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Bronagh Gallagher on Acting
25 Jun 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Bronagh Gallagher in A Bump Along The Way.
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 the multi-talented Bronagh Gallagher, who starred alongside Lola Petticrew as fun-loving, 44-year-old single mum, Pamela, in the heart-warming Derry-based comedy, A Bump Along The Way. The film, which was selected to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, picked up the Best Irish First Feature award at the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh. Led by an all-female creative team, the film saw Bronagh team up with sister Louise Gallagher, on what was the debut feature film for producer Louise, director Shelley Love, writer Tess McGowan, and co-star Lola Petticrew.

More recently, Gallagher has starred in Daniel Brocklehurst’s original Sky comedy, Brassic, Epix’s Belgravia, and alongside Dev Patel in Film 4’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. A four-time IFTA nominee, Bronagh has also featured in a range of Irish films such as The Commitments, Sinners, Spin The Bottle, and Grabbers.

What is the one thing you look out for in a script? 

“Originality! When reading a script what I usually look for and try to engage with initially is being drawn in and captivated in the early part of the writing. I find no matter what the subject is, it is in the writing and the telling of the story that I will become attracted to the piece. I love all genres: comedy, history, social commentary, make-believe; but it is the writer’s ability to tell a story that attracts me first and foremost.”

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

“Always give the script as much work as you have in the time allocated from being sent it. That is one rule I have learned. It is very important to respect the fact that we sometimes don’t get a lot of time to prepare, but it is important to prioritise an audition that you would certainly like to be seen for or get.

“When you do receive the script, research the part as much as you can. If it’s an actual person or set in an historical period or a social period that you have access to find out as much information as you can. Build a character that you feel will work within the story; bring that to the audition - obviously staying within the guidelines of the direction given in the script. Be fresh, rested, and know the lines as this will give you freedom and confidence to act, and you will not be nervous or anxious about not being off-book unless stated otherwise, but ultimately enjoy it!”

What attracted you to the role of Pamela in A Bump Along The Way?

“I felt compassion and I felt an understanding of this woman. I felt she was misunderstood and had just got herself into a bad routine in her life. I love the story between her and the daughter, and how they developed the trust for a new beginning together; the highlighting of all types of family units. I love that it was set in Derry and it was all female leads; that it had very positive male figures, as well as not nice ones. That it was my sister Louise’s first feature as a producer and an all-female HOD production.”

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

“Lola, Shelley (the director), and I rehearsed in Belfast for four days, and we brought the characters to life. We created that sense of claustrophobia within the family unit that they had. We worked back to figure out why Pamela ended up in the situation that she did and how it made her daughter feel; obviously using the back story that Tess had written. I feel as an actor, rehearsals are vital and a blessing if you have time to have them.”

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

“A good director is the captain of the team they should be the lead guide, I love when we have a shared sense of responsibility between the actors and the director when you have someone that is open and gentle and prepared. Charm I feel is a huge part of it, keeping actors relaxed keeping actors focused, and keep the actors encouraged and not to knock people’s confidence when they are in a vulnerable position. Shelly is a deeply sensitive woman and her guidance was gentle, focused kind, and real, she would just give gentle directions to Lola and me before the scenes and gave us the space to tell the story.”

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

“When I’m on set, especially if I’m playing a part of this scale, I am extremely focused and I’m very quiet & serious, and I contain my energy. (That is) maybe not what people would expect, but I know how short a time we had to shoot (we shot Bump Along The Way in 18 days). I tend to keep my conversation to a minimum, to keep focused, and to utilise all time & energy in order to get the right scenes into the can. 

“I loved all the scenes; I especially loved the scene where I gave birth. It was a pretty exhausting experience emotionally making the film and I just felt all the emotion came to a head in this scene and the audience’s found it very moving.”

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

“My first paid role was on Michael Winterbottom’s first film for Channel 4’s school programs. It was called ‘The Strangers’ in 1989, also with David Willmott who became a lifelong friend. I learned to stay focused through Michael’s guidance and come to set prepared and rested. I was 17.”

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

“I love so many actors and directors. I love Coppola, Scorsese, Fellini, Ken Loach, Ozu, Klimov, Tarantino, Almodóvar, and I have a soft spot for Paul Newman.”

What international performance by an actor has blown you away?

“Ohhh, so many too but Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf was extraordinary I thought. De Niro in Ragin Bull, and Christian Bale in the Boxer...”

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

“I think Saoirse (Ronan) is exceptional & always makes a film better; she is just a magnificent actor. Andrew Scott also is always just magnetic & Ciaran Hinds is just a class act no matter what he’s in.”

What Irish film over the last few years has really impressed you?

“I loved Good Vibrations! And I thought Richard Dormer as Terry Hooley was just sublime!”

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

“I love so many and I get joy from every job and always meet new friends on new productions.”

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

“To not compare yourself to others as it’s the fastest road to misery. To accept your uniqueness and do the best job you can.”

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

“Tell the story and have respect for every member of Crew and Cast and your costume and wigs that is someone else’s job and you should respect that 100%.”

How have you channelled your creativity during lockdown?

“I have loved the stillness and was able to do lots of yoga, which I love. I have been writing a lot and finished recording two songs. They had been floating about for a year now so I’m very relieved to finally get them down.”   

Click here to read more of our interview series.





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