Denise Gough is one of the most sought after Irish screen actresses in the world, appearing in "The Kid Who Would Be King" and soon in the life-changing casting in the forthcoming HBO "Game Of Thrones" prequel.
Gough first became a star just as she was considering taking her career in another direction from acting entirely. In 2017 she came to New York for the first time in an award-winning play that then led on to a starring role in "Angels in America" on Broadway.
Since then she's become one of the most sought after Irish screen actresses in the world, appearing in "The Kid Who Would Be King" and life-changing casting in the forthcoming HBO "Game Of Thrones" prequel.
If ever there was a time for some good stories to make some sense of what's happening to the world and to salvage a little bit of hope for the future it would be now. That's why Denise Gough's new film "The Kid Who Would Be King" is such a sparkling tale for our gloomy times.
“Good I'm glad you feel that way,” Gough (rhymes with cough) tells IrishCentral. “I felt that way when I saw it. I wanted to do a film that my nephews could watch. I knew the director Joe Cornish would make something really lovely, but I had no idea how just how lovely it would be.”
A spirited retelling of the "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" myth, the twist is that this time the young heir to the throne is only twelve years old and the son of a hard-working single parent (played by Gough, 38).
The big themes of "The Kid Who Would Be King" announce themselves right away, including team work, standing up to people who want to divide you, the great contribution that immigrants make to British life, the fact that freindship and cooperation ultimately lift up everyone, and those inspiring themes couldn't be more timely or more welcome now. "So The Kid Who Would Be King" seems to arrive like a cure for the excesses of Brexit.
Read more: The Irish actors on Game of Thrones
“I didn't pick it because of the Brexit thing, I chose it because Joe asked me to play the mom of a boy in it in an updated version of The Sword in the Stone and I just thought what a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
Although what happens to young Alex in the film is on its face a fairy tale situation, the truth is that he has been abandoned by his real life father and that's an experience that is real and raw. Gough says she was not expecting to be so moved by it.
“Yeah, when I read the script I thought, Oh please don't make it a misunderstanding or some kind of cheat like that. Like, don't do that. Instead, it's just something more truthful and it shows the lengths this mom went to to protect her boy from the truth about what so many kids go through. In films, the dads come back and the parents fall in love again and all they have a nuclear family. But actually, that's not real life. I just think Joe handled that really well. And it couldn't be a more timely message.”
You're an Irish woman living in London so you must see all the changes afoot in the larger society there now. What does it mean to you like just as an Irish person living in the city?
“Well, it's interesting because you know I'm a successful white English speaking immigrant so I don't feel under threat at all of deportation. I watched this documentary the other day about this fancy hotel in London and they were interviewing this woman from Bulgaria who is down under the ground working in the laundry. How do you feel about Brexit and about your position here they asked her? She laughed and said do you think an English person is going to do this job? They're all propped up by immigration. The whole world is propped up by immigration. I live in Hackney and every single culture that exists is here and that's why I love it. But now all of that is under threat.”
Meanwhile, Gough has just been cast in the Game of Thrones prequel. Is she prepared for the life change? Will it mean she'll be working in Ireland for a bit?
“I have no idea where it's going to be! I really I know nothing except that I made it. And that's the truth. But I think the last Game of Thrones was filmed in Belfast wasn't it? So yeah maybe it's gonna be there. I don't know. I wait to be told. We're like toddlers. Tell us where we are going next.”
And the change? The whole new level of fame? “Well now that I'm about to be in what may become the biggest show on earth, I want to be able to run away from what that will bring with it. You know I don't want to be on show all the time. I want to be, I don't know, refilling the well somewhat you know?”
Gough admits she's starting to think about living in Ireland more because her life is starting to become a bit more visible due to her film work and she's not sure how she feels about it.
“I'm thinking of Ireland as a base, I just feel like as I get older I want to be by the sea and stuff like that. What's brilliant about my job is that I work all over now.”
Gough is in Dublin this week to part of a panel of speakers on how Ireland is viewed by artists around the world. And if I'm honest I'd expect the Irish theatre to be much more holding the mirror up to what has happened there in the last ten years. The gay marriage vote and the abortion referendum. And yet I see in our national theatre is not really holding that mirror up yet.”
She's a fan of new Irish fiction writer Sally Rooney. “I mean f--king hell. That's not the island I grew up in. Her books are so exciting. There's something really bubbling in the literature over there right now.”
Meanwhile, Gough's closest friends in London have already started telling her to make the move back home for her head and her heart. Brexit Britain is broken, time to decamp for greener pastures until it blows over or blows up, they say.
“I've lived for 25 years in London. I'm used to walking out my door and finding whatever I needed and so it would be a big change to move now. Maybe it'll be time soon but who knows? I just know I'm here for the moment. But certainly a lot of my English friends are saying get out, please leave.”
They may be taking the longer view. Whatever she decides between her high profile career and star casting, big changes are coming soon.