Robert Sheehan: Boy in the hoody
He moved to Dublin and landed roles in quick succession in the feature film Cherry Bomb, the Channel 4 drama Red Riding and the Nicholas Cage vehicle Season of the Witch. This was followed by a two-year stint on the hilarious and hugely popular Channel 4 drama Misfits, in which he played Nathan, a smart-arsed, orange-jumpsuited young offender with superpowers.
“I connected quite quickly and intensely with that part,” he says. “I think as the series went on, the writers got our voices in their heads. They can write the cadence of your sentences a lot easier when they’ve got your whiny Irish voice in their ear. And there was that intense family feeling on set. We were shooting in Thamesmead, in southeast London, this very odd-looking estate. We’d get really dirty looks from the locals, because they saw us walking around in orange jumpsuits and thought we were shooting a documentary about young offenders and that we were sullying the area’s not-so-great name.”
About that time, he began filming the first series of the RTÉ gangland drama Love/Hate, in which he played the soulful, doomed assassin, Darren. Love/Hate was not an instant success, with some viewers questioning its credibility. “I could understand that,” he says with a laugh. “We were young, fresh-faced lads in what looked like trendy clothes. We did look a bit like a boy band. But I think the show really graduated into its full expression in the second series and probably also got given the free rein it deserved. There were 500 things happening [in every] episode, and it was incredibly gripping to watch.”
This reached a bit of a tipping point after Darren’s death, at the end of the third series. “In Portlaoise [his home town] over Christmas there was a lot of ‘I thought you were dead!’ People were very emotionally invested in that third series. They were coming up to me with that emotion, discussing storylines: ‘I can’t believe you got killed.’ But I think it was a reflection of how gripped people were by the show. Which is fantastic. It’s what everyone wants when you make something like that.”
Sheehan is getting used to unsolicited chats with strangers. “In London it’s more about Misfits,” he says. “If you see a gaggle of teenagers walking towards you, you tend not to make eye contact, because you know they’re going to recognise you. You learn to adapt: 99.999 per cent of people aren’t looking to be harmful or unpleasant; they just want something, a photograph or an autograph. They want evidence that they’ve been in proximity to that guy they like in that TV show they like.”