This much I know: Aisling O’Sullivan

Picture: Matthew Thompson

Actors are not fearless. We are brave.

We face our fears in the art. We are used to going out there and not being able to run away.

My earliest memory of performing was when I was a child and my father was the principal of my primary school, a small place outside Castlemaine, Co Kerry. On a Friday he’d gather students from all the classes in together to demonstrate what we had learnt that week.

I grew up in rural Kerry with two brothers and a sister. We spent a lot of time in each other’s pockets.

After school, I went to Dublin to study at the College of Marketing and Design. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and was a bit terrified actually. However, I knew I did not have a strong compass pointing me towards a nine to five job.

What I did have was a real love of acting. It was the one thing that made me feel alive. It was always in the background, but I thought it was a career for aristocrats.

I didn’t finish college. Instead I went to London and started selling insurance. Eventually I applied for The Gaiety School of Acting. I didn’t get in. But I bombarded them, asking if there was any chance they’d give me a go. Eventually they agreed to get back to me if someone dropped out.

Acting is like a life force for me. It makes me feel like I am in the right place. Although I have done a lot of work on stage and screen, I am continually learning more about the craft of acting. I’m getting slightly better but it can still be an overwhelming experience.

I have been thinking about it a lot recently. Why does a dancer have to dance? Why does an actor have to act? All I know is that for me it was a little like falling in love. There is a connection and a sense of flow.

Nerves can be good. I have suffered a couple of times. It is the debilitating ones you need to watch out for as they stop you from doing anything,

The trait I most admire in others is kindness. Kindness is the greatest wisdom. I like the Dalai Lama quote ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’

I have many faults but the worst is my self doubt. It gets easier to work with as I get older. I used to think it was me but now I know that it is just a part of me.

I’m in awe of the mystery of life, and the possibility of there being an afterlife.

I have found that my better performances happen when I have had a period of quiet beforehand.

I firmly believe that if you do your little bit life will meet you half way. If you are in any kind of trouble you must try first to help yourself, to do things that are good for you.

I’m married to a solicitor and we live in Dublin but I try to go home to Kerry as often as possible.

I think acting for stage is difficult to teach, it is so dependent on the talent and impulses of the individual. But acting for camera can be different, a complete beginner can be mesmerising. The bottom line is you really have to want to be an actor. If that desire is not there, don’t do it.

When I’m not working, I swim and go to the gym. I have a secret fantasy of becoming a top seamstress, I have my mother’s old sewing machine and I can sew. I just haven’t got around to it yet.

I love technology, especially group chats on Viber and Whatsapp.

I do believe in a type of fate, there is a kind of path for each of us and it is always to do with your character. I know things have happened to me on account of how I have responded to certain situations, because of who I was being.

So far life has taught me that the times when I’m most frequently wrong are those times when I thought I was certain of something.

* Aisling O’Sullivan stars in Big Maggie by John B Keane. The Druid production, directed by Garry Hynes, opens in the The Gaiety Theatre on January 29 for a limited engagement.


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