This much I know: Ciara O'Callaghan

Ciara O'Callaghan. Picture: Fotoware.

Actress Ciara O'Callaghan in conversation with Hilary Fennell.

The best advice I have ever received is never to argue with a hunch. As a child I was drawn to the world of performance, I loved ballet and speech and drama and spent a lot of time creating my own shows.

I grew up in Swords in Dublin, the eldest of three. There was no history of showbiz in our family but my parents encouraged my interest. My earliest memory of being on stage is at the Gaiety Theatre, as part of the youth ballet.

I have a very strong work ethic. I got it from my parents, they both moved to Dublin at a young age. My father was in the Department of Defence and mum went back to college in Cathal Brugha Street and became a sommelier.

I got my big break when I was not long out of studying drama in Trinity. I got a part in an Abbey production which took me on tour and, after that, RTÉ’s Fair City came knocking. I was supposed to play the wonderful part of Yvonne for six weeks, but I was there three years later.

I try my best to have some kind of work-life balance, but it’s hard in this game. When I’m working, I’m 100% focused. I’ve been totally engrossed learning my lines for the new play I’m in, Spotless, but my friends and family understand the routine by now.

When I’m ‘resting’ I try to embrace having free time. Sometimes, when I’m not working, it does freak me out. The trick is not to let it. You have got to have faith that more work will come along. When I feel myself panicking, I get up and have a walk, or get onto my agent. It’s like marketing yourself - you have to keep all the balls in the air and accept that this is the life you’ve chosen and that it comes with lows as well as highs.

What keeps me sane is reading. I devour books which means I am never bored. And I like to walk - and dance.

My idea of misery would be to lose my drive and passion for life. I’ve learnt to go with the flow, as there is no way to predict what my daily routine will be. It might be a voice over today, an audition tomorrow.

From all the challenges I’ve faced, I’ve learnt that it is not what happens to you that matters, but how you react.

If I could change one thing in our society I’d tackle homelessness. I live near the canal in Dublin and can’t believe the number of tents pitched there. I don’t know how to fix it. But there must be a way.

My biggest fault is indecisiveness. The trait I most admire in others is loyalty. I’m a lark. I’m very productive in the mornings.

It’s hard to come down after I come off stage. Especially doing such a monster of a piece as Spotless, an urban thriller. I’m out there non stop for an hour and a half - but a glass of wine helps me to switch off.

Talent is absolutely more important than ambition. I’m talking about real talent. You are either born with it or you aren’t and its up to you if you choose to embrace it. Ambition never came into it for me, it was never about being a star.

My main skill is that I’m very intuitive. And I’ve been able to develop a thick skin which helps to deal with the countless rejections.

I always feel nervous before I go on, even after 25 years of being a professional actor. If you lose that, you’ve lost your passion. But you learn to control the nerves, to breathe through them - there still may be a shake in the hand, it depends who’s out there in the audience.

Having quiet time to myself before a performance, being as familiar as possible with the role and, in a piece like Spotless, with the other actor, are the things that help. There’s special sense of trust between us. We know that we’ve got each other’s back. I do believe in an afterlife. I still chat to loved ones I’ve lost.

So far, life has taught me that it’s full of surprises - so it’s best to grab it and engage with it to the best of your ability.

Ciara O’Callaghan stars in Gary Duggan’s brand new play SPOTLESS, presented by Rise Productions - tours nationwide to 9 venues fro April 8 til May

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