Boyle over? Never, says Chris O'Dowd
After ‘Bridesmaids’, the actor had his pick of ‘mediocre romcoms’, but his home-made sitcom won out. So, how exactly is Boyle like a ’hot girlfriend, asks PATRICK FREYNE
WHEN I FIRST interviewed Chris O’Dowd three years ago, he was famous in Britain and Ireland thanks to hit sitcom The IT Crowd. Now, after the success of the ensemble comedy Bridesmaids he’s famous in the United States as well.
“You’re going to find a totally different person now, Patrick,” he says. “It’s going to be all namedropping and a lot of narcissism. I just thought I’d warn you.”
It sounds unlikely. O’Dowd responded to the success of Bridesmaids by rushing home to shoot Moone Boy, a semi-autobiographical comedy drama all about a boy and his imaginary friend, set in his home town of Boyle, Co Roscommon. It’s debuting on Sky One tonight, and the second series is already being filmed (“Because we were dealing with kids I wanted to start shooting the second series before they grew up!” says O’Dowd).
“The first thing I conceived to do when Bridesmaids was such a success was to come back and shoot something more personal before all the madness ensued,” he says.
“I’ve always been conscious of the fact that there aren’t enough Irish voices on British television compared to the amount of Irish people who live there. And it’s been a joy. I get to hang out with my old mates. I get to hang out with my family. And it’s set in a real town.
“Ballykissangel and Father Ted were also shows for British television set in Ireland, but they were always set in fictional places. I liked the idea of grounding it in a real place where people could actually go.” (According to an article in the Roscommon Herald, the people of Boyle have already established a committee to maximise the tourist potential.)
O’Dowd loves being home. “Nobody will let you away with anything,” he says.
“The people that know you won’t let you change. I don’t think that I’m the kind of person that would have been changed anyway, but I know I bloody won’t now . . .
“I found that on the back of Bridesmaids I got quickly offered a few mediocre romcoms. The wages were going up and up, but the quality wasn’t as good as Bridesmaids. So I thought if I got on to something personal very quickly, I wouldn’t lose the run of myself.
“I’ve known everybody here since I was born and I think they’re happy with how things are going with the show. We had the world premiere here. It’s kind of hard to say these kinds of things without coming across like a dickhead, but I think they’re proud of me.”
O’Dowd is a self-deprecating sort. He’s clearly respected by the US comedy king Judd Apatow (who produced Bridesmaids and This is Forty, the soon to be released sequel to Knocked Up in which O’Dowd also features) but he prefers to characterise himself as “that loser masturbating at the window of the house of Apatow”. (“Sorry for giving you that image,” he adds.)
When I tell him I hadn’t known he was in Bridesmaids until I went to see it and was pleasantly surprised when he appeared onscreen, he laughs and says: “I felt a bit like that myself!”
As things stand, newly married O’Dowd (he married journalist Dawn Porter in August) has appeared in Girls (Lena Dunham’s excellent comedy drama launching on Sky Atlantic in October) and a musical Australian indie movie, The Sapphires, and he’s to be the lead in Family Tree, a new HBO show by Christopher Guest.
He’s also writing a sitcom for NBC and is eager to author a good Irish boom-and-bust film.
“I think we’ll never move on in Ireland unless we learn to laugh at it,” he says. “I definitely want to keep working in Ireland, and without being too worthy about it, if it’s possible to bring work into the country, that’s no harm. I’ve never been as proud of the place as I was when showing the crew Boyle. It’s like when you introduce your girlfriend to your friends and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, she’s really hot and I love that funny thing that she does!’ and you’d forgotten about that funny thing that she does.
“And I think people in the town have loved it too. I’ll be having a pint somewhere in Boyle and I’ll see a member of the crew and somebody local having a pint together, because at some stage they’ve got to know each other.”
He talks about the challenges of writing and being on the other side of the camera, and says he learned a lot from observing Graham Linehan, writer of The IT Crowd. Luckily, he says, there are children on set, which stops him from having massive tantrums (“Seriously though, our main kid, David Rawle, is the most prepared actor on set,” he says).
And then he has to go. “Talk to you in another three years!” he says, and there’s a pause during which I think he’s hung up. “Can you imagine what mobile phones will be like then?” Then he hangs up.
It’s hard to say these kinds of things without coming across like a dickhead, but I think they’re proud of me