberman will also make appearances.

Chris O’Dowd’s and David Rawle’s characters get swept away by football fever

Peter was Oscar-nominated as writer/director for his short film, Pentecost. His debut feature film as a writer The Stag, starring himself, Andrew Scott and Brian Gleeson, is set for release in the coming months.

“We’ve had an incredible reaction to it so far,” Peter says of the comedy directed by John Butler. “It’s just played exactly the way we hoped it would. We’re just dying to get it out on release but particularly to the Irish audience because it’s an Irish film with Irish characters. We hope the Irish audience will really enjoy it and I think Irish people are really crying out for those films.”

Asked if these are exciting times to be involved with the Irish film industry, Peter says: “The way I would always judge it is based on the talent that’s around: The actors and directors and writers. There are so many talented young actors around like Domnhnall (Gleeson) and Jack (Reynor) and Killian Scott and Amy (Huberman)’s been around for a while Brian Gleeson and all the guys from Love/Hate: There’s some great actors there. Lenny Abrahamson is working in full flow at the moment, John Butler is coming up. People like Hugh O’Connor are starting to direct at the moment and hopefully without sounding arrogant, I would like to throw my own name into the hat there.

“My first lead in an Irish film was in a film called I Went Down with Brendan Gleeson which is 17 years ago now. That was an independent Irish film without stars because Brendan wasn’t a household name at that stage in Ireland and it went to number one at the box office in Ireland: It beat big American films. People loved that film. We have the capacity to make those films many times over and we have done it through the years. I think always there’s a chance that that kind of film, the more dramatic kind of film can come out of the Irish talent base at home.”

Moone Boy comes back to Sky 1 HD on February 17.

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