From Amy Huberman to Chris O’Dowd, Simon Delaney has secured the country’s finest acting talent to be interviewed for his new podcast, Behind the Scenes. It’s a rare, and often hilarious, insight into the world of film and TV, says Ed Power.
Simon Delaney’s bonhomie doesn’t quite conceal the angst beneath.
The Bachelors Walk star and anchor of TV3’s Saturday AM is one of Ireland’s best known screen presences, but also very much a jobbing thesp.
Parts come, parts go and, with four kids to support, life is far from glamorous.
“For the average freelance actor, you probably spend more time not working than working,” says the Raheny native in that salty Dublin accent.
“It is a very, very tough business — you can get close to life-changing jobs and then, the following day, you receive the rejection. You have to climb back on the bike and go again.”
This endless pivoting from success to rejection is a subject Delaney delves into with relish in his new podcast, Behind The Scenes.
It’s a regular series of long-form interviews in the vein of WTF with Marc Maron, with industry guests such as Once and Sing Street director John Carney and Laurence Kinlan, who played Elmo in Love/Hate.
“I’ve been a fan of podcasts for years,” he says.
“It’s one of those weird media where, if you have an interest, there’s a podcast to match. If you are interested in South American geography, there’s probably a podcast about that.”
He’s a great host — an effortless raconteur but with a vein of insecurity that stops his patter becoming glib or in-jokey.
And while it may not have been the intention, Behind the Scenes sheds as much light on presenter as on interviewee, with Delaney emerging as by turns upbeat, troubled, and eager to be loved.
If you’ve seen Delaney on screen, you will have a sense what he’s like in person.
He is friendly and chatty and upfront about the challenges of acting.
He is also a natural born multi-tasker, podcasting the latest swerve in a career brimming with the unexpected.
Delaney has appeared alongside Kiefer Sutherland in a drama about autism, starred with Vince Vaughn in a lowest denominator comedy, and popped up as a British barrister on courtroom juggernaut The Good Wife.
But it is since the podcast that he has arguably had his biggest success yet, in James Wan’s $300m shock-buster, The Conjuring 2.
And yet none of these were major starring roles and, for Delaney, the quest for lasting security goes on. Aged 45, a steady income stream remains a pipe dream.
He shrugs. Such is the life he has chosen.
Delaney has lofty hopes for Behind the Scenes. Future guests include comedian Chris O’Dowd while he is putting together plans for a taping before a live audience, to be screened in real time via social media.
Should that experiment prove a success, he will approach broadcasters with a view to turning the podcast into a TV series.
“Everyone likes to peek behind the curtain — to see what makes things tick,” he explains.
“I’m talking to people but not about what’s coming up next, the next project they are pushing.
“It’s more about why did they became actors, how do they prepare for auditions, for characters. It’s more of an insight in what it’s like to be a freelance actor
“We’ve had some lovely feedback, particularly from the Laurence Kinlan episode. It was like someone put a mic in the bar and you were dropping into two mates having a chat.
"It wasn’t really about him being an actor; it was about growing up in inner city Dublin and the very tough blows he has had to deal within his life.”
Long term, he says, the goal is to reduce his reliance on acting. He recently established a production company, Three Lads Media, specialising in advertising and client-based work (and founded in association with Conor and Hughie McAllister of the Grafton Barber chain).
Based in an industrial estate outside Ashbourne, county Meath, he sees Three Lads as an outlet for untapped ideas and energies, such as the new podcast.
Though he does not plan to give up screen and stage, with a family to provide for, Delaney feels it important to broaden his income stream.
He’s been married since 2005 to Lisa Muddiman. In June, they welcomed their fourth child, Lewis.
“Last year I didn’t work in the States for nine months. You have to learn how to block it away and move on. It’s a job. It’s not a calling or a vocation. Yes, it is a craft, something you can devote your life to. But at the end of the day it is still a job.”
Some of the close calls have been excruciating. He remembers being flown to Los Angeles to audition for a high-profile drama only to be rejected at the end.
There are two ways to respond to such a setback. You give up, or you shrug it off and put your shoulder back to the wheel.
“I got down to the last 20. And then to the last two. Three days after the audition I was told I didn’t get it. That 6,000 mile trip home was very lonely and very hard. Going home without the job is tough. You have to just find a way to deal with it.”
There is a perception that one high-profile role invariably leads to another. That has not been his experience. The phone did not ring off the hook after The Good Wife in 2011.
“I was in an episode of Touch with Kiefer Sutherland. That didn’t lead to anything. I got The Good Wife — that didn’t lead to anything. I did Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn. That didn’t lead to anything. Yes, of course, it becomes part of your body of work — it is easier for our agent to sell you and promote you. So it helps. Whether it leads to anything… I don’t know.
“You hear other actors saying ‘well I got cast in x after they saw me in y’. But should you really be thinking all that when you are trying out for a part? If you had it in the back of your mind your head might explode. The psychological side of being an actor — it’s a very weird and wonderful place.”
Acting started as a hobby. His experiences holding down a regular job have, he feels, stood to him — bringing a healthy perspective to the endless ups and downs.
“I was lucky in that I spent a lot of years in the real world,” he says.
“I was a sales rep — and in that game you hear the word ‘no’ all the time. So when I started and I was getting told no, it didn’t take a feather out of me. It was on to the next one.
“That attitude changes as you get older. Not getting the job becomes more significant now. I’m the father of four kids.
“So when I don’t get the jobs — I can’t say ‘ah sure, let’s move on’. It’s tougher to take. I would say it actually gets harder over the years.”
Does he ever think about packing it in?
“I always give the example of George Clooney, who did 18 pilots before ER.
“That’s 18 times he was auditioned, got cast... and then had to go again. It’s all about how you handle the time out of work. Most of us are parents — we’ve all got mouths to fed. When you’re not working, that’s very, very tricky.”
The latest of Behind the Scenes has been released on iTunes and other podcasting platforms.
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