Irish actor Moe Dunford is making waves on both sides of the pond.
A perfect example of an Irish screen talent on the rise, the Waterford-born Dunford graduated from Dublin's Gaiety School of Acting, a clearing house for Hollywood-bound talent, ten years ago.
Since then, the 31-year-old has amassed an enviable career appearing in hit shows like "Game of Thrones," "Vikings," and "The Tudors," as well as starring in acclaimed films like "Handsome Devil," Roddy Doyle's austerity drama "Rosie," and next week, in the Irish premiere of writer Kevin Barry's acclaimed new film "Dark Lies The Island."
Added to that, Dunford will appear on our TV screens shortly in the STARZ network's remarkably accomplished new detective series "Dublin Murders," which plays out like a series of feature films back to back.
These are interesting times for the Irish screen actor. For a start there's an unprecedented number of Irish film stars currently working, but it's not just the numbers it's the plum roles they're being offered, the international awards they're winning, and the growing clout they are gaining in Hollywood.
But let's start with the show I predict will become a monster hit for the STARZ network, "Dublin Murders" (coming on November 10).
Based on the bestselling books by Irish author Tana French, the new TV show is haunted around the edges by an unseen and possibly supernatural menace, just as it's filled with compelling characters that you will want to root for.
“It was great that we had seven months to work on that project, especially because 'Dublin Murders' is so character-focused,” Dunford tells IrishCentral.
“Our focus was purely on making a really solid show. Each episode was almost treated as if it were a different film and the moments between characters, the dark humor, which is what the books are so known for, are in this show too.”
If he sounds proud, he has good reason to. "Dublin Murders" is groundbreaking. An Irish answer to "Broadchurch," it explores topics that go much deeper than a basic police procedural, becoming something stranger and completely absorbing in the process.
Dark humor in the face of unimaginable crime is something that cops and detectives do to take the edge off a nightmare, Dunford says. That rings true in the new show.
“My best friend is a police officer and he says what gets him through the day, he and his squad is dark humor. And it certainly shows in the 'Dublin Murders' scripts. Sarah Phelps (the show's writer) is an amazing woman. I kind of fell a little bit for her because she has a filthy mouth, she really knows how to curse. And I just found that very attractive. And it's in the show too.”
Before you decide that "Dublin Murders" might be too dark for you, consider this, Dunford and his co-stars had the time of their lives making it. “Spending seven months working with Sarah Green again (his co-star in 'Rosie') I just felt so lucky. And Killian Scott (Green's co-star), they were the leaders on this show and I think the audience is going to be really surprised by what they see. They bring so much to their roles. The audience will go on journeys with them.”
Another journey you will want to take soon is Dunford's new film "Dark Lies The Island."
“Kevin Barry wrote it and I'm a big fan of his books. I grew up watching 'Paths To Freedom,' one of my favorite shows of all time, which was co-written by our director on this film, Ian Fitzgibbon."
It's a major change of pace from "Dublin Murders."
“So often we (the Irish) are kind of drawn with a broad brush, we're seen great craic and easy-going where in actual fact there's often a really big darkness there,” says Dunford about the new film.
"Dark Lies The Island" concerns itself with what's really lurking under the surface of an Irish town, just who for example is the guy who runs the few pubs in town or the auctioneer's shop?
“It's also about the greed of pre- and post-Celtic tiger. In these unequal days, you don't always wish your neighbors well, there's a darkness there that's not spoken about that really it attracts me you know?”
Sounds fascinating. “My character tries to run a chicken farm and a toy shop and he can't get a handle of either,” laughs Dunford.
Add to that he's playing one of many brothers who are all pursuing the same woman. Comedian Tommy Tiernan co-stars and he's quite electrifying, Dunford says.
“He brought such focus to the role, there's a lot of mystique about the character when he enters the town. I suppose he's sort of like the audience's perspective if you were looking around this small town in Roscommon and trying to figure out what the hell is going on, who are these lunatics?”
Issues of mental health, how ideas about masculinity can create barriers to seeking health, have been themes in Dunford's work. In his new film "Topping Out," opening later this year he plays one of the last bastions of untrammeled masculinity, an Irish construction worker.
“Basically it's about two Irish scaffolders (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo co-stars) on a London building site, 13 stories up. There's an older one and a younger lovable bloke, they're great mates, until the older one gets it into his head the younger one has been having an affair with his partner. It escalates from there.
“Of all the things I've done lately I have to say I'm really proud of this film. We use these two characters to explore what we all carry around in us. And so often the insecurity and vulnerability inevitably will come out as a form of anger or a ferocity."
"Director Kerry Fox found such interesting ways to show male vulnerability. It's her first directing project. And all of her choices were just so surprising.”
And what's next on his slate? “I'm moving over to London now to shoot an action movie,” he says. I play an ex-Marine who goes into take out the bad guys and save some of the innocent. So it's something completely different for me. The fight choreography is being done by the choreographer from the Jason Bourne movies."
That's a big step away from atmospheric Irish dramas. Are you hitting the gym, doing the whole Tom cruise thing, I ask?
“It's part of the training, but I'm definitely getting a lot out of the training itself. I mean, the job I look at in the same way I look at any job. When I get the role it's a collaboration, we jump in together. But all this physical training has given me a lot of clarity and I just keep asking myself, how come I haven't been doing it sooner?”
At 31, Dunford still has all the time in the world to explore characters that range from a troubled Irish farmer to an action movie star. This year has been a breakout one for the gifted Irish actor, and his star is firmly on the rise.