Interview With James Nesbitt (Cherrybomb Promotion)

published 30 January 2009
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The acclaimed Irish actor James (Jimmy) Nesbitt needs no introduction. His resume includes over fifty roles in various feature movies and TV productions. A native of Northern Ireland, James eagerly embraced the opportunity to play Kim Nixon’s father in a Belfast based teenage drama Cherrybomb.

James accepted the role of Crilly in Cherrybomb because he liked the part, and because he fancied the idea of working with “the young ones” – Rupert Grint, Robert Sheehan and Kimberley Nixon! And they surely did not disappoint him: They were great. I was a little bit skeptical at first about the accent thing – whether they would grab hold of it – but they’ve done really wonderfully and they’re incredibly committed. I mean they’ve obviously filmed quite a bit before so they have an understanding of when to act the eejit and when to knuckle down. They’re incredibly disciplined, very good, all very different, unique actors. I think they’re a very good cocktail.”

James sums up the themes explored in Cherrybomb very nicely: “I thought Cherrybomb was a very honest and at times funny, and at times sad, savage, shocking and raw exploration of what life is like for teenagers and how we tend to treat them as children, but they certainly don’t think of themselves as children. And within the plot we have this astonishing, confident – yet probably underneath very insecure and still quite young – attractive girl (Michelle), who’s been sent away from her mother, because her mother can’t handle her anymore, back to her father who hasn’t had to deal with her for a long time. And she walks into his life and the lives of the young community and has an extraordinary impact.”

James admits that his character Crilly is not the best dad around: She’s come back to live with me – and at first I’m very accepting of that – but actually I’m not equipped for it at all. Meanwhile, the two best friends, Malachy and Luke, have fallen head over heals for her. She kind of, at first, unquestionably creates a division between them but it’s a friendly division in a way. I mean, there’s an element of the musketeers, they’re very much together but she unquestionably does divide them because they both want to court her. But there’s also a trail of destruction that goes throughout the film and it’s sad, I think. But as I say, to me it’s a very honest exploration and portrayal of the relationships young people have with adults now, the relationships they have with themselves, the relationships they have with drugs, with sex and I think for this country, for Northern Ireland, it’s pretty unusual actually.”

James firmly believes it is important that stories come out of Northern Ireland that have nothing to do with ‘the Troubles’: As important as it is not to forget the legacy of ‘the Troubles’, it’s also important to embrace the new-found peace and the fact that these kids ironically grew up without any knowledge of, or interest in the troubles. Aye, their lives are about much more important things than that!”

James humorously describes what it was like working with such a young cast: It was very depressing. A dark day of my life, arriving and I’m the oldest person on set. No, they were great. And kids do grow up an awful lot quicker nowadays. I mean certainly when I left drama school at 22, 23, I wasn’t as grown up as they are. I don’t think I had the professional discipline at that time that these kids have. Of course, they’ve all worked before and Rupert particularly but they’ve been fabulous, funny, disciplined, professional, good – very good – and a real delight to work with. (It was) quite a surprise to me actually, just how much I really liked them.”

Asked whether he thinks their personalities fit the characters, James replied laconically: I think they’ve been cast well.”

Finally, James gave his frank opinion on whether a Belfast audience will accept “foreigners” doing their accent: “I think truthfully we’ve always found it difficult to accept other people doing our accent. I think that’s one of the many things we think, “why isn’t there someone here who can do it?” But, having said that, I hope that they will rise above that and see that actually these kids can do the accent very well but also see how great they are at their roles.”

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