Irish Film is arguably at the strongest point it has ever been. With Room (directed by Lenny Abrahamson) taking Oscars and Golden Globes, and Sing Street receiving very high universal acclaim, Irish film comes at a high standard nowadays, and Conor MacNeill doesn’t stray from this standard. MacNeill is a 28 year old actor from Antrim, and I sat down with him recently to talk about his busy year, which has seen him land roles in the Netflix original “Siege of Jadotville”; BBC’s third season of “The Fall”; and Channel Four’s “No Offence”, which were all filmed this year.
“The Siege of Jadotville” follows the story of Irish UN peacekeepers in the Congo in 1961 and the efforts of the UN to help get the soldiers out of there. Conor plays a character who was the main source of contact between the peacekeepers and the UN. While Conor didn’t get to work with Mark Strong, as they didn’t have any scenes together, MacNeill spent nearly all his scenes with Jamie Dornan, who he described as having “such an incredible approach to work. He’s really diligent, and hardworking”. Conor added that Dornan was great fun on set, which was really important due to the intensity of the film.
Jadotville is a lesser known Irish event: even Conor didn’t know about it until he read the script, and he felt that it was such a “huge” event in our military history and the lives of the soldiers, describing how amazing it was that they held out for so long with no lives being lost. The release of the “Siege of Jadotville” later this year on Netflix will hopefully shine a light on this lesser known piece of Irish history. On the note of history, Conor mentioned a film he had written as part of the Irish Film Board’s project “After 16”. He described his take on history by saying “we have to look back before we can move forward”.
Another thing Conor has been working on has been the third season of “The Fall”, and while he was fairly tight-lipped on the show, he said that “all I can tell you is that it is class”. MacNeill said that, as a fan of the show, it was exciting to get to read the script to see the role he would have and how the plot is going to unfold. Conor also joked about starring alongside Jamie Dornan again, saying “we can’t leave each other alone”. The first teaser trailer for “The Fall” just happened to drop after my interview with Conor, and can be found online now!
The final show that Conor has in the pipeline is Channel Four’s “No Offence” which will air its second season sometime in 2017. Conor commented that while the show is penned as a comedy, Paul Abbott (the creator of the show) can use very dark themes in writing, and that is certainly the case in the newest season of the show – but Conor said that it was great fun having a bit of lighter tone and a fast pace to switch it up from his other work during the year.
Looking at how busy his year has been, I had to ask how he has coped? For Conor, the whole experience is exciting as he gets to work on three great shows at the same time – but he’s looking forward to time off for a week or two!
As a 28 year old actor MacNeill is still young, and offered the following advice to students who might want to follow a similar path to him. “You’re always learning, y’know,” he said, “but make sure you’re 150% sure that you want to do it.” Conor said that acting itself is a dream, but the in-between period of working on shows and films can be difficult as the competition is so intense. Work can be stressful and difficult to find – but the end goal is key!
MacNeill considered it a privilege to unexpectedly end up acting for the summer on Broadway, where he featured in Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan”. The show received six Tony award nominations, so experiencing this whole other type of life in New York was “incredible”. When looking at his inspirations growing up, Cork’s own Cillian Murphy was an actor that MacNeill was always very impressed by – “the reason I’ve actively wanted to pursue acting when leaving school was Cillian Murphy”, he commented, saying that seeing Murphy in “Disco Pigs” was amazing and that he is constantly brilliant. He also said that his friends inspire him massively, alongside people like Jamie Dornan, Charlie Murphy, Shannon Keeley, David Wilmot, and Sarah Green.
You’ll be able to find Conor MacNeill on your screens on Netflix’s “Siege of Jadotville” and BBC’s third season of “The Fall” later this year. Channel four’s “No Offence” will be released in 2017.