‘I’m very good at making a laugh and a joke out of things, probably when I shouldn’t’
In Conversation: Ciara O’Callaghan and Emma Willis star together in the new play Spotless
Ciara O’Callaghan as Genevieve and Emma Willis as Jen in Gary Duggan’s Spotless. Photograph: Ste Murray
Does any particular memory make you cry?
Emma: When my grandmother passed away. She was very much the head of the family. When the men you look up to are all in a room crying, seeing men that were the older uncles and dads of the family break down will always make me cry. I think men crying in general makes me cry!
Ciara: My nana’s death as well. I was the last one with her, and I was with her when the ambulance had to be called. I’ll never forget that journey in the ambulance with each other when she was still alive. She was still cracking jokes. She was a smoker and shouldn’t have been smoking, and when they went to put the things on her in the ambulance, she had a packet of fags stuck down her bra. She was 90. We were great aul buddies.
What was your favourite item of clothing as a teenager?
Emma: I used to buy vintage stuff off eBay. It came from China most of the time, never real vintage. I had a coat that was all daisies and purple. It was something a woman would wear to the races, but I’d wear it to school, a fancy over-the-top coat.
Ciara: In classic eighties style, I had a full-length denim coat with massive big pockets and a huge collar. I thought I was the bee’s knees in it. I look back now on photographs thinking “oh my god!”
Can you play an instrument?
Ciara: Yeah, I play the piano. I started as a kid and still play.
Emma: I play guitar, bits and pieces. I learned as a teenager, so I can play a lot of Green Day songs. I can play Boulevard of Broken Dreams!
I ran across the road and a car came out of the tunnel, and threw me up in the air
When were you closest to death?
Emma: I nearly got hit by a bus in college. But I’ve never hard a proper near-death experience, touch wood.
Ciara: One that stands out most is when I was living in Paris. It was Paddy’s Day and friends had come over to visit. They were in the pub across the way, and you know the tunnels that come up on the street for cars? I ran across the road and a car came out of the tunnel, and threw me up in the air. I don’t remember anything after that. The car drove over my legs, reversed, and went back down the tunnel. I was knocked unconscious and came around in the hospital - torn ligaments and a few crushed ribs. I was really lucky.
What is your favourite street?
Emma: Barrack Street in Co Cork. I lived on it all through college. It felt like a home away from home. I stayed there for four years, changing from house to house.
Ciara: I’ve only been here once, but Nakameguru by the river in Tokyo. I was there in cherry blossom season. It’s just one of those things I remember so well, so clearly, the cherry blossoms coming over the river. I hope I get to go back there.
Emma: That’s so much more exotic than mine!
What is your go-to late-night snack?
Ciara: I love a bar of chocolate and a cup of tea, I have to say. If there’s no chocolate, there’s always the 24-hour Spar, which is a bit too handy.
Emma: Tea and toast.
To what do you owe a parent?
Ciara: My work ethic, definitely. They’ve worked so hard, both of them, and achieved an awful lot. When you grow up with that, it’s ingrained in you, working hard and giving 100 per cent.
Emma: I think I get a sense of staying close to your family. Both of my parents are from really big families, and I’m one of five. Growing up I wished I was an only child, but when I became an adult I realised how glad I was to have a lot of siblings. It’s great to have this big, 30 cousins on each side kind of thing. People will come and go, but your family will always be there.
Ciara: I’d have that too, a close-knit family.
Emma: We’re so big and spread out, but if something happens, we’re all here for each other.
Where is your favourite place to visit?
Ciara: Abroad would be Tuscany, seeping with culture, great food, great wine. In Ireland, the Beara Peninsula in Cork, it’s a really good tonic.
Emma: Schull in west Cork. Amazing seafood.
What do you think is your most dominant characteristic?
Emma: I think I don’t take myself very seriously, which can sometimes be to my detriment when you need to be serious. I’m very good at making a laugh and a joke out of things, probably when I shouldn’t. It’s hard for me to get serious sometimes. I find it uncomfortable, having serious conversations with people.
Ciara: I’m fierce loyal. If somebody tells me something, whether they say it’s in confidence or not, I don’t pass it on.
Emma: That’s a good thing to be known for.
Ciara O’Callaghan and Emma Willis star in the new play Spotless, currently on nationwide tour. See riseproductions.ie.