Glee and Celtic Thunder star Damian McGinty (27) is back with his new classic Christmas caper playing an undocumented Irish immigrant in "Santa Fake."
In "Santa Fake" Damian McGinty plays Pat Keeley, an undocumented Irish immigrant who gets on the wrong side of a big crime boss.
The story is a classic Christmas caper. After an assignment goes wrong, Pat is chased by some hoods to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lands a job as the shopping mall Santa Claus, allowing him to hide in plain sight from both the cops and the gangsters he is trying to evade.
But as Pat gets wrapped up deeper into his role as Santa Claus he finds the fake white beard and the big red suit are more than just a handy disguise, they're his real destiny.
“It's a very lovely, heartwarming family-friendly Christmas film,” McGinty tells IrishCentral.
“I think people will really enjoy it around the holidays and leading up to Christmas. I just think it's a really nice storyline. It's got a really nice message and there's a little bit of religion running through it as well, which really ties in with the spirit of Christmas.”
The young Derry-born star first made his name as the youngest member of Irish singing group Celtic Thunder, but then his star really took off when he participated in and eventually won the "Glee Project," an international show where the star prize was a role on the hit show "Glee" in Hollywood.
McGinty nailed his audition and was soon playing Irish newcomer Rory Flanagan. That meant he was also living in Tinsel Town at the tender age of 18.
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"Glee" wrapped in 2015 though, so it's good to see McGinty back on the big screen (he still tours as a singing star of course, with new U.S. dates planned in December) in "Santa Fake," where he has the starring role.
“'The Glee Project' was in 2011 or 2012 and it was obviously an incredible experience, I've never really had an experience quite like that in show business. That got me onto a show cycle that lasted a good two years, I would say. And though it was not always a great time, it was a great experience.”
Being 18 and coming from as far from the bright lights as it is possible to be, finding your life and career and living in Hollywood was no walk in the park for him.
“I learned a lot on the job," he says. "Both as a performer and as a person the experience and the knowledge it gave me got me started in Hollywood. But it was a bit bizarre to be starting in front of millions on one of the biggest TV shows of all time. So I mean, if you're going to do it, if you're going to make the move to L.A. that's the right way to do it!”
People may be surprised to hear you can be a star on a show as huge as "Glee" and yet still struggling to secure your immigration status here to pursue other opportunities.
“I was really caught in this cog in the machine. I mean you know yourself being from Ireland it's hard to work in the States in the first place. It's not an easy thing to do in a legal sense. A lot of things have to happen first before you even are in a position to get opportunities here.
"People think you just come here and by magic you suddenly you can do what you like. But there's a million moving pieces before you even get to a place where you're able to sort of potentially thrive off of opportunities.”
L.A. was difficult for him at the start, he admits, because number one, he didn't know the place. Number two, he was just learning to drive, a crucial skill in L.A.
“I learned to drive when I was 18, which was quite late because I was always working and traveling and touring with Celtic Thunder. I just never really had the chance to do that sort of stuff at an early age or I couldn't fit it in.”
So when he first got to L.A. it was a bit hectic he says because he was caught in this TV machine and it was so fast-paced, he didn't really have a second to like sit still recognize he was doing all right. He didn't know his way around the city. He couldn't drive. He didn't know anyone there.
“So I was trying to thrive in the biggest job I've ever had whilst also trying to settle into a completely new environment, a new country, a new time. And it was just very difficult. I was very young to go through all of that. But I was also very fortunate I know.”
His parents were his lifesavers he says. “I can't take credit for it all. I have really good parents and really good role models. They were a huge part of how I kind of got through it and stuck to my guns.”
As for his role in "Santa Fake," he jumped at it he says. “I always feel like when a role has singing it plays to my strengths a lot more. I always feel like I have a better shot at getting the role because in an absolutely non-egotistical way I would pick myself over anyone in musical performing type of sense.
"When singing is involved I immediately feel more attracted to the role and I feel more confident about the role. But I've also been working really hard on my acting, trying to get better and evolve and grow.
"So this just really came around at the right time and I was cast into and then Heather Morris was (his old 'Glee' scene partner). It was great to be back with her, she's fantastic.”
His friend and fellow Derry native Nadine Coyle have been close for years, with both knowing what it's like to be involved with hit projects.
But recently Nadine's Derry accent has been getting grief on Twitter recently from fans who made fun of her when she talks on "I'm A Celebrity" alongside Caitlyn Jenner.
“I do have something to say about that because I kind of go through this myself. I wouldn't have as strong an accent as Nadine. I've been taking like elocution classes because I've been trying to go up for different English and American roles, you name it."
"I think Nadine has made an incredible success of her life and I think she's always been very humble. I think she's always worked hard too and I think for people to go on television and to be made a mockery of maybe it's the world we currently live in but it's completely out of order.
"All of Derry is very proud of her and we all quite offended by it. Irish people have been making films everywhere for years now. They've been in some of the biggest bands in the world. Why is this news guys? It's incredible.”
"Santa Fake" is now available on iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere. To book tickets to Damien's December shows visit here.