An Interview With – Martin McCann
Martin McCann is a film and television actor from Belfast. Since playing the main role in the award winning Filmbase funded short film, The Sound of People, he has gone on to star in feature films such as Clash of the Titans, Killing Bono, Shadow Dancer and Jump, as well as TV series such as Ripper Street, Titanic: Blood and Steel, and Tom Hanks’ The Pacific. He spoke to Film Ireland about what he has learnt about acting from his career so far.
What do you do to prepare yourself for a part?
You have to be in the right mind frame and you have to really believe in what you’re doing. Trust the director and enjoy the story. Sit down with the script and work out what you have to do at each point. It sounds simple, but it’s actually just doing your homework.
Which was your most challenging role to play?
I think The Pacific because I was playing a six-foot-three, stoic Texan, whereas I’m a five-foot-seven, energetic Irish lad. So that was a bit of stretch for me. I was quite young. I would have loved to have gotten that role a couple of years later – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
With your varying roles you’ve certainly not been typecast.
My wish is to become a really good character actor. I love changing my voice or my physicality a little bit. I find a lot a fun in that.
The subject matter of Shadow Dancer is quite close to home. What did you make of the film?
Usually you watch films about the Troubles and you go: ‘That wouldn’t have happened. That definitely wouldn’t have happened.’ But watching this film back there’s not one moment that seemed fake. Every piece of it, every part of this film could conceivably happen and probably has happened.
It’s a character-driven, real old-fashioned-style thriller with the pace of a modern film. I haven’t a terribly big part in it but it’s nice to be a part of something that’s really good.
What was it like working with James Marsh?
Honestly? The sweetest man on the planet. There was a scene where my character is dead and he’s in a coffin. And I think James thought that I was maybe a little bit uncomfortable, so James got in first just to break the ice. It’s not often a director does that, or needs to do that, but James was that kind of guy.
Film or theatre?
Film work is better paid, that’s always a benefit. I mean it is a job. But nothing quite compares to the feeling that you have on stage; it’s live, it’s organic. To be a theatre actor, it’s a definite way of life.
So how did you get into acting?
When I was ten or eleven, I auditioned for a role in the Arts Theatre in Belfast for the Artful Dodger. I’d never really done much acting before – other than entertaining the family and imitating my favourite characters from television. I got the part and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was well and truly bitten by the bug of acting!
Tell me about your work with the Youth Action theatre in Belfast.
The Rainbow Factory was a cross-community project bringing Catholic and Protestant kids together through drama in Northern Ireland. I joined when I was twelve years of age. I was just another one of the kids from West Belfast. I’m still with them today but obviously I got a bit older and my career took more of a serious turn and they asked me to be a patron. It certainly opened me up as a young man. It was one of the best things I’ve done. It kept me on track and kept my interest in drama alive.
The full interview first appeared in Issue 142 of Film Ireland Magazine.