Interview with Kat Kirk at Dublin Film Festival

published 27 February 2009
written by Ivana

Kat