Emmett J. Scanlan was born in 1979 in Dublin. He has won wide acclaim for his performance as Brendan Brady in “Hollyoaks”, His films include “Blood” and the lead in “Charlie Casanova”.
“Entertainment.ie” 2014 interview:
“From Hollyoaks to Hollywood”, that’s the headline beside Irish actor Emmett J Scanlan, as he graces the cover of the latest issue of Gay Times Magazine, perhaps still best known for his role in the hit series. But Scanlan has been around for a while, appearing in the likes of The Big Bow Wow, The Clinic, MTV show The Phone, and Brendan Gleeson starring soccer dramedy Studs.
But while, for now at least, he may still be under the long shadow cast by his homosexual sociopath character in Hollyoaks, 2014 should see all that change for Scanlan. We got a chance to ask him a few questions about his recent past and not too distant future, and as expected, he’s as bracingly honest and funny as you’d want from an Irish interviewee.
Entertainment.ie: 2013 was a very big year for you, with your run in Hollyoaks coming to an end and your role in hit TV show The Fall, but 2014 looks like it’s going to be even bigger. How are you feeling about your career right now?
Emmett Scanlan: 2013 was always going to be a big year for me whether I ended up working or not. It was the end of my 2 and a half year Hollyoaks stint. A choice I needed to make. When you leave a job like that and have nothing, and I mean sweet f**king nothing to go into, it’s frightening, but in a positive way. It helps define what type of character you are going to be. I needed to stretch; I needed to explore new challenges. Everyone seeks that, everyone wants that, but wanting will only leave you wanting. You need a hunger. That’s not necessarily a good thing. But it’s what will drive my career to places I’ve never been.
I’ve been blessed with some wonderful characters over the last 5 years. People trusting me with more and more responsibility… so in that respect I’m really happy with how my career is going… every project I’ve been lucky enough to be part of has had great success; this is unusual for me. I was shit when I first started out and my career reflected that. Now that I’m less shit I’ve been enjoying a more fortuitous streak.
It really is blind faith when you take on a job. You don’t know if it’s going to be successful, or lead to your next gig and you certainly shouldn’t make the decision to do it based on that, but it’s hard not to. Just roll the dice and cross your fingers. I’ve been lucky in my choices but I do work hard. Really f**king hard. I work. Every day.
E.ie: You’ve been a working actor for about a decade before the role of Brendan Brady came along, which is probably how most people today would’ve been introduced to you. Now that you’ve had some time away from the show, how do you feel about your time there?
ES: Hollyoaks will always be a special place for me. Brendan Brady was such an interesting character to dance with. The people I worked with there were some of the most talented and beautiful.
Don’t think I’ve told anyone this, but apparently when I got the job I told my sister Orla that I was gonna make Brady the baddest guy on TV. I was gonna take home Villain of the Year for Oaks in my first year… I didn’t know how, I just knew at that time I would. Now I don’t remember saying that, AT ALL, if anything it sounds arrogant and I really don’t mean it to be… Truth be told I’d never have imagined the success that character would have had, ‘tash and all…. Anyway long story short I won the award…
My point is this; if you can hold it in your head you can hold it in your hand. Hollyoaks gave me that chance. And I will always be indebted to them
E.ie: The Fall was a massive hit last year, and you’ll be returning to the role for Season Two. Can you give us any hints as to what viewers can expect?
ES: The Fall was another show that I knew I had to be part of. The scripts were beautiful… I didn’t care what part I got I just knew I had to get a part. I wanted to help tell Allan’s (Cubitt, Programme Creator) story. It came straight after Oaks and DC Glen Martin was the complete antithesis to Brendan Brady. It was a perfect next step. I’m so humbled to have been part of it, to continue to be part of it.
At the moment I’m filming the second season. 6 episodes. I think the scripts are even better than last years, which is saying something. Cubitt is a genius. And producers Julian (Stevens) and Gub (Neal) magnetic. This was never going to be a one series show. The fact it was so popular and we get to continue telling this story is a f**king blessing. There’s a great atmosphere on set. After the IFTA wins and BAFTA nominations, it feels like being part of something really special. To be fair it has always felt like that.
E.ie: What is it like working with the legend that is Gillian Anderson?
ES: I’m filming all this week with Gillian. She’s f**king wonderful to watch. Effortless. Experienced. She doesn’t have an off day. Same can’t be said for me… I’m learning. Every day. And that’s all I can ever ask for. But I need to learn faster and there’s no better actor to learn from.
E.ie: And is Jamie Dornan really THAT handsome in real life?
ES: Is Jamie really that handsome?? What type of f**king question is that?? You asking me or Brendan Brady?? On a scale of 1 to Jamie, I give myself a 2… I blame my parents…
Jamie is a top bloke. A Man United fan, a father and is riding the wave to stardom… Richly deserved. Why? Because he takes risks… You can’t lose if you take risks. Regardless of the outcome.
E.ie: This year you’ll also be appearing in the new series of BBC zombie-drama In The Flesh. What can you tell us about it?
ES: In The Flesh is such a wonderfully insane original spin on an otherwise undead genre. The first season saw the zombies re-institutionalised back into society, 4 years after the first rising. A breakthrough in medical science allowed these now “partially deceased syndrome sufferers” to return from their rabid state to a state of “normality”. A drug once administered helping reconnect the brainwaves and kick start their consciousness again. The results made for some really interesting viewing. I thought it was a perfect first season. It didn’t cater for an audience, it simply said “This is who we are, take us or leave us…” Season 2 follows the evolution of this. It brings outside forces into the town of Roarton… People like Simon and Maxine to shake things up.
