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Robert Sheehan on Acting
03 Jul 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Robert Sheehan in The Umbrella Academy.
With the IFTA Awards Viewing Season in full swing, we showcase Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry. 

We find out what they look out for in the projects they take on, what their approach is to filmmaking and on-set collaboration; what inspires them; what current trends and techniques they like, and dislike in the industry.

We spoke with five-time IFTA nominated actor Robert Sheehan, who soon reprises his role as Klaus in Neflix’s superhero drama The Umbrella Academy. The comic book adaptation picked up two Primetime Emmy nominations for its debut season with Sheehan proving a hit with fans when portraying the eccentric rogue. Other recent credits include a leading role in Peter Jackson’s Mortal Engines, Netflix Sci-Fi thriller Mute, Dean Devlin’s Bad Samaritan alongside David Tennant, and blockbuster thriller Geostorm alongside Gerard Butler, which Devlin also directed.

Sheehan is most-known for his role as Darren in RTE hit crime drama Love/Hate, as well as Nathan Young in Channel 4’s fantasy drama Misfits, which earned him a BAFTA TV Award nomination in 2011.

What do you look out for in a script?

“Good writing. It makes itself known within the first ten pages. And it’s rare. Most scripts are shite.”

How do you prepare for auditions, and what advice would you give to younger actors?

“’Know the script, know the script, know the script.’ (Anthony Hopkins). Walk around as the character. Order something in a cafe as your character, challenge yourself to make him/her real outside the confines of the room. Japanese theatre tradish says you take the emotionally obvious, reverse it, and then begin. That’s a good starting point.”

What attracted you to the role of Klaus in The Umbrella Academy?

“The scale of the project; Steve Blackman, the showrunner is brill; and the prospect of going to work and being a complete flaily, improvvy asshole all day. Easy.”

How did you approach playing your character in this project, and how much rehearsal was involved?

“Character diaries; pretending to be him to randomers; creating memories; reliving the memories; and rolling around on the floor; imagining my last moment on this earth, but I can’t get this shit pop song out of my head. Any time I spend exploring the character makes him better.”

How do you like to work with Directors and do you like to have a collaborative process?

“Lots of rehearsal, and yes.”

Tell me about your experience on set, and your favourite moment during this production?

“Fav moment - I can’t tell you it; ain’t out yet and Netflix would shoot me in the face.”

What was your first paid role as an actor, and what were the key things you learned from doing that role?

“Song for a Raggy Boy. That Iain Glen will go to impressive lengths to scare children.”

What Filmmaker or Actor has influenced or inspired you the most? 

“Peter Mullan’s popped in my head. He was inspiring to work with. Very humble man.”

What international performance by an actor has blown you away?

“Paul Mescal / Daisy Edgar Jones - Normal People.”

What Irish Actor/s have you been most impressed by in recent times?

“Paul Mescal / Sarah Greene.”

Is there an Irish film over the last few years that has really impressed you?

“Camino Voyage.”

What Director or Actor would you most like to work with and why (Irish or international)?

“Pauly Shore.”

We often are our own worst critics. What is your approach to constructive criticism and inward reflection?

“I’m fairly decisive about things and don’t let it bother me much. I can gladly hate one of my own appearances. You can wallow in self-criticism or you can chalk it down to experience and have some self-compassion; by being crap you've learned where it counts.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career thus far that you would share with young aspiring Actors?

“Don’t rely too heavily on advice.”

How have you channelled your creativity during lockdown?

“Writing a book and growing stuff.”

Click here to read more of our interview series.





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