Bridesmaids is the surprise early hit of the summer. Co-starring Chris O’Dowd as an Irish cop, the Irish actor steals the show. He talks to CAHIR O’DOHERTY about the huge surprise of finding himself front and center of this new comedy blockbuster.
CHRIS O’Dowd, 31, is already known to millions as Roy, the hapless tech support guy in the hit comedy series The IT Crowd (written by Father Ted genius comedy writer Graham Linehan).
To O’Dowd’s fans in Ireland and the U.K. he’s already a household name, but when he stepped into the rehearsal room in Los Angeles to read for his role as Officer Rhodes, an Irish-born traffic cop working in the U.S. in the new hit comedy Bridesmaids, almost no one else at the table knew who he was.
“They didn’t have a clue who I was, just like most of the audience still don’t, you know?” O’Dowd tells the Irish Voice. “And do you know what? I hope it doesn’t change too much because there’s a huge freedom in no one having a clue who you are.”
The Boyle, Co. Roscommon native adds he’s only being slightly flippant.
“Creatively, when nobody knows you, there’s no expectation. Nobody is waiting for you to deliver a punch line or to be funny or serious,” O’Dowd feels.
“Nobody knows what to expect from you so you can do anything and people will be surprised. It’s really refreshing working here in the U.S. for that reason.”
O’Dowd was in Hollywood speaking to the Irish Voice by telephone, and like most Irishmen abroad the weather is the first thing he’s noticed. “Today it’s lovely and sunny. I like that part about being in LA.”
But what about the fact that critics have been feting him all week for his breakout turn as Officer Rhodes in Bridesmaids?
“It’s been very exciting hasn’t it?” he laughs, but you hear the self-deprecation in his voice. He sounds like someone who can’t quite believe his luck and has no intention of letting it go to his head.
In person and onscreen O’Dowd is slightly nerdy, but that’s part of his particular appeal, and he’s undeniably handsome too in a roguish way that’s irresistible to many. There’s that obvious Irish accent and then there’s the charm and smarts that go with it.
The big surprise of Bridesmaids, which earned excellent critical reviews and made more than $26 million at the U.S. box office last weekend, is that they let an Irish actor play a U.S. cop with O’Dowd’s accent. How did it come about?
“I went in to the audition like everyone else did with an American accent, but the director Paul Feig had seen The IT Crowd and so he wanted to see what it would be like in my own accent,” he says.
“They just liked it. They didn’t want to make it a formulaic story. So my accent was part of the whole thing in the movie where everything is a bit askew.”
By the end of Bridesmaids O’Dowd has quietly but completely eclipsed the lantern jawed Jon Hamm in the hunk stakes. That takes some doing. Hamm is certainly gorgeous, but frankly O’Dowd looks good too and is way more fun on top of it -- and for any smart girl, including the film’s star and co-writer, Kristen Wiig, who plays the lovelorn Annie, that’s ultimately the clincher.
In fact O’Dowd and Wiig generate so much chemistry you’ll start casting them together in edgy independent romantic comedies before the credits roll. Her nerviness and sarcasm find their match in his charm and smarts. It’s a classic Hollywood pairing if the studios have the wit to see it.
O’Dowd plays the guy that you fall for when you finally work out he was perfect for you all along. But was he inspired by relationships from his own life?
“I’ve often been the a**hole in relationships, as I’m sure most of us have,” O’Dowd confesses. “But I’ve often been the other guy too, the one who’s a little bit too keen and the other one isn’t into you.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but like that there’s no telling in love, you don’t listen to anyone when you feel like you’ve found someone that works. Bridesmaids is nice in that respect. In Rhodes’s relationship you can see his side of it.”
O’Dowd says he was attracted to the role because he liked the idea of playing a romantic interest who watches and waits on the sidelines for the heroine to come to her senses. It’s the kind of role, he freely admits, that is usually played by a woman.
“I liked the idea because you don’t see it often. It’s such a male orientated industry and male characters are generally written as dynamic incredible men, with these silly women running after them,” says O’Dowd.
“That’s not what happens in real life, so it was really nice to play that to level things out. To show male characters who can be weak or overly sweet or clueless as anyone is great.”
Is comedy more of a challenge than straight up drama, though?