Owen Roe: ‘Becoming a dad changed my life. It was seismic’

Life Lessons: The big change is the overwhelming love you feel for your child, it’s something you only fully understand when it hits you

Owen Roe receives a Special Tribute Award at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in March, 2019. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

Owen Roe receives a Special Tribute Award at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in March, 2019. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

 

Owen Roe is one of Ireland’s foremost film, TV and theatre actors. He was recently honoured at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2019 with the Special Tribute Award

The biggest challenge I have faced in my life was . . .

The biggest challenge in my professional life was when I was working with Rough Magic on Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen directed by Lynne Parker, playing the part of Neils Bohr. Apart from being a massive learn liberally peppered with dates of events, unfamiliar names of places and various scientists, it was essential to have some understanding of quantum physics. It was like doing a grind in maths, science, history and geography in four weeks. No bother, eh?

At least that’s what I thought. But despite my best efforts, the lines weren’t coming, because most of the time I hadn’t a clue what I was talking about – and if you don’t know what you’re talking about then how are you going to convince an audience that you’re a famous Danish physicist?

Anyway, enter Prof Iggy McGovern from the Trinity College Physics Department. Iggy was absolutely invaluable to the whole process and with boundless patience explained the science within the text in great detail until finally I could at least give the impression that I knew what I was talking about. As a result, I became fascinated with the whole world of physics and still read as much as I can (or as much as my simple brain can contain) on the subject.

The best advice I ever received was . . .

From my paternal grandfather. He often said, ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going’. He fought in the second World War, so I guess he had some idea of what he was talking about.

The worst advice I ever received was . . .

From anyone who ever said, ‘G’wan, have another drink. Sure, a bird never flew . . . blah-blah-blah’. Happily, any similar advice nowadays is redundant. I gave booze the boot a while ago.

The moment that changed my life was . . .

Becoming a dad. It has been the biggest personal challenge in my life and like most parents I felt initially that it was terrifying. The change is seismic and you don’t know what hits you. I’m not talking about all the usual business with nappies, feeding, illnesses etc, that’s actually just the nuts and bolts stuff. People complain about all that and yes it is tedious and a chore – but the big change is the overwhelming love you feel for your child, it’s something you only fully understand when it hits you. 

I like being a father and although I certainly don’t claim to be a model parent, far from it – so long as there is breath in my body, I hope that I will be a source of support and love for both of my children. Having them in my life has given me a greater sense of perspective and I am eternally grateful to them.

The person I admire most is . . .

My wife, Michèle Forbes. Apart from putting up with me for all these years, she is not only a sensational mother to our two children, Megan and Ethan, she is also a wonderful actress, one of the most daring and diligent people I know and she was not afraid to take on the challenge of becoming a novelist at a relatively late stage in her life. She has just put the full stop to her third book and her other novels have won great acclaim (including Sunday Times Book of the Year for Edith & Oliver) and they have also been translated into French. That’s just for starters! I could go on.

The biggest influence on my career is . . . 

My life-long pal, Pearse McCaughey. He rang me one day back in the late ’70s and suggested I go to some acting classes in the Brendan Smith Academy. That was it really. It put me on the rickety path of performing and he has been a great enthusiast and supporter of all I have done down the years. An eternal optimist and close friend who has always seen the brighter side, especially when I was feeling in any way cynical about the business.

A practical thing I do to help my personal development is . . .

I’m fortunate enough to have a large garden and this has become my oasis or retreat, particularly during those ‘resting’ periods. It’s very satisfying to put some food on the table that was once a tiny seed nurtured against the odds. For me, the garden is all about hope.

My biggest flaw is . . .

I’m a grumpy bastard sometimes and fortunately anyone who knows me doesn’t take it too seriously. Nowadays, I’m more aware of it and rather than wallow in misery I try to shake it off as soon as it descends.

My worst habit is . . .

I’m a news junkie and tend to rant and shout at the television when certain individuals are on. When you consider that most of our so-called world leaders look like they’ve just stepped out of the pages of a Batman comic, it’s hard not to get riled by so much of their actions. I’m very likely to go off on one, especially if I see some corporate thug or pontificating, slack-jawed politician conspicuously dragging their arses on climate change.

The thing I’m most proud of is . . .

Quite simply, both my children.    

My motto for life is . . .

All Things Must Pass – thanks to George Harrison

Owen Roe plays Odysseus in Rough Magic’s Irish premiere of Marina Carr’s HECUBA at Project Arts Centre (September 25th-October 6th) as part of Dublin Theatre Festival, dublintheatrefestival.ie

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