'The heart of a piece lies in a good story well told': Genevieve O'Reilly on her role in 'Tin Star', 'Star Wars' and juggling cinema and theatre

Genevieve O'Reilly also acted in the massively successful play 'The Ferryman' which has won numerous awards


                            'The heart of a piece lies in a good story well told': Genevieve O'Reilly on her role in 'Tin Star', 'Star Wars' and juggling cinema and theatre

Irish actress Genevieve O'Reilly is best known for her role as Mon Mothma in the 'Star Wars' franchise and she recently finished filming season two of Sky Atlantic and Amazon's thriller 'Tin Star'. She is also a part of the hugely successful play titled 'The Ferryman,' which has won numerous awards.

Meaww caught up with Genevieve and the 41-year-old star got candid on her acting journey so far and discussed a couple of her successful roles so far. Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations on the success of 'Tin Star'. How was your experience as Angela Worth? What are Angela’s thoughts on Jim Worth’s alter-ego Jack Devlin and how does she cope with a character like him?

Thank you very much. 'Tin Star' was such an ambitious project to be a part of. I’m thrilled it was received so well. Angela Worth is a fascinating character to peel away at. I connected very easily with her love for her family and I was moved deeply by her grief. I was curious to examine her love for her husband and how they manage his alcoholism, especially in the wake of their family tragedy and the very real threat they face. 

I think she truly loves Jack and Jim (both of them a true part of her husband). But I also believe she honestly struggles with her love for him and can be frustrated, shocked and appalled by his behavior. Love can be romantic but it can also reside in some dark places within us. 

What was your biggest challenge as Angela in season one? Was the role a tough character to play?

I am always interested in asking questions about the women I play, working to put flesh on the bones of her, humanizing a character. And that means enlightening both positive and negative characteristics. Wrestling with complexity. I hope that she is complicated because that affords great drama. Sometimes I love her and sometimes she really frustrates me. I like that. Within 10 hours of drama, I think it’s important that I find her challenging. I’m up for it. 

Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)
Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)

What can we expect in season two?

Season two excites me. I think our creators have been really brave to pick up exactly where we left off. On that mountain. Finding the characters neck deep in the wake of all that happened up there. There is a great momentum to that fallout and it takes the season and the characters in terrifying and heartbreaking directions.

Being on such a huge and massively successful platform on the play 'The Ferryman' must have been a fantastic experience. Are there any highlights you can share?

It’s been a great career highlight for me to be a part of the original cast of 'The Ferryman' — working with our director Sam Mendes, our writer Jez Butterworth and an electric cast of fine actors including Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly. We began at The Royal Court in London, transferred to the Gielgud on the West End and now we’re sharing the play with a Broadway audience. 

How would you describe your experience as Mary Carney? Was the character challenging to play, given how her family dynamic was thrown after sister-in-law Caitlin moves in?

Mary is such a sad character to live in each evening. She has a great heart, and yes (with her husband Quinn) welcoming her sister-in-law, Caitlin, into her home 10 years after the disappearance of Caitlin’s husband Séamus, speaks to that. But she is a woman, who, in the wake of her husband’s and her family’s grief, is incapable of speaking up for herself. Living with the grief and the silence that surrounds a disappearance, without the ritual of burial, she is atrophied by the lack of healing and disappears herself from her husband and their relationship. I find it heartbreaking. 

Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)
Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)

Is there any scene in the play that stands out to you as a favorite? If not Mary Carney, what character would you love to play?

I have lived with this play for so long now, I love all the characters and each of the actors who play them. They are truly like family. Maybe, when I’m a bit older and wiser and picked up a few more tools, I could get the chance to play Aunt Pat or Aunt Maggie Faraway.

Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming project 'Tolkien' and what viewers can expect from it?

'Tolkien', starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins is a biopic centering on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien leading up to him writing 'The Lord of the Rings'. It’s a tale of friendship and love and inspiration. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

How was your experience being a part of the 'Star Wars' clan as Mon Mothma?

What an amazing experience to be part of the huge creative universe that is 'Star Wars'. I remember it feeling quite surreal at the beginning. In 'Revenge of the Sith', I was stepping into the role originally created by Caroline Blakiston in 'Return of the Jedi'. I watched her scene on loop to try and capture the rhythm of her voice. By the time I came back to the role 10 years later in 'Rogue One', I felt I had done my homework. Gareth Edwards created a rich, detailed, physical world for us as actors to inhabit. It was so cool. 

Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)
Genevieve O'Reilly (Photographer: Alberto Tandoi, Stylist: Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Hair: Craig Purves, Makeup: Nathalie Eleni)

Do you have a preference when it comes to film or theatre? What is the best aspect of both?

Essentially, my work to humanize a character is the same. However, the techniques are, of course, informed by the difference in medium. The electricity of theatre lies in the dialogue each evening between the actors and the audience. It’s where the magic happens. The magic of film happens of course on set between the actors and director, but also in the edit suite between the director and editor. In the end, it is all storytelling. And the heart of a piece lies in a good story well told.