Friday, September 24

Domhnall and Brian Gleeson: ‘People will be surprised to see us in a comedy like this’ | Television comedy

Domhnall Gleeson has learned a lot about sitcom writing lately. He’s spent the last few years writing the script for a comedy series with his brother Brian, and now he’s well versed in character arcs, structure, and the like. He has also learned something fundamental about working with his brother.

“If you watch during a mixed martial arts scene to see your brother with a boner, it really has to be comical,” he says via Zoom to the soundtrack of Brian’s uproarious laugh in a separate window. “Otherwise, you are in a very dark place.”

Lols may not instantly seem synonymous with the Gleeson brothers. Domhnall is probably best known for having been savagely attacked by a werewolf like Brother Weasley in the Harry Potter films, lofty mocking as General Hux in the latest Star Wars trilogy, or having his scalp ripped off by Tom Hardy in The Revenant. Meanwhile, one of Brian’s recent roles saw him crucify someone like Jimmy McCavern from Peaky Blinders. And, when the two appeared on screen together, playing brothers at war in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological surprise Mother !, it ended with the character of Domhnall on the head of the character of Brian with a doorknob.

But his latest project, Frank of Ireland, is a joke festival full of antics. Produced by Sharon Horgan, it follows Brian (pronounced “Bree-an”) as the titular antihero: a failed musician who was recently dumped by his on-and-off girlfriend Áine (Sarah Greene) and lives with his mother Mary (Pom Boyd). ) in the suburbs of Malahide, a small town in County Dublin. While Frank tries to fish for his life in the bathroom, Domhnall (pronounced “Dough-nall”) constantly follows him around like his idiot best friend, Doofus. The pair constantly try to convince themselves that their drab lives are more interesting than they are by describing themselves as a list of movie icons ranging from Travis Bickle to Robin Hood played by Kevin Costner.

It’s not exactly the next career move you’d expect from two actors who are increasingly in-demand Hollywood names. Some of the goofiest moments on the show include food fights, being peed by dogs, and the aforementioned boner scene, where the pair are beaten during a cage fight while Brian’s lycra pants are absurdly distended around the area of the crotch. Which is an amazing way to avoid being pigeonholed.

“I hope some people are surprised to see us in a comedy like this,” says Domhnall. “Part of the reason I wanted to write Frank of Ireland is that not many people ask us to do this kind of thing. I’ve always wanted to clown around, and this allows us to work on pratfalls and just play at being a total kid. “

The brothers speak from opposite sides of the Irish Sea. Older brother Domhnall, 37, is in Dublin, his all-black outfit matching the color of the Paul Thomas Anderson Punch-Drunk Love poster behind him. Brian, 33, looks through tortoiseshell glasses in a Hackney living room. The lockdown could have meant that Zoom is the only way the couple can get together for an interview, but today it’s not that bad. “It’s Paddy’s day so I’d normally be indoors, away from the streets,” Brian laughs harshly. He’s the more reserved of the pair, full of deadpan, almost Eeyore-ish humor in contrast to Domhnall’s high-energy enthusiasm.

Pop hooks ... Liz Fitzgibbon with Brian and Domhnall Gleeson on Frank of Ireland.
Pop hooks … Liz Fitzgibbon with Brian and Domhnall Gleeson on Frank of Ireland. Photography: Peter Marley

Much of the joy of the show comes from the way the two leads bounce off each other. Brian’s turn as Frank is a step through episodes of pathetic heartbreak and stunted development. Domhnall is very likable as Doofus, an absolute darling / human doormat for whom getting a new hoodie is a major life event. Their relationship is summed up in a scene where Frank is sulking in his bathtub, with Doofus snuggled behind him like a human bath pillow. It’s immediately obvious that this isn’t the two brothers’ first project together. It’s also not his first project in which Brian plays someone named Frank.

“I don’t know how the hell it ended up like this,” says Domhnall of the fact that this now completes a Frank-based trilogy for him. That’s both the name of the role he wrote and directed for Brian in Noreen, a ridiculous short film about two irresponsible policemen who screw up a suicide investigation (with Father Brendan as the other cop), and the title of Lenny Abrahamson’s film in the one that appeared. with Michael Fassbender.

“Wasn’t Frank the name you used at Starbucks for a while, Brian?”

“It’s true. I really couldn’t bear to say, ‘It’s pronounced’ Bree-an ‘, so write’ Brian ‘. But then make sure you say’ Bree-an ‘when you give it to me,’” Brian laughs. “But Frank it’s also my middle name. “

“Is it? Well, you learn something new every day,” laughs Domhnall.