E.ie: The zombie genre has always been a metaphor for whatever social issue is prominent at the time, what would you say is the main theme of In The Flesh?
ES: What’s the main theme?? You’re getting too clever for me now… Eh… Acceptance. Alienation. Hatred. Love. They’re all themes heavily saturated in Dominic (Mitchell)’s scripts… And then some.
E.ie: As if that weren’t enough, you’re also in this summer’s big Marvel superhero movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy. You even pop up in the trailer, with Karen Gillan holding a knife to your throat! What can you tell us about your character, and of the film in general?
ES: I can’t tell ye anything about it! I only ever saw the couple of scenes I was in. The script was heavily Guarded. But that’s assuming the scenes even make the final cut. For all I know, come August you’ll see my foot cross through back of shot and that’s it. Mum will be so proud. But regardless of that, one thing that can’t be cut by anyone is the experience I had, the friends I made, the geniuses I worked with, the sets that would make small all sets that have gone before. One thing that can’t be cut are the memories. Thank you James Gunn, my Irish American brother!
E.ie: Outside of these big projects, you also have roles in some independent movies, like Patrick’s Day, which has you reuniting with Charlie Casanova director Terry McMahon, and assassin thriller Breakdown. What is the biggest lure for you on a new project? Would it be the script, or the director, or the co-stars, or something else entirely?
ES: Terry is a truly brilliant creator. He called me in for Patricks Day more so because of Charlie Casanova. The scene we shot didn’t fit the movie. We knew that when we shot it, but it was just great to fly home and hang with him for a couple of days. You’ll catch the scene on the DVD extras I’m sure. My ideal role would be in Terry’s movie Dancehall Bitch. I’ve waited many years for this one. I can’t wait to tear it apart. That’s the aim. My ambition.
Breakdown was an awesome experience. I did that solely because I wanted to work with Craig Fairbrass and the main man himself James Cosmo. I’ve been a fan of both since Cliffhanger and Braveheart.
Why do I choose a project? Sometimes it’s the director, sometimes it’s the cast, sometimes it’s the story, the script. What it never is, is the money. Ideally you need a great story, a great director and a great cast to make anything work. It’s like a great song needs the lyrics, the instrumental, the voice. If one of those is lacking, it’s like learning to swim with one arm band. It starts to get messy.
E.ie: Earlier on in your career, you were just as busy behind the camera as you were in front, writing and producing and directing short films. Do you ever get the itch to return to that side?
ES: I wrote, directed and produced movies because at that time no one was hiring me. And rightly so. I was rubbish. But I needed to improve. And the only way I could see myself doing that was by getting my hands dirty. If they weren’t going to give me a job, I’d f**king make my own jobs. Hire myself. Cast myself. It was an incredible learning experience. But no, I don’t think I’d go back there. I loved it, but my passion is living the character. Not telling the story. I need to leave that to the professionals. Those heroes who can make us forget for 2 hours.
E.ie: Lately, with the likes of The Guard, In Bruges, What Richard Did and Citadel to name just a few, there has been a massive resurgence in international attention for Irish movies and talent. And with films like Charlie Casanova, Stalker and Collider, there seems to have been an expansion in what Irish films can actually be about. As an actor involved with Irish and international cinema, what’s your opinion on the current state Irish movies?
ES: The Irish are storytellers. We have been peppered throughout history with some of the best storytellers the world has ever seen. Irish cinema and Irish movies seem to be getting better and better. Intelligent and thought provoking. Our dark humour translates across the word. I think we need to continue to take risks, invest in home grown talent. We have a very different way about us. A style that separates us. I watched Calvary yesterday. It’s a movie that you had to work for. This wasn’t popcorn cinema, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it was just pure cinema. A great story, a dark story, expertly told. More of that please.
E.ie: And finally, any advice for aspiring actors out there?
ES: Advice? A month ago I was flown out to LA to test for the leading role in a new NBC/Warner show, Constantine. It was between me and one other fella, a lovely guy called Matt Ryan. We both signed wonderful contracts for a gig we had yet to score. Such is the American way. It was a game changer. A life changer. I’d already spent the money I was going to earn in my head 10 times over. I flew back home feeling confident I did a good job.
Next day I woke up to the news I didn’t get it. I was happy for Matt. But that didn’t stop it from hurting. For 45mins I was numb. I was due on set for Breakdown and all I could do was stare into space wondering what the point of all that was, what was my lesson? Why all those sleepless nights in LA? Don’t get me wrong, I met some really great people. Worked with legends like Daniel Cerone, David Goyer, Neil Marshall and Felicia Fasano. People who are at the top of their game. With resumes that would make your sphincter clench. But what was the point of all that if I didn’t book the job?
And then I realised. That WAS the f**king point. To meet them. My journey wasn’t to play Constantine, it was to meet these people. I was just looking in the wrong direction. I will work with these people again, just not as Constantine. And that’s my story.
Every time we think we’re being rejected from something good, we’re being re directed to something better. You have to believe that. Don’t take it personally. Otherwise this game will destroy even the best of us. Hope is everything, because without it we have nothing. BELIEVE and never give up. But above all else, f**king enjoy it. I am.
The above “Entertainment.ie” interview can also be accessed online here.