From Boyle to Broadway: Chris O'Dowd on his career and "Of Mice and Men"


[Laughs] I was an altar boy. And it did have kind of a cult-like quality to it. Because I think at that age it’s almost like your own language that you develop amongst your friends as a way to disassociate with the rest of the world. So I’m sure there was a lot of that and I’m sure that’s probably where that idea came from.

Is this the story you’d be telling if you had unlimited resources?

That’s a good question. I mean, I think we’re lucky in that we’re fairly well supported. TV’s tough to make at any stage, particularly back in Ireland because it’s expensive. But it’s the show I like doing above all else. It’s my favorite job, writing and directing the show.

I saw in an interview you gave elsewhere you said you turned down a few projects to work on this show. Is this something you think you’re going to transition into more, the writing, producing, and directing side of entertainment?

I’d definitely like to get behind the camera more as time goes on. I love acting, but I’m not particularly a fan of being famous. So I love the idea of being able to do acting in theater, and then maybe write and direct TV and movies. That would be a perfect world for me if I have the opportunity.

Speaking of theater, you’re coming up in Of Mice and Men. Which is a pretty big departure from your previous work. First, it’s on stage. And it’s a dramatic role; you’re Lennie. How did that come about?

Honestly, I just got the call asking if I’d be interested. And I said I very much would. And I got really excited about it and then it just went away. And then like three months later they said, “It’s happening. Like, soon.” So I jumped on board. There was no thinking time needed by me, I just love the play, and the opportunity to do something on Broadway was just something I’d been looking for anyway.

You’ve got kind of big shoes to fill. James Earl Jones was the last one to play Lennie on Broadway. Are you nervous?

I know! I am absolutely shitting it, yea. But I’m trying to keep it together. We’re just in Chicago at the moment. We’ve just done our first week of rehearsals. We come to New York next week, and it’s going to be terrifying. But yea, I’m really enjoying it. And it’s an equal measure excitement and hand-wetting right now, and I’m interested to see how that equilibrium balances out or takes over in the coming weeks.

Can you tell us a little bit about your preparation for the role?

You know, I don’t really know. I tried to find out exactly what to learn. And in many ways it’s kind of hard. There’s a lot of different thinking, a lot of people have different thoughts on it. But he is essentially a guy who is cognitively disabled so I’ve been watching all sorts of stuff and trying to nail down the physicality of it and the vocals. And also he is essentially kind of like a big baby; he’s constantly referred to as a bear and a baby, and I guess I’m just trying to measure all of that together and try not to over-think it.

It seems like there’s a lot of pressure for comedic actors to transition to more dramatic roles once they’ve established themselves in the public eye as comedians. Were you conscious of that when you chose to take on the role of Lennie?

You know not really. I do sometimes feel pressure to do dramas, but then I’ll read the drama in question and just have no interest in it. I think there’s such kind of mediocre dramas being bandied about, but I found it hard to get excited about it. But this piece of work is so beautiful that it was a no-brainer. But I do find it odd that in nearly every interview I would do I would get asked when am I going to do some dramatic acting. And I think comedic acting is very, very difficult, which is why so few people can do it well. And I doubt very much whether dramatic actors get asked when they are going to do comedic acting.

Why do you think that is?


That dramatic roles win the awards?

I guess so. I don’t even know what that’s about. You know, it’s like who can cry the best. I don’t know, like. Sometimes it’s great. And comedy in a lot of ways is a lot more difficult because in many ways it’s less open to interpretation. Something is either funny or it’s not; if people aren’t laughing, guess what, it wasn’t good. It’s as simple as that. Whereas I think dramas can get away with a lot because the shot looks nice.

Do you think in the films you’re doing you’re beginning to be perceived as being type cast? Or you’re being cast for a very specific supporting reason?

Not really, considering what I’m doing right now, no. Definitely people think of you in certain ways and that’s absolutely fine, but the roles I’ve got coming up they’re all very different, so it hasn’t really been my experience. I’m often drawn to similar things, but no, I feel like I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to do other stuff. You know you have to be careful not to do the same thing over and over again. Right after Bridesmaids and all that, I tried to avoid doing another romcom, and then tried to avoid another kind of sitcom like “The IT Crowd.” You know, try to get behind the camera and then go on stage. You have to actively diverge from what you’ve done before; it won’t just happen.