Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham tells Caroline Delaney how he’s happy to be filming in Belfast rather than sunny Croatia or Spain as
He’s been cooped up in a dank dungeon, had fingertips lopped by his boss and has tangled with a sinister sorceress but Davos Seaworth is living the dream. Or at least his alter ego Liam Cunningham is.
The Irish actor has reached a worldwide audience playing characters who are often moody, dour or downtrodden — if not downright nasty — but it’s all good in his view. You might remember him as the forbidding Mossie Sheehan in the adaptation of Deirdre Purcell’s Falling for a Dancer. Or as the drug smuggler in The Guard. But right now he’s Davos Seaworth, or The Onion Knight, to millions of Game of Thrones fans.
While he wasn’t ‘old’ by any means, Cunningham certainly took the scenic route to his dream job. He worked as an electrician here and in Zimbabwe for several years but always had acting in mind. His wife Colette was the one who gave him the push he needed to make the leap.
“I was working for the ESB and I had my box of tools. But yes, this is my dream job — it would be a very difficult one to do if it wasn’t my passion.”
However, the fame doesn’t seem to have gone to his head. It’s all about keeping it real: “I have no interest in being an ‘actor’. But I love acting.”
He lists the main fringe benefits to his perfect job as being able to buy some nice clothes and get a good seat in a restaurant every so often.
He even spots the good side to his character’s grim life. A good portion of the epic fantasy drama Game of Thrones is filmed in Malta, eCroatia, Morocco and, more recently, Spain, but Davos Seaworth is hunkered down in caves and dungeons and on bleak islands for the most part. he's close to his family
These scenes are filmed in a Belfast studio and on location in Northern Ireland. “It’s great, I don’t have to leave my family for too long. An hour and a half on a train or driving up north and I’m there. You have to count your blessings,” he says.
He hasn’t read the George RR Martin books the award-winning TV series is based on.
“I wait until I get each script to seehow my character gets on — well, to see if my character even lives or dies.” Diehard fans’ frustration that Martin hasn’t even written an ending to the epic series yet is understandable but still a source of amusement to Cunningham: “I think he’s off having fun himself too.” For many the appeal of Game of Thrones lies in watching the characters desperate to rule the kingdom of Westeros annihilate each other in often gruesome ways, while the solid, dependable and brave characters, such as Cunningham’s Seaworth, who might make great rulers, just struggle to survive. Cunningham has recently finished work on Let Us Prey, which should be in cinemas in the new year. In this horror film Cunningham plays the key role of a mysterious stranger who turns up at a rural police station.
Cunningham has also been on cinema screens recently in Noble, though he again plays a fairly ignoble character, that of Christina Noble’s mean, drunken father. He gives that distinctive throaty chuckle when asked if he goes out of his way to find dark characters to play: “There isn’t a particular genre that I pursue. It’s script-driven really.”
People struggling against injustice or oppression are a key feature of his Twitter account (@liamcunningham1). It can include anything from Maya Angelou quotations to comments on the Irish bank bailout to the plight of Palestinians.
€150 million annual take from water charges. €100 million given annually to private schools your children will never be allowed into!— liam cunningham (@liamcunningham1) October 17, 2014
Sprinkled in between are funny pictures of tattoos gone wrong. So, does this mean he has a tattoo disaster or two lurking on his body? No way, he says “but you gotta love those bad tattoos”. Though getting a tattoo is something he hasn’t yet ruled out.
From the sound of it, even if his future tattoo is a misspelled disaster, he’ll be sure to see the humorous side of it.
Make your dream job come true
The €50,000 Budweiser Dream Job project competition offers an opportunity to make that career change you might dream about but don’t have the resources to pursue. Liam Cunningham along with singer and TV presenter, Leanne Moore; and Irish DJ/producer, Gavin Lynch, aka Matador are judges.
“I’d have loved a leg-up like this along the way,” muses Cunningham about the competition.
Entrants have until February 4, 2015 to apply on the Budweiser Ireland Facebook page. Then the judges pick five finalists. These finalists are helped to make a short film about their dream careers and the public can vote for the overall winner.
The winner gets €40,000 cash as well as a €5,000 equipment bursary, an internship placement and expert support and each of the four runners-up get €2,000.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved