To prepare for the role of Mary in Mary Queen of Scots, I really concentrated on my movement – to move like she would have. Wayne McGregor – who is an amazing choreographer from the United Kingdom and one of the best in the world – helped me when it came to starting from the outside in. The movie also has a great script from Beau Willimon, which always helps when preparing a character.
This is a real life story – it was a real life person, so you want to make sure you get the character as close to being Mary as possible. There was a lot of research, but I enjoyed it. Ultimately, real investment is needed. I was talking with Wayne on set, and it’s not about acting the part of Mary – it’s about believing that you are Mary.
Weirdly, I could identify with her. She had a public persona where she went around doing a lot of handshaking, and that’s so similar to actors. She had to have so much strength from a young age as she was thrown into that world, and as somebody who has been in the acting business [since childhood], I could totally identify with that.
My childhood was different – there is no getting away from that, but I am very fortunate to do what I do. I remember vividly what it was like to be a child on a film set, and that’s so important as you need to be childlike when in character and believe that everything is real.
My most rewarding role to date has probably been [Eilis Lacey in] Brooklyn – it was different to everything else. Making movies for me has always been a form of escapism, but this was shot just 20 minutes away from where I grew up. It was the toughest thing I had done, as it was all so very personal and close to home.
The first time I ever met Greta Gerwig [who directed me in Lady Bird] I was so excited, but also so nervous. Now, I absolutely love her. She has taught me so much and her passion levels are contagious. Seeing the passion that Greta has directed with has given me a belief that [directing or producing films] in the future is something I might do. In the way that Hillary Clinton ran for president in a male-dominated [field], Greta is doing the same.
I detach myself from fame [in order to stay grounded]. I don’t read articles on myself. I am perhaps recognised more, but don’t consider myself famous. I look at Justin Bieber, who has his every movement tracked, and don’t think that is a level of fame I could ever really handle.
It was a real privilege to play the role [of Abigail Williams in The Crucible on Broadway in 2016] but I am not going to lie to you – it was absolutely terrifying. I would like to do something next time in a smaller theatre. Make no mistake – it’s a totally different instrument. And before people move into theatre [from film], training is really helpful.
I’ve not really regretted either not accepting or accepting a role – I think I usually know [which is the right role for me] pretty quickly. You might have questions for the director, but in my experience it’s one of those things that when you know, then you know.
I always say I don’t know where I am from. I just know that I am Irish. Obviously, my family is a huge reason that keeps me feeling anchored.
Three places that I visit to get away from it all are Dublin, Derry [in Northern Ireland] and New York. They all mean so much to me for a variety of different reasons.
I think people’s travel tips can be a bit samey, so I am going to give you a really useful piece of travel advice. When you are shopping for luggage, buy the ugliest colour you can find. It’s what I have done, and while everybody else is wondering which of the great-looking black or grey cases are theirs, I am on my way out of the airport.
It’s when I have been working [a lot] that I really get the travel bug. I think it would be really cool to take a couple of months off and just explore Asia.
When I think of Singapore, I think of an extremely clean and modern city with incredible buildings. It is a place I would like to see more of for sure.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine