25 March 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network

Irish Film and Television Network




Features & Interviews

Sarah Bolger on Acting
13 Jul 2020 : News Desk
Actress Sarah Bolger
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 to actress Sarah Bolger, who most recently appeared in Abner Pastoll’s crime thriller, A Good Woman is Hard to Find, playing a recently widowed young mother who seeks the truth behind her husband’s murder. Since 2018, Sarah has also appeared as Emily Thomas in the first two seasons of Mayans M.C., the spin off series to multi-award winning Sons of Anarchy.   

On screen from a young age, Sarah has starred in Jim Sheridan’s Oscar-nominated In America (2003), Stormbreaker (2006), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), The Moth Diaries (2011), The Lazarus Effect (2015), and Emelie (2015). On television, she portrayed Princess Mary Tudor in TheTudors (2008–2010), for which she won an IFTA award, and Princess Aurora in Once Upon a Time (2012–2015). Bolger also appeared on the series Into the Badlands (2015–2017). 

What do you look out for in a script?

“It’s always exciting to read a new script because you never know the character that’s waiting to come out and hopefully you get to create something a bit unique. I love eye-catching scripts. Choosing the next role is always asking yourself, “what kind of woman should come next in my career, what kind of woman excites me and challenges me...” 

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

“All actors have different approaches to auditions, so there’s no right or wrong way. I would say, read the script before you even glance at the “sides”. In my opinion it gives you a perspective on the bigger picture of what type of movie the filmmaker is going for, and doesn’t allow you single in on just one particular character. How you react to the other characters is as important as how you portray your character, after all you have to fit into a world. It’s important to understand what world that is first.” 

What attracted you to these roles?(A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, Mayans M.C.)

“I truly try to create very different women with every role I take. But, one thing I see myself get drawn to currently is the idea of women who struggle with the choices they’ve made: the men they’ve married, the life they’re living. It’s interesting to see someone hide their true feelings from themselves, and to eventually see that bubble to the surface.” 

How did you approach playing your characters in A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, Mayans M.C., and how much rehearsal was involved?

“I do an extensive amount of research, when possible and applicable. For example, I had so much joy researching Mary Tudor, for my role in The Tudors. Her history wasn’t just fascinating, but harrowing. Learning why she became the adult we historically know of today was a mesmerising learning curve. I find giving yourself as much reading as possible helps with any character development. And you also have to like the character even the ominous (or off the chart crazy) ones — you have to find their redeeming feature.” 

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

“I will jump on any phone call at any time — day or night — to talk character, to rehearse, to figure out what will make the project better for everyone involved. It’s so important to collaborate, but it’s also vitally important to listen. To hear your directors vision. I specifically ask every director I work with if she or he could send me movies, books or poems that inspire them, so we can have a secret language on set, so I can get a better perspective of where they are coming from with their thoughts or ideas. We get to draw from the same influences while we’re working together.” 

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

“I’ve grown up on film sets. They’re my favourite home-away-from-home. I find myself being more comfortable on sets than most other dynamics. Sets themselves are a fantastical place, where real magic occurs every day, and for that, I love them.” 

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

“I was six years old on the set of A LOVE DIVIDED with Liam Cunningham and Orla Brady. I remember thinking every actor had to learn ‘every’ line of dialogue in the whole script. I thought that was the norm. Still to this day I learn all the characters’ lines in my scenes. Funny habit, that I kept.” 

What international performance by an actor has blown you away?

“I watched 20th Century Women... and was profoundly moved and beguiled by Annette Bening’s performance. It was the most robust, enigmatic, intellectual and moving performance I’ve ever seen. She’s a bolt of lighting in every take, in every scene. She’s literally a masterclass. And I’ll watch this movie yearly, forever.” 

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

“I just watched RUN the new HBO limited series. I thought Domhnall Gleeson was spectacular. So watchable and vulnerable.” 

Is there an Irish film over the last few years that has really impressed you (not one that you were in)?

“I loved A Dark Song from Liam Gavin, with Catherine Walker. I thought the film was so beautiful, subtle and haunting. Not to ruin the movie, but the final scene in the lake brings you so much relief as a viewer. I remember realising I had been holding my breath. Gorgeous film. Beautifully shot too.” 

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

“I would absolutely love to work with Mike Mills. I think as a storyteller he’s second to none. I also think Lee Cronin is exceptionally talented, and even if he wasn’t Irish, I’d want to work with him.”

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

“All you can do is work as hard as possible every single day. Focus on the job, not the accolades or press. The work matters, the work is the only thing that really matters.” 

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

“I feel like when I don’t bring my phone to set, it creates far more creativity in me. I’ll sit and read my script, maybe even ponder some additional reasons why the characters do what they do. Phones are so distracting, and they’ll never help with the next scene. And always remember to be kind to everyone, this cast and crew are your family for those days, weeks or months. Be supportive, and take care of each other.” 

How have you channeled your creativity during lockdown?

“I’ve been playing a lot of guitar. Leaning how to read music. Practicing singing. I’m sure my neighbours hate me.” 

Click here to read more of our interview series.

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