This much I know: Clare Monnelly, actor

I was waitressing when I got the call to say I’d landed the part of Fidelma in Moone Boy.

I had to run outside and scream and phone everyone I knew to tell them the news. Then I went right back out onto the restaurant floor and continued to serve noodles all night.

I love acting because it allows me to get outside of my own head and to be somebody else for a while. I can’t get rid of that desire. When some people hear you’re an actor they presume you want to be famous, but that was never remotely what attracted me to it.

Since we wrapped on series two, I’ve been really busy. I’ve been very lucky as Ride On!, the Nomad play we’re touring around the country, is getting sell-out shows as Irish people just seem to connect with the piece.

I loved Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids and the IT Crowd. He’s just as nice in person as I hoped he’d be. I think women love him because, in real life, he is every bit as charming as he seems on screen. What you see is what you get. No matter how much pressure he is under — which is a lot as he writes and stars — he never loses his cool.

I was brand new to the industry when I got the part so I’m really honoured as he put a lot of faith in me.

The trait I most admire in other people is tenacity, especially in this business.

I started drama when I was seven years old. I loved being on stage and decided that I’d be an actor when I grew up. But when I left school I went to Trinity to do arts, sociology and modern Irish, not the most useful of degrees! I did a bit of acting in the drama society, but then I got a ‘real job’ in the bank for three years.

I took some time off to go travelling around the world and realised I had to give acting a proper go. The steady wage was not enough to keep me in a job I didn’t love. There wasn’t any history of acting in my family — my mum has worked in the bank and my dad is a taxi man — so they’d have loved me to have a permanent, pensionable job. But I didn’t want to have any regrets when I looked back on my life. So I applied for the full-time course at Gaiety School of Acting.

The best advice I ever got was from a fellow actor who told me that work breeds work. You can’t sit back and wait for things to happen in this game.

The biggest challenge for me is the unpredictability of the work. I like to be busy and find it hard to adjust my behaviour and wind down when a production ends. It’s hard to relax when you’re not sure when you will work again. I have to figure out how to deal with that as it’s the nature of the industry. In acting school they did impress upon us how important it is not to get all your happiness from work — we need other things in our lives — family, friends and other interests.

When I’m not working, you’ll find me at the movies. I have a Cineworld card, so I often go to see two to three films a day. A lot of my friends are unemployed, so I have plenty of company. I live close to the Phoenix Park, so that’s another one of my haunts — it’s so beautiful.

Clare Monnelly is currently in Nomad Theatre Network and Livin’ Dred’s production of Ride On! by Seamus O’Rourke. Friday, Nov 30 — Saturday, Dec 1, Backstage Theatre, Longford; Tuesday, Dec 4 — Wednesday, Dec 5, Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise; Thursday, Dec 6 — Saturday, Dec 8, Ramor Theatre, Virginia; Tuesday, Dec 11— Wednesday, Dec 12, Cornmill Theatre, Carrigallen; Friday, Dec 14 — Saturday, Dec 15, Roscommon Arts Centre, Roscommon. She plays Fidelma in Sky One’s Moone Boy.


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