A family to be proud of - Dubliner Johnny O’Callaghan star of 'Who’s Your Daddy' at the Irish Rep
Cahir O'Doherty reviews the NYC production of 'Who's Your Daddy?'
In his haze of self-pity he randomly ran into a friend who told him she was going to Uganda in a few days to make a documentary film. It was during the time of national elections out there and the threat of a civil war was very real. People thought she was crazy for going.
Then out of the blue she asked O’Callaghan if he'd be interesting in coming as a cameraman. “Possible death, I told myself, what could be more exciting?”
Unable to face losing yet another TV show to a bigger celebrity, O'Callaghan packed up. Three days later he was in Africa. That’s where his new play begins.
If you’ve never been to a Third World country, you won’t understand how disorienting and emotionally draining it is to see human beings living in conditions so miserable they can haunt you for the rest of your life. In Uganda navel gazing went out the window in the first hour.
“We drove 10 hours into a deep, primitive part of the country where tourists never ventured. I was in shock at how people were living. They were lucky if they ate one meal each day,” O’Callaghan recalls.
“It was overwhelming. People were dying of AIDS. Coffins were lying closed on the side of the road. The story our guide told us freaked me out. I would recommend that anyone who’s feeling sorry for themselves or brokenhearted take a trip like it.”
Who's Your Daddy? explores what happens to O'Callaghan when he gets there.
“I ended up filming in this orphanage. It wasn’t an orphanage the way you might picture one in the west. It was a concrete block with no electricity or amenities,” he says.
“While I was there a toddler crawled toward me. I meditate a lot and I heard this voice -- he’s your son.”
At first O'Callaghan laughed at the idea. “I told myself he’s brown, he’s smelly, he’s sick. If I ever have a child I never imagined he would look like this,” he says.
“Then I noticed he had a little birthmark near his left eye that looked like Ireland. I had never seen one like that before. If you start to perceive the world as magical it starts to become magical. In reality I wasn’t ready to become a dad, but who is?”
O'Callaghan's epic struggle to adopt and nurse this Ugandan child back to health ranks among the most selfless and heroic tales you will ever hear. O'Callaghan decided to become the hero for this kid that he had always wanted to find for himself.
But when he told Irish people (and his own family) about his plans they were very comfortable telling him off.
“Who do you think you are? Angelina f***ing Jolie?; my mother asked me. They mentioned Madonna. None of them would take me seriously,” O’Callaghan says.
“When I told them I had met this little boy who I felt was my son they said crazy things, whatever came into their heads. I didn’t take it personally. I know what people say is generally a reflection of themselves.”
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