'Opening nights? They're not the Leaving Cert'
Returning to theatre and learning lots of lines was not so unusual for McCusker. “With Shameless, the scripts arrived so late you sometimes had about five minutes before filming to learn the lines. They were so well written that they were easy to learn, and that was the same with this play.
“McLaren kept telling me not to play it for comedy; that it would come out of it naturally, as it is one of the best comedies in the English language. We broke the script down into beats, and he definitely got the best performance out of me, as well as my fellow actors.”
Having last year secured an agent in the US, McCusker is now spending six weeks in Los Angeles during “pilot season”, in the hope of getting a part in the next big television series to come out of Hollywood.
“There are about 70 pilots in production, and so the aim is to get a meeting for one of them,” he says. “Only half of them will be made into series, so I could end up on one that doesn’t get made. I want to give this a try, though, as I don’t want to look back 10 years down the line and say, ‘What if?’
“The theatre-awards nomination is great for my CV. Already, the casting directors here in LA have remarked on it, so it will definitely benefit me.”
Working on stage for the first time since 2003 has whetted McCusker’s appetite for theatre work again. “This gave me the buzz for it. To be honest, there is nothing better as an actor than to get up every night to perform a play and make it look like you’re doing it for the first time. ”
As Michael in A Whistle in the Dark for Druid Theatre Company, Galway
Rea says his role as Michael, the Irish emigrant in London trying to make a claim for a new life amid family turmoil, was easy to relate to. “An awful lot of Irish men would be well positioned to play those parts,” he says. “There is a thing within Irish families where the father finds it hard to connect emotionally. There’s a line in a Brian Friel play that goes something like, ‘We can’t ask each other how we are doing because we’re embarrassed of each other.’ A lot of men in Ireland could go into those plays already very well prepared.”
Rea, who is originally from Belfast, had to perfect a Galway – or, more specifically, Tuam – accent to play Michael. “I’m not pretending at all we were getting the Tuam accents spot on,” he says. “I think none of us in the cast was from Galway, but enough of us hit around the same mark and came up with a sound that was universal to us.”
Rea believes there is an over-reliance on opening nights, as he continues to work on his character during the run. This makes it particularly satisfying to be going on tour again with DruidMurphy later this year. “Such a fuss is made about opening nights, and they are treated like the Leaving Cert,” he says. “Some people think that once you get it right on that night, you are sorted. The number of times I get to opening night and I think, Well, this will take a while to fall into place. I never leave it alone. It’ll be great going back to it.”