Holt McCallany has some fascinating Irish roots. His real name is Holt Quinn McAloney and he spent some of his time growing up living in Ireland.
With Mindhunter back for season two, it's also Holt McCallany appreciation season. Fans of his FBI agent Bill Tench may be wondering, is Holt McCallany Irish?
The answer is yes - McCallany has very strong roots in both Ireland and the world of acting and entertainment.
Who were his parents?
McCallany's parents were the famous American cabaret star Julie Wilson and the actor and producer Michael McAloney.
McAloney was born in Connecticut but raised in Ireland. His name at birth was Michael Noel Quinn, but he later took his step-father's last name. McAloney was best known for bringing the Abbey Theatre adaptation of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy to Broadway in 1970, but he also worked as a character actor and produced shows around the world. Borstal Boy was the first Irish show to win a Tony Award.
Came across an old photo of the folks from the 60's. pic.twitter.com/xIcj8Eg99Z— Holt McCallany (@HoltMcCallany) April 29, 2014
As McCallany shared on Twitter, his father's maternal line were Protestants while his paternal grandfather was Catholic.
They were Protestant on my grandmother's side and RC on my grandfather's. The schools I attended in Ireland including Newbridge College in Co. Kildare were all RC, but yes I became an agnostic.— Holt McCallany (@HoltMcCallany) January 9, 2018
Wilson, known as the "queen of cabaret," was originally from Omaha, Nebraska. She arrived in New York in the early 1940s as part of the chorus in a show called Earl Carroll's Vanities and stayed there, working at clubs like the Copacabana before making her Broadway debut and then singing in musicals and nightclubs in London and New York throughout the 1950s and 60s. She cemented her reputation as a cabaret legend in the 1980s.
Wilson and McAloney separated in the late 1960s. Speaking to Playbill after his father's death in 2000, McAllany said "My parents were so very different. . .My mother was a hardworking, disciplined performer who took care of herself and her work and was really dedicated. My father was one of those wild sort of fun loving Irishmen. He was a poet and a romantic, but I don't know that he had her discipline and her dedication."
In 2017, 17 years after his father's death, McCallany took his father's ashes home to Ireland, to be buried in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery.
His mother, Wilson, died in 2015 in New York. Though she was 90, in interviews McCallany has said the death - due to a stroke - was completely unexpected. She was lively up until the end and had embraced her role as the "godmother" of New York's cabaret scene.
So McCallany isn't his real name?
No, McCallany is a phonetic adaptation of his father's last name, McAloney. Holt McCallany was born Holt Quinn McAloney on September 3, 1963, in New York City. As noted above, Quinn was his father's original surname.
Where did he grow up?
As soon as they were old enough to attend school, McCallany and his younger brother, Michael McAloney, Jr., were sent to Ireland. They lived with an Irish family and went to elementary school in Howth, County Dublin, visiting their parents in New York during holidays.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to my Irish friends and family. pic.twitter.com/j1zR5uztCC— Holt McCallany (@HoltMcCallany) March 17, 2015
When their parents divorced, their mother brought them back to the United States and sent them to live with her parents in Omaha, Nebraska. As McCAllany explained in a 2011 interview with our sister publication the Irish Voice, he was not a fan of the quiet Nebraska lifestyle and knew he wanted to pursue acting, so at 14 he ran away to Los Angeles.
“At that time I already knew I wanted to be an actor, and Nebraska was not the place to pursue that sort of career, I knew where I had to be,” he said.
"I had a fake ID to say I was 18. I got a studio apartment in LA, and with the gift of the gab I got a job."
McCallany's father eventually tracked him down and decided that the best place for his son was the boarding school he himself had attended, Newbridge College in County Kildare.
“He was determined I was going to have an Irish education so he sent me to a boarding school in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, the same one he himself went to,” McCallany said.
It was a rough transition. “I went over with long hair. I was used to hanging out on the beach in LA smoking weed and having a great time, and now I’m in the middle of the Irish countryside with nothing around for miles,” he added.
His strict Irish schooling didn't dampen his love of Ireland, thankfully!
McCallany eventually returned to the school in Nebraska he had hated so much and graduated in 1981, after which he attended the Sorbonne in Paris.
Does being Irish inspire him as an actor?
In interviews, McCallany has talked about how his Irish roots come to play in his work as an actor. He perfected both a Cork accent and a more ambiguous Irish accent for his role as a gangster named Ricky in the 2006-2010 series Heroes, and he delved deep into his Irish American identity for his starring role as boxer Patrick Leary in the FX series Lights Out.
As for his current work as Agent Bill Tench, McCallany has said that he channeled his father in order to access the character's reality and mind-set. Speaking with the Irish Independent in 2017, when Mindhunter season one debuted, he said:
“Bill Tench would be very close to those kinds of guys,” he says referring to his father and his contemporaries. “He was born in 1934. My father was born in in 1928. It’s the same generation of guys. And they had a certain mentality and I know what that mentality is because I grew up with it.
“It’s very different than 2017 in a lot of very specific ways. That was one of the things I fought for, was let’s not make him a guy with a 2017 sensibility and transport him back to 1978 because that’s not how those guys think, especially a guy who fought in the Korean war, was in the military police, came out of the army and then went into the FBI. That’s a kind of a guy who’s going to have a certain way of seeing the world.
“There is a lot of my dad in Bill Tench. [My father] was a heavy smoker. And also the drinking. There was a very different dynamic in terms of male/female relationships. Men raised their sons differently. I worry occasionally… like I hope people remember it’s a period piece!”
He remains very connected to his Irish roots and supports Irish causes, such as the Ireland Funds.
Season 2 of Mindhunters is available on Netflix now.