For Frank from Ireland, Brian and Domhnall brought in Michael Moloney, a comedy writer who had partnered with Domhnall on scripts since the pair got hold of a camcorder while they were in school together and started making movies. “Bad movies,” laughs Moloney on a separate call from Zoom.

Hats off ... Brian Gleeson as Jimmy McCavern in Peaky Blinders.
Hats off … Brian Gleeson as Jimmy McCavern in Peaky Blinders. Photograph: Robert Viglasky / BBC / Caryn Mandabach

Seeking inspiration for the series, the Gleesons and Moloney wandered Dublin for hours, discussing ideas. Since the trio had grown up in the same city, their thoughts turned to the goofy adventures they had filled the endless days of their childhood, from the monster movies Domhnall and Moloney would shoot, to “just wandering around McDonald’s and thinking : ‘This is absolutely amazing.’ There was also a strange obsession with a fake country singer.

“Once a year Michael and I would get together and write a terrible country song together. Things like Tenner in Your Sock, about the importance of keeping a ten in your sock, ”laughs Domhnall.

“When we explained to our friends, ‘We’re going to be out for a day and a half to write all night and record a terrible country song,’ it became easier to say, ‘We’re working on a character. We called him Duke Governs and he took us to parts of Frank. “

At one point Frank from Ireland becomes even more of a family affair. The two lead actors are joined by their father Brendan, the Emmy-winning actor known for his roles in Gangs of New York, In Bruges and Harry Potter. He plays an older version of Frank and showed off on set with a suitcase full of clothes based on his concept of the character.

Force to be reckoned with ... Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Force to be reckoned with … Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photograph: Everett / Alamy

Domhnall, Brian, and Brendan have previously worked together on the aforementioned Noreen, in addition to donning bad wigs and deliberately exciting performances for Enda Walsh’s play. The Walworth farce. And in 2019, her author and screenwriter brother Rory wrote Psychic, a Sky Comedy short about an aging medium who has been forced out of retirement by her scheming children. It was directed by Brendan and featured a soundtrack by composer brother Fergus (who also sings a country number for Frank of Ireland). Is humor something you naturally gravitate towards as a family?

“I think so. Mom [Brendan’s wife, Mary] it’s really fun. There is a lot of laughter when we are all in the house together, ”says Domhnall.

“Plus, I’m always a little suspicious of the fact that we work together, so you don’t want to make yourself feel too self-conscious,” says Brian. “For family projects, I want it to be fun rather than too heavy.”

Given the risk of people assuming they’ve had an advantage from their famous father rather than pocketing a project on its own merits, it’s not surprising. In fact, Domhnall initially considered turning down the role he was offered in Harry Potter, so that people (wrongly) wouldn’t think he was only chosen by his father. But having a father with so much experience in the industry gives them access to a lot of inside information.

“When we both became actors, Dad said, ‘Don’t wait for the phone to ring. You have to create your own work, ‘”says Brian. “So why wouldn’t you create something that you want to be in that other people aren’t giving you?”

Brian and Domhnall with dad Brendan Gleeson (left).
Act to Go … Brian and Domhnall with Dad Brendan Gleeson (left). Photograph: Dan Wooller / Rex / Shutterstock

Frank from Ireland certainly fits that mold. Sometimes there is genuine originality to the writing, particularly in terms of the truly gonzo cinematic hoaxes that are recorded in each episode. The series opens with a languid, cinematic takeoff from Taxi Driver – the entire jazz cello soundtrack and misty streets, filtered through the lives of two losers who can’t drive, so you have to reenact the monologues while a local Bewildered takes you around Dublin. taxi drivers. Meanwhile, the show’s Memento-inspired season finale might just be the smartest ending to a sitcom in years. Especially since it’s preceded by goofy re-enactments of Home Alone antics and a hilariously bizarre plant-based parody of A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the fruit!”

It is also a program that manages to be absolutely prolific in the use of profanity. The fucking and the jeff not only come from the two protagonists. The air turns blue thanks to doctors, mothers, recently deceased granddaughters, and extremely young-looking country musicians. It’s hard to think of another recent popular sitcom featuring the same volume of expletives.

“You know, I didn’t think it was that rude until people pointed it out,” smiles Moloney from a show that features the main character’s mother being told to “stick it on your dick” in the opening scene of the episode. one. . “It really is not a feature that I have particularly noticed. Maybe it’s something Irish. “

Maybe. Or maybe it’s the result of writers who think a fun sibling activity is cage fighting with fake erections? Either way, there’s no denying that it’s a gloriously silly series.

Frank of Ireland airs Thursday, April 15, 10 p.m., Channel 4

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