His four-year stint on Vikings has just come to an end, but with six movie releases this year alone, an IFTA nomination and his latest role as Amy Huberman’s love interest in Striking Out, Moe Dunford is about to become a household name, writes Esther McCarthy
Posing in his native Dungarvan for pictures to accompany this interview, Moe Dunford found it hard to keep a straight face.
He may be one of our busiest acting talents, but back in his home town a photoshoot brings on a bit of playful ribbing from passersby who’ve known him since he was a boy. “Men from the area were walking by with their dogs and they’d shout over: ‘Hey Dunford, don’t forget to say cheese’, he says afterwards. There are a lot of shots of me cracking up laughing.” Not that the actor would have it any other way. Dunford is an actor who takes his work, but not himself, seriously, and he’s extremely proud of his Co Waterford roots.
The actor is enjoying the most buoyant period of his career with no fewer than six movies due for release in 2018. He’s also currently starring as Amy Huberman’s character’s potential new love on top RTÉ drama Striking Out.
Last week, Irish fans of global TV hit Vikings saw his character, Aethelwulf, meet a shock demise after more than four years on the series.
He’s known about the move for some time.
“We have a producer out there, Keith Thompson, and he’s a gem of a man. But there’s a nickname for him, they call him ‘The Angel of Death’,” chuckles the actor. “A couple of times a year, he’ll have a little smile on his face going around the cast trailers, and he’ll be looking for a certain cast member to give him the news that either their head is getting chopped off or they’re gone from the show in some grotesque form.
“Himself and (top producer) Morgan O’Sullivan came up to me last year. I want over and I said: ‘Well, what’s the craic?’ And he said: ‘I’m sorry to have to break it to you, we loved your time on the show but we’re going to have to move on with history. You die this year.’ It was funny when they said it to me because of the way my character dies, it was very left of field. Morgan said to me: ‘You actually die of a bee sting.’”
Mishearing the producer and thinking he had said ‘basting’, the actor started to respond about the macabre death before realising he was in fact going to die of.
“To this day I don’t know how the two boys kept a straight face,” he laughs.
“I went in in season two and left in season five, and I think it was a very good run for a feature like that. It took me a while to get used to it. The outpouring from fans was quite lovely, actually.”
Ever since he got his break with an astonishing performance as a young man with mental health issues in Patrick’s Day four years ago, Dunford has embraced new opportunities and developed a reputation as one of our most hard-working and successful actors.
“When I found out I was going from Vikings I wanted to just jump in with as many different directors as possible. I’ve had a good year. I’ve been working pretty much non-stop.”
He has no fewer than six movies due for release, including the terrific Michael Inside, which screened at Cork Film Festival and arrives at cinemas in April.
Filmed largely in the former Cork prison, he plays an inmate who befriends a teenager sent to jail who is ill-equipped to cope with his new reality in the critically acclaimed drama.
“I’m grateful that I got to work with the likes of (writer/director) Frank Berry. I’d seen his film, I Used to Live Here, and I wrote Frank a letter explaining how much I love to see the work of a filmmaker who works with the community, to make a movie to give back to the community. He responded to me and a few years later gave me the part in Michael Inside. I’m very proud to have worked with him and Dafhyd (Flynn, the film’s young lead actor).” We’ll also see him in the forthcoming Irish thriller Black 47, a revenge movie set during the famine. It has a big-name cast including Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Barry Keoghan and Cork actress Sarah Greene. “There was a lot of fight training and choreography and horse training and shooting - there’s a lot of action in it. It’s exciting.”
He’ll be starring opposite Peter Coonan and Charlie Murphy in Ian Fitzgibbon’s adaptation of Kevin Barry’s novel, Dark Lies the Island, and plays a musician in actor Hugh O’Connor’s directorial feature debut, Metal Heart.
He’s filmed a lead role in Northern Irish movie The Dig and also stars in the upcoming horror/drama The Lodgers.
“I got to work close to home in Wexford and drive to work every day,” he says of The Lodgers.
“One of my aspirations is to make a movie in my native Waterford. To advance the amount of movies that are shot regionally. I’d feel strongly about that. We were shooting in the village of Clongeen. The primary school students came out with their teachers and watched us shooting a fight scene, that was fun.
“There are a lot of stories that haven’t been told, a lot of stories are Dublin-centric… I enjoy stories that are shot in the countryside or in small towns.”
As a young boy, he honed his interest in films with his father, who was introducing him to classic favourites. He knew it was something he wanted to pursue, but wasn’t sure how. After studying in UCC and then the Gaiety School of Acting, he found it difficult to break through at first, but that all changed when he played the title character in Patrick’s Day, and he has worked consistently since.
Downtime is spent with his pride and joy, his son Charlie (8), who he calls “the best thing that ever happened to me”. Does Charlie realise what dad does for a living?
“He does. He came to set on Vikings once. He was watching a fight scene and he just took me aside and said: ‘Dad don’t do that because you have a really stupid-looking run’. He put me in my place! I love taking him down home, we’ve done the Greenway and we’ve done the railway through Waterford, the old-fashioned railway they have there. He has a great mother and we’re both very proud of him. He’s very funny, sensitive and kind.”
In recent weeks, we’ve seen him try to woo Amy Huberman’s solicitor character in RTÉ’s Striking Out — an attraction complicated by the fact that he’s her ex-fiancé’s younger brother.
“What interested me was playing a character where you could be a bit ambiguous. But also it’s a change of pace for me, because I haven’t played many happy-go-lucky characters. Amy was a big draw to me, she’s a real joy to work with. We’d be good friends.”
The busy actor will shortly begin filming on Rosie, the new drama directed by Paddy Breathnach (Viva) and written by Roddy Doyle.
On February 15, he’ll have the opportunity to meet up with acting friends at the IFTA awards, where he’s nominated for his work on Vikings. “It’s my last year on the show so being nominated is a great way to bow out.
“I’m also delighted to see the young actors I worked with like Dafhyd Flynn (Michael Inside) and Fionn O’Shea (Handsome Devil) being nominated for lead roles.”