Interview with Ronan Raftery

Entertainment Editor, Dan Webb,  chats with Irish actor and Moone Boy star, Ronan Raftery about his life, career highlights and his role in the upcoming show The Rook.

What age were you when you began to act? What was the big inspiration that sent you down that path?

I was twelve and playing the First Witch in a school production of Macbeth. I remember in the final week of rehearsals we all had to stay very late after school, order in pizza and desperately try to get the play into shape. I had very few friends and had never really fit in anywhere, but I remember that week, getting to know some of the guys from different years, and all pulling together to get this amazing show ready. I remember thinking “ah so these are my friends.” That, coupled with the complete exhilaration I felt onstage, hooked me in a big way. I’ve been an actor since.

You cut your teeth starring in the National Theatre production of Juno and the Paycock in 2011. What do you feel was the biggest lesson you learnt during this time?

How important it is to keep your mind and body fit during such a long run. I was playing a character with a limp (Johnny Boyle) and ended up badly damaging my knee ligaments doing the same thing every night. Ironically, Johnny’s limp was real by the end of the run! But more importantly, you become aware of how important it is, and how difficult it can be to stay engaged with a show for that long, to keep your passion and focus on high alert at all times. Johnny has a series of terrifying visions during the play, so I would watch brutal horror films in the afternoons before a show, and arrive at the theatre a quivering mess…I do scare easily though…

What has been the personal highlight of your career so far?

Impossible to choose of course, but my first job – playing the Antiphilous twins in The Comedy of Errors at The Globe has to be up there. Playing to 2000 people on one of the world’s most iconic stages was a massive rush. Also being a small part the Harry Potter universe was great fun.

I was first introduced to your work through your role as Jeff in Death of a Superhero. Such a splendid film making light of such themes and events. Do you feel that films which can make light of such dark themes are valuable to us in such uncertain times?

Yeah, that was a very underrated film I think, some really great work in it.

I think regardless of the times we live in, you can always find moments of lightheartedness or humour in some of the darker corners of cinema. An audience often needs a few moments of release or respite from an issue as horrifying as cancer.

My personal favourite of your roles was your part as Dessie in Moone Boy. What was your favourite episode of the show and what was your favourite part of playing Dessie?

We had an absolute blast making that show, and I have never laughed as much as the day we shot the wedding episode. Tearing through Boyle in the back of a pony and trap, in hysterics between takes, it was brilliant. I loved playing a character who made people’s skin crawl – there was such release in trying to find the worst possible thing for him to do in any given moment.

I was once stopped in the street by a woman who loved the show – all she said to me was “God, you are just awful, the worst. God, you’re awful!” I’ve always assumed she was talking about Dessie…

In 2019 you will be starring as Robert in The Rook. What was it that drew you to this project? How do you prepare to play such an unusual role?

Yeah, I’ll be playing Robert Gestalt who shares a consciousness with his three siblings. Sort of a hive mind. It’s a fascinating process for us, and pretty unique for an actor. All of us have to be on the same page for all of the siblings, so we all prepare for each others scenes as well as our own, we often swap dialogue around, or speak simultaneously, or walk in unison. If you came to set any day, you’d find us huddled in a corner together deciding which lines to overlap on, or letting someone know if something strange happened in the previous scene. It’s a bit mind-bending, but seems to be working pretty well, I hope!

If you were not a Muggle/No-Maj what house in Hogwarts would you be in?

Gotta be Gryffindor right? I don’t think I’m allowed say anything else.

When you were growing up who was your favourite actor/movie and why?

Back To The Future was a massive influence, I just wanted to be Marty McFly so badly…still do. I also remember being foolishly surprised at how hilarious the old silent movies were – so Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were a massive deal for me.

If you had any advice for up and coming actors who may be reading this what would it be?

Not to listen to advice from other actors who claim to have all the answers! There is no magic bullet, no ladder to climb, its mostly trial and error, learning from your own mistakes and trying to improve. Oh, and hang up your costume at the end of the day – the wardrobe department are not your staff.

So you have been in Fantastic Beasts and Mortal Engines. What would be your fantasy project/character to play if you were offered it tomorrow?

Anything with aliens, and massive, outrageous prosthetics.

I want to say many thanks to Ronan for giving his time to talk to me, and to his publicist Rosie Robinson for helping to make the interview possible.