From Screen to Stage

How do you like London?

I love London. I’ve lived there for the best part of five years. Well, I mean before I started the Shakespeare thing I was in Los Angeles for a year, standing around, doing a little bit of work.I did a couple of films out there, but then came back to do this Shakespeare thing and in all truth, kinda came back and just sort of breathed, sort of exhaled: ‘I feel closer to home again’.

In all seriousness, it’s funny; LA can seem so utterly foreign, you know. I’ve been out there and back so many times and then went and actually lived there but it seems more foreign now than it does when I first went there. I suppose it’s just lost a bit of its pizazz, but London just continues to gain pizazz – and, to do Shakespeare in London is incredibly meaningful, under the lovely Trevor Nunn.

Is this your first Shakespeare performance? And you’re the villain?

It is, and I am the villain. We’re sort of thrown in at the deep end in many ways, because we had nine weeks to rehearse all three plays, a Shakespeare adaptation of Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III, all of which are mammoth plays in themselves.

So Peter Hall and John Barton back in the 60s took it upon themselves to adapt those four plays into this daylong trilogy that you could start at 11AM and power through right to 11 o’clock at night.

Robert Sheehan Richard III

How did you maintain your stamina for that? …a lot of caffeine?

You know what, during rehearsals I didn’t have any caffeine, because when you’re relying on something like that – false energy – can let you down at the best of times, or sort of bring you on this roller coaster of energy which isn’t good either. I try and eat as much as I possibly can, and that requires getting home wrecked after a day and making a packed lunch, and making a sort of a supper, and food for the next day.

Especially on trilogy days – which happened on a Thursday and a Saturday – we’d all come in with big boxes of pasta. I’m a skinny guy anyway, but I’ve lost weight doing this thing because the Richard in our sort-of-adaptation is incredibly agile. There’s loads and loads of sword fights, snarling and biting and crying and sweating, and by the end of it I’m just a shadow of my former self.

You’ve been called a sex symbol. What was it like playing a physically impaired person?

Trevor – Sir Trev – very much wanted to encourage and accentuate the kind of youthful sort of exuberant Richard. Very much charismatic, very much a child when you first meet him in the second play of Henry IV and then you watch him experience the death of his father and go through all these really harrowing things. You know, at the beginning of Richard III he’s sort of going “What the fuck am I going to do now?” So he decides to just kind of turn everything upside down again.

So there was this sort of cheeky, young, brash thing that Trevor was constantly bringing out. So as an example, there was points when even when I’ve won my first sword fight I kind of do this great big like jump in the air, like a kid. It’s just really un-Shakespearean, un-Richard-like and really irreverent, that was very accentuated. As far as the deformity, I’m sort of hunched, my bodies kind of twisted into this chaotic thing, my arm is withered across my body. I’ve got a built up shoe on one leg for a limp, and a brace all up this leg. It’s very tough on the lower back.

Robert Sheehan 2

You really became a big name as a result of your TV work: Misfits in the UK, Love/Hate in Ireland. Would you consider going back to TV?

I have no qualms! There’s no exclusivity when it comes to platform, if there’s a good televisual project or a film project, you just sort of have to take it as it comes and usually the stuff that is worth being in requires a lot of fighting for, and the stuff that kinda comes your way is usually the stuff that could be seen as unambitious. It’s only once in a blue moon that the stuff that’s really great is also the stuff they really want you for; it’s so very rare.

You kinda have to keep singing for your supper. And that can come in all forms! The next few things: I’m doing this movie that I’ve talked about a few times, called the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, which is kinda an exploration of the science of love and attachment, basically. It’s about this young girl, she’s like 19, and she’s flying back to London to her dad’s second wedding, and her family was torn apart by the fact that her dad left her mum, and she has a lot of resentment.

And then she meets this young man in the airport who is a psych-major at Yale, this English guy, who very much believes the same thing and they sort of talk about how love is insanity, and the wreckage it leaves in it’s wake. But also while they are talking about this they’re starting to feel attachment throughout the whole thing. So it’s a very science-proofed love story. That was directed by a guy called Dustin Lance Black who directed a few films but he’s more known for writing – he wrote Milk, J Edgar – he’s quite politicised – so this is something completely unpolitical for him as well.

What Irish actors and directors are you interested or inspired by at the moment?

At the moment, Irish actors, Michael Fassbender, Cillian Murphy are definitely my two guys at the moment. Although, you know, I saw Colin Farrell in the Lobster last night and he was fantastic and he’s so very un-Colin Farrell, he was great in that, definitely.

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