Cinematic TV has film playing catch up, says Sheehan

Irish actor Robert Sheehan has said that the film industry is resorting to “spectacle-laden and large” productions to try and keep up with the current glut of cinematic television.

Sheehan’s role in the Ari Gold-directed The Song of Sway Lake, which was released across digital platforms including Netflix last week, is one he’s “proud of”; but, he says, the film is, “deserving of a cinema screen.”

“The environment of television is providing very, very cinematic and in-depth stories that will span across eight or ten hours. The task of film has become to outdo television again,” Sheehan told the Irish World.

“I think [streaming] is a response to the sheer amount stuff that gets made at the moment which is amazing. Some things don’t always get the distribution that they deserve, unfortunately.

“Now we’re seeing a lot of movies that are spectacle-laden and large and expensive to stay one step ahead of television,” he adds.

Robert Sheehan with co-star, Mary Beth Peil, the acclaimed Broadway and TV veteran

The film follows music collector Ollie Sway, who recruits a friend to help him steal a valuable old jazz record from his family’s estate and becomes fascinated by its owner, an older woman.

It’s a bit of a change of scene for Laois-born Sheehan, a Bafta-nominated actor who rose to fame for his role in Channel 4’s Misfits show, contends that “variety” is the key when it comes to roles.

“If I feel like I’m caught in one territory for too long, I can go a bit mad. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet, I’ve had a lot of variety thrown at me,” he says.

“When you start to read something that you’re sent, you start to get an inkling one way or the other about whether you can do something interesting with it. A unique voice walks into your head, and you think, well if I explore that, I could come up with a unique character.”

Ari Gold, who Sheehan says is a close friend of his, is to thank for his performance in the new film, he says, adding that the American director, “very skilfully edited back me into the room.”

Gold is a “unique force of nature” who is not “constrained massively” by expectations of others, Sheehan adds.

“You’re always learning stuff on the job. I learnt so much about America in the 50s when we were making this movie because the house you see by the lake in the movie is in Ari’s family,” Sheehan says of the new film.

“The film has become this dream of a time past. It’s very much his family at the time – upper-middle-class New York socialites, who go out on holiday at those luxurious, beautiful lake houses. The film has got this strange, dreamy history.”

Currently based out of London, Sheehan says he has consciously cocooned himself away from Brexit-talk.

“You can be sure of the fact: there are no Brexit conversations happening in my vicinity,” he says.

“You do feel the gloom of something that people have had to endure for so long quite palpably in London.”

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about things that are completely out of my control. Just hope for the best, I guess.”

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