This much I know: Paul Reid

Growing up, my dream job was to be an illustrator for Marvel comics.

Painting and drawing was my thing. I was weirdly fascinated by Renaissance art and by history in general. And then, as I grew older, I thought I would study fine art at NCAD.

I felt as though I was in prison during a lot of my time in school. I just wanted to be free. I could be the class clown but could also be very shy as well. I didn’t enjoy too much attention, just enough to know that people knew I was there.

I grew up in Portmarnock in Dublin, the youngest of three, and got away with murder. We are a fairly artistic family, my father worked in the rag trade, but only one of my cousins had ever been an actor.

When I got the acting bug and I was accepted into the Gaiety School, my parents were still keen on my doing fine art instead. I told them that I’d have more chance of making money during my lifetime from working as an actor than as a painter.

Everyone in the cast of Rebellion was extremely proud to be part of something so important. It tells a side of the 1916 Rising which maybe some people don’t want to see — the side of the normal, everyday people on the street, but of course it’s a drama not a documentary so we had to give it a dramatic arc.

I have learnt so much about what really happened, particularly about the Irish in the British army, who like the character I play [Stephen] came back traumatised after Gallipoli in World War One and then had the horror of having to shoot at their own countrymen and women.

My idea of misery is being tied down to one particular job for a long length of time. Not for me.

My biggest fault is my pride, in terms of taking things too much to heart. Another fault is being unable to make decisions. And I don’t like being told what to do too much or rather I don’t like people saying ‘don’t do that’. I’m on the side of ‘try it’.

One of my biggest challenges is finding time to stay connected to the people I love, to friends and family, and to keep the ball rolling in this career thing.

I’d like to say I follow a great fitness regime but I don’t. I used to do a lot of yoga and I ran every day but an injury a year ago put me off my stride. However, I do my own form of meditation every day, by simply having 10 minutes of peace to focus, even if it’s just when I am lying in bed.

I’m generally based in London, but right now home is Dublin as I’m in You Never Can Tell at The Abbey Theatre.

If I could be someone else for a day I’d like to be a woman, to see the world from a female perspective.

A couple of years ago, I wasn’t getting that much work as an actor so I started working in a hotel, as a doorman. It was very refreshing to realise that nobody really cared what I did, it was no big deal to them whether I acted or not.

Sitting on a curb in London one night, I began to question what I was doing. Why was I acting? Had I just I become conditioned into thinking that it was what I had to do because it was what I had been doing? Did I even like it? And if so, why not go for it full whack? I needed the time off to press reset and to be able to start again. Not to chase it — but to enjoy it.

Our attitude towards the environment freaks me out, about how we don’t really give a damn about it. But if I could change one thing in our society, it would be our attitude towards equality in all respects — race, religion, sex — it blows my mind that people can still be homophobic for example.

I was brought up Catholic but now I only go to mass at Christmas. I just can’t agree with the church’s point of view on too many things. I do believe there is something after we die, that it is not just the end of us.

So far, life has taught me not to live in the past but to try and enjoy the moment you are in and, I guess, to look up. I don’t do that often enough. Whatever mess you have to wade through, it always helps if you remember to look up.

* Paul Reid plays Stephen Duffy Lyons in Rebellion, RTE 1, 9.30pm


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