This much I know: Owen Roe

If I wasn’t an actor, I would love to have been the best saxophonist ever.

My advice to aspiring actors is to make your big mistakes in smaller venues. Get a bit of life experience and take your time.

You get used to the unpredictable nature of the work as an actor. You get used to never being able to book a concert or anything in advance.

I believe in fate. Certain things have happened to me that I feel cannot just be explained away as coincidence. And I have sometimes found myself wishing for things to happen — and they do.

When I left school, I worked in a record shop and toyed around with playing the saxophone.

The only acting school in Dublin at the time was the Brendan Smith Academy. I went along to try it out and immediately thought ‘Oh, this is for me’.

I met my wife, Michelle Forbes, on the first day and we’ve been together since. Being married to an actor is helpful — we both understand the nonsense that you have to put up with sometimes, although my wife has found another outlet for her creativity now as a writer.

There was no show-business background in my family. At first, my parents found my decision to become an actor a little difficult. My father was a truck driver for a freight company and my mother worked in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. They had a very strong work ethic and couldn’t get their heads around the fact that I wanted to act for a living.

I worked during the day as a freelance copywriter but I gave it up in the late ’80s to act full time, not that I was earning much from the copywriting. I discovered that you cannot be the servant of two masters.

I spend my free time growing fruit and vegetables. Gardening is a great way to centre yourself — as well as putting food on the table.

I have no set routine before each performance — except making sure I get there in plenty of time so that I am not stressed and can do a proper vocal warm up. Then it’s just blind panic and fear. The fear never goes away.

My favourite role so far has been John Proctor in The Crucible. It’s a powerful and beautifully written play which shows how quick we are to judge others. I like to think I became less judgmental since I did that play.

The traits I most admire in other people are a generosity of spirit and a sense of humour.

I’ve learnt that there is more to life than acting. For me, the most important thing in life is my family.

I travel any chance I get. We went to Australia a year and half ago, everyone thought we were mad — our daughter was 15 and our son was ten — but we just took ourselves off. We get away every year, usually to do some agriturismo in Italy.

The best advice I ever got was from my grandfather — if you’re going through hell, keep going.

I’m playing Shelley Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross. It was the role made famous by Jack Lemmon in the screen version of the play, so it’s hard to get that fact out of my mind. But the play is a very different piece from the movie, which was structured differently and tailor-made for the screen. Shelley is a middle-aged salesman who used to be known as The Machine. But now he’s down on his luck and seen as dead wood. He’s doing his best to fight his corner and be the best salesman he can be.

Owen Roe is appearing in David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross at Dublin’s Gate Theatre.

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