How to play a blinder at the hunger games
‘The only thing you need to play a vampire is to be hungry,” says Damien Molony, who plays a 500-year-old recovering blood addict on BBC3’s Being Human. Well, that’s what Jason Watkins, another vampiric alumnus of the show told him.
“And it’s true,” says Molony. “It gives an electricity to a scene if in the back of your head you’re thinking ‘I could totally sink my teeth into your neck right now’. Although I’m not method enough to actually go hungry.”
By the time Molony, a talented young actor from Kildare, had heard Watkins’s advice, he’d already done quite a bit of vampire research. “I spent two or three weeks watching movies, getting myself ready for the first day on set,” he says. “As soon as I got the job they told me to watch Near Dark, the Kathryn Bigelow film, and I watched Nosferatu and Shadow of the Vampire and a lot of the films mentioned in Mark Gatiss’s BBC 4 documentaries about horror [Gatiss made a memorable appearance in the last series of Being Human].”
Molony also read up on addiction and alcoholism, “to give it a grounding in truth. Anyone can put on a black cape and gel their hair back, but to actually bring it to life requires a lot of work.”
He was taking nothing for granted. Being Human was popular when he landed the role and Molony’s acting ambitions had been thwarted by bad luck in the past. “In 2001 I applied for the drama course in Trinity College,” he says. “In the application, they asked ‘What was the most inspiring cultural moment of 2001 for you?’ And all I could think of was this sweeping shot at the start of the Fellowship of the Ring . . . It was obvious to me that that was the cultural moment of the year – not Druid at the Abbey or something at the Wexford Opera House. That was where my mindset was when I was 18 years old. I should probably have said something about my first copy of Shakespeare’s complete works, but I’d rarely gone to the theatre – I just loved films. I never heard back from them.”
So, not knowing what else to do, he embarked on a degree in business, economics and social studies at Trinity. “The drama people at college seemed like such a tight-knit group, so I put acting on the back burner until a friend of mine signed up to do a small part in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Two weeks before, he said: ‘Look I’m really nervous. I heard you want to do acting – could you do my part? I’m too scared to go up on stage.’ Obviously I was terrified and had no idea what I was doing, but it kind of ignited something in me. I just went for it. It was exhilarating.”
Rada? Who, me?
He was still clueless about the path to a professional career. When friends began applying to drama schools in London, the thought had never even occurred to him. “I thought Rada was the only place you could go, and that you could only do that if you were related to Oscar Wilde or were a certified genius. I didn’t realise it was a real option for Irish people.”