Pearse Egan told David Hennessy about his film In From the Side, his success coming after he was going to give up and finally getting to meet his father and brother thanks to Long Lost Family.
Pearse Egan had to endure bullying and homophobic taunts growing up that got so bad that he had to give up playing any sport, including the rugby that he loved.
Now Pearse is starring in the new film In From the Side a cast headed by Alexander Lincoln who is well known as Jamie Tate in Emmerdale.
In From the Side has already been an award-winning success on the festival scene and his role in the film has already seen Pearse land roles on the BBC and in a big Amazon production.
The role came after Pearse was thinking of packing it all in. Now he is so glad he didn’t.
The Irish World was at a gala premiere for the film in Leicester Square last year.
Pearse told The Irish World: “When I walked past the cinema I could see the poster of the film.
“It really was a moment where you think, ‘I’m an actor, this feels so good’.
“I’ve been here now in London seven years.
“And you get so many nos, you just start to think, ‘No, I’m actually not an actor. No I’m not any good. No, I’m not a performer’.
“I loved it (the premiere).
“I thought it was so cool.”
In From the Side is about the gay rugby team The South London Stags.
The storyline centres around Mark and Warren, two team mates who start an affair.
Both are in relationships but Warren’s partner is also a Stag so the risks are high.
When the relationship is exposed, Mark does not just lose his partner and home but also his team.
Pinky is the comic relief and got the biggest laugh at the Leicester Square premiere.
“It’s such a nice feeling.
“People love Pinky and it makes you feel so good because when you come away from scenes you think, ‘I could have done better’.
“Or, ‘I should have done this or that’, but then when you see people’s reaction in the cinemas and they’re coming up after asking, ‘Did you improvise this? And you were the heart of that..’ It genuinely just feels very validating and it’s a really nice thing.
“People seem to love Pinky, I think that’s the thing with him.
“You think he’s going to be one dimensional in that he’s the funny one.
“But then you see why he is the way he is and how much the team means to him later on in the film and I think that’s a really important arc for people to see as well.
“Ya know there’s so many more layers and dimensions to him and I think that’s what is so special about him.
“He’s such a good character to play.”
Pearse has much in common with his character. In school he was bullied off his rugby team.
In the film Pinky describes something similar and talks about how much he needs the Stags because it is the only team he has ever felt he has belonged to.
“In an emotional conversation with lead character Mark (Alexander Lincoln), he impresses it all on him.
“I feel like there’s so many similarities I got to bring.”
“I say to him, ‘I didn’t have anything’.
“I remember filming that day.
“It was very tough because the director Matt was talking to me and he was, ‘This is a very important scene, you really need to show the importance of it’.
“And I struggled initially thinking, ‘Oh God, this is such a crucial moment to convey how big this is for these fellas and this character’.
“I remember looking down and thinking, ‘Oh no, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can bring this emotion’.
“Then I remember thinking what rugby actually did mean to me when I played it and I tried to forget how I was kicked off- Well I was bullied on my team when I was back in Ireland.
“I was called fat which is hilarious because you need some fatties on the team especially when it comes to rugby. It was their own loss there really.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, I do miss my old team and I do miss playing rugby and I do miss all of that’.
“And then I was starting to kind of warm up and then when I looked up the other actor was crying off screen and then I was able to get more into it and the two of us had a good old whinge basically and I think it’s a really pivotal moment in the film because people go, ‘Jaysus, it is really important for this bunch of lads to have this, to have this inclusive space where they don’t feel like anyone’s going to bash them for being themselves, they only get bashed if they’re shite at rugby’.
“That’s part of it, that’s what you want, you want to learn.
“I remember that moment looking down missing all the people I used to be on the team with and then looking up and it just happened.
“I was very glad it comes across so well.
“About being bullied it got to the point where I felt, ‘You know what? I can’t actually keep going over it and over it in my head because it just makes me feel that I’m useless and they were all right. And no one liked you on the teams just because of you, it wasn’t even about your ability’.
“I try and forgive what they did to me. It’s very, very, very hard to be the bigger person but things like the film and getting the roles that I’m getting and meeting people and having these opportunities- I’m getting massive auditions now- These are the things that make me slowly build up that confidence that was knocked out of me: That I can do it, that I am worth it.
“And I do feel like I’ve created a good space for myself in the world whereas before I used to think I was taking up too much of it.”
The film is refreshing for gay cinema in that it doesn’t portray the usual coming out story or gay people as the victims.
