With the release of The Young Offenders on DVD and online platforms, Gemma Creagh took advantage of a telecommunications device to chat to Hilary Rose about her experiences playing Mairead MacSweeney in the hit Cork comedy.
Can you tell us about working with Alex Murphy and Chris Walley. It’s obvious on screen that there was a great rapport between the three of you.
It was great. We spent a lot of time together. I took them shopping for their costumes, had lunch and coffee, bought props with them, and just did loads of little activities together so that we would have that relationship when we went on set. It worked. We just all connected together as this oddball family unit. We still all hang out together. They’re really great guys.
It’s so funny when you see the reaction to the two lads after they had been transformed into their characters. Obviously, I met them as they were but some of the cast and crew only met them in character when the transformations were done. They were really stand-offish with them – when they’re in character with the accents they’re quite intimidating. And then off screen they are just these lovely middle-class boys out of school doing their thing and people, were like oh my God… they just hadn’t realized how much of a transformation had gone on.
What was it like as an actor working with Peter Foott?
Peter’s great. He’ll give you an idea and then shove you onto the path and you need to go and do the groundwork yourself, which is great as an actor because it gives you a certain amount of freedom. For me, I like observing people, looking for quirks and different things and characters kind of come out of that. A mish-mash of all these things and obviously what the writer has written as well. Peter gave us all a lot of rehearsal time so that if there was stuff he wasn’t happy with, stuff he felt that wasn’t in keeping with the character he had written, we were able to tweak that. So the characters grew organically in the rehearsal period.
You must have had a lot of fun on set – were many of the scenes improvised?
A lot of the scenes were improvised. For me, my experience on the hidden camera show The Fear was really helpful. Prank shows are all about improv. Peter was great to allow us to do that. We used to do our scripted take and then we would do what we called “the X take”, which was the improv take. We were allowed to do and say whatever we wanted within the boundaries of the scene. That was really fun stuff. And then of course with PJ on set, I think we spent 50 per cent of the time just laughing at him and it was often really hard to get through takes when he was around.
I heard the hair was improvised!
When we were in rehearsal, we were doing a lot of character work. PJ turned around to me and said wouldn’t it be great if he had a bald spot. When we said it to Peter you could see PJ go… well I have to do it now. We shaved it on set. It turned out the caterer was also a hair dresser. She turned up one day with our lunch and then shaved PJ’s head.
You must be chuffed with the success of the film and the reactions it’s getting.
It’s been amazing. It’s really been an amazing year. We really didn’t expect to get the reaction that we did. We just hoped that it might get into a couple of festivals, maybe win an award, put us on the map a little bit. But the way it snowballed is incredible. It’s still in cinemas in Cork and it’s done so well in the UK and is going world wide. It was number one on iTunes and got some great reviews. It’s been incredible.
The Young Offenders is available in all good DVD stores as well as on Amazon and the Wildcard Distribution website. The movie is available to view across online platforms in Ireland including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and Eir.
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