David Hennessy chats to Barry Ward about Extra Ordinary, the new comedy horror that is on release at selected Odeon cinemas , his Brexit concerns and how Ken Loach turned him into an ‘overnight success’
Barry Ward was just 13 years old when he made his screen debut in Roddy Doyle’s Family in 1994. He was selected when the BBC visited his school in Cabra to be the rebellious teenage son in the dysfunctional family of Ger Ryan and Sean McGinley. However, it was in 2014 when he starred in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall as Jimmy Gralton, the only Irishman to ever be deported from his own country for establishing a dance hall, that his career found another level. With parts in The Fall, Rebellion, The End of the F**king World, he has rarely been off our screens since.
“That opened up a lot of doors,” Barry says of working on Jimmy’s Hall. “Even though Ken Loach doesn’t set the box office alight, He’s so highly regarded in the industry and rightly so. Someone said jokingly, ‘it took 20 years for you to become an overnight success’.”
Barry is currently starring in Extra Ordinary, the comedy horror that also stars Maeve Higgins, Will Forte and Risteard Cooper, which is released in selected Odeon cinemas from today. Barry plays a man who must enlist the help of a local driving instructor with a supernatural gift to save his daughter from a washed up rock star who will use her in some twisted ritual to reignite his fame. Playing for laughs was a welcome change of gear: “As an actor, I think you’re always looking for new challenges and this was certainly out of my comfort zone.
“It was one of those parts which are very, very rare where I thought I have to do this. It would sicken me to see someone else doing it because it’s a great showcase for an actor.
“Not that I was ever against doing comedy or I didn’t think I could. I’ve always regarded myself as someone who should be doing comedy, the opportunities never came. Thankfully they took a punt on me.
“I think it’s got mass appeal, a movie like that. It would appeal to horror lovers and lovers of comedy. I think it’s got a huge audience.”
Barry tells us he has little time for the supernatural outside of work: “I’ve no time for any of that stuff beyond entertainment. My parents and their generation would have all given great weight to anything unusual happening and they all have what I consider barmy theories but I’m a materialist and a man of science and an atheist.”
Barry starred as a prison guard in Maze, the true story of how 38 IRA prisoners broke out of Northern Ireland’s most secure prison in 1983. Like many, Barry is concerned that Brexit could take Northern Ireland back to the dark times that film was set in and that we thought we had left behind: “That’s the most important aspect of the whole (Brexit) thing, the effect on Northern Ireland and what could happen on that front. All this other crap about trade agreements and economics, I’ll let the greedy fat cats fight over that but when it comes to the North, it can have really damaging effects on the ordinary man. That could be devastating. I just hope they can go at it with some sense of responsibility that I don’t really see much of in terms of the other aspects of Brexit.
“I hope that they can approach the question of the North with due seriousness. I would like to think that there’s enough good will and good intentions to not let things slide to as bad as they were but there’s a really alarming level of ignorance over here about all aspects of Northern Ireland so I don’t know if those in power have any real ideas of the trouble and strife that was in the past and may happen in the future.”
Apart from that, Barry tries to ignore the Brexit news: “There’s a sense of powerlessness and helplessness while it’s all going on over your head so unless there’s another referendum or it comes back to the voters or the people, then of course I’ll educate myself again and make an informed opinion but until that happens, I’ll let them at it and try make sense of it all when it’s over.”
Extra Ordinary is playing at selected Odeon cinemas, including Odeon Haymarket, London from today.
Extra Ordinary is also part of the Irish Film London Festival 20- 24 November.