Pearse started to play with a gay rugby team in London and that is where he met the film’s writer/ director Matt Carter.
“I think that’s why something like this is so important.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have stories where we’re not getting battered coming out or we’re not really, really sick, and just cast out of home and battered.
“That’s what I loved when I started playing rugby in these inclusive teams, that I was able to see people who have jobs and have partners and gay was just a small part of their bigger life.
“And I had never seen that.
“That to me was eye opening and I think that’s what is so important for people to see is that we’re all just trying to get by whatever way we can and that’s what I think is so touching about it.
“We became a team on set. I loved playing sport and I was battered off my team.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, we did see a bit of bullying on ours and we tried to stop it’.
“I think those conversations are really important to have and I think that’s what the film will bring out for others, just being able to chat.
“I think that’s the healthiest part.”
Pearse thinks seeing a film like In From the Side would have been good for him when he was struggling. He hopes it could help someone else in the future.
“If I had seen this film when I was younger, I would have thought it was okay to be myself.
“And I think that will be monumental for a child looking at it going, ‘Oh right, it’s okay to be me’ whoever that is.
“I saw some people crying in the cinema and I’m like, ‘This is so moving’.
“It’s so amazing to see a bit of your work have an effect.
“If I had seen something like this when I was younger, I would have been like, ‘Wow’.”
When In From the Side hit cinemas, Pearse was cast in BBC’s Doctors and a big Amazon production.
His Doctors part did hit a little ‘close to the bone’.
“I got sick in Brazil.
“I thought I had a problem with my heart and it turned out it was a problem with the joint by my heart and when I was on the way back I was coming through the airport and my agent rang me and said, ‘You’re after getting an offer’.
“I was like, ‘What? I’ve never had an offer’.
“She was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve got a part in Doctors and it’s about this fella who has a heart condition’.
“And that set me up for the next thing: I was cast in an amazon TV series.
“I had a driver come to my house, drive me two and a half hours to this castle in the middle of nowhere and then gave me breakfast, hair and make-up.
“I had my own trailer. I cried in the trailer because I’ve never had my own trailer.”
Unbelievable now but it was not that long ago that Pearse was ready to give up.
“I was going to give up.
“In lockdown I thought, ‘Maybe l should pack in acting and comedy’.
“It felt like everything was telling me not to do it.
“But now things are going so well, it almost feels mad to know that that’s where I was.
“I had a prior agent telling me that I was too fat, that I wouldn’t be seen in rooms by casting directors.
“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if this is for me’.
“And then things started to come together and I thought, ‘I can’t actually pack it in’.
“People say, ‘Oh, you’re very lucky’.
“Well it’s funny, the more I work the better my luck gets.”
Pearse has also appeared on ITV but not what you would call acting.
He appeared on hit TV show Long Lost Family, where the programme’s presenter Davina McCall successfully helped reunite him with his biological father.
Pearse, who has also won awards for his stand up, has since appeared in an update episode that saw his brother visit him in London.
“They flew over my long lost brother from San Francisco.
“They had said, ‘We want to showcase a bit of your life’.
“And I thought, ‘What have I got to show?’
“I started to pick things apart and said, ‘I’m actually quite dull’.
“They said, ‘We want to show you doing your stand up’.
“I remember getting a fright thinking, ‘I hope I’m funny’ because seven or eight million people watch Long Lost Family. It’s a big big deal.
“So they flew him over and I got to do my stand up for him and he loved it and I have that filmed forever.
“They wanted to dissect the difference between him and me, myself having a relationship with our dad and him not having one and how we’re navigating that.
“We both have separate relationships so I get along with our dad, they don’t speak and then I get along with my brother.
“It works out fine for me being able to have the two of them and I’m very grateful for that.
“We chat all the time.
“It’s weird now because I have, my whole life, been telling people I only have one brother and now I tell people I’ve got two- It makes sense that I would be a middle child!
“It’s still strange for me.
“Someone told me when I went to the Long Lost Family reunion they said, ‘You never actually get past how surreal it is’.
“Because sometimes I just think, ‘Woah’.
“That’s what Davina said to me. She said, ‘You could be in the middle of anything and it will hit you’.
“And I remember months after seeing her I was in the middle of doing something and I just started crying because I was like, ‘Wow, they found my dad and now they found my brother’.
“It’s mad, it’s so mad.”
In From the Side is on Netflix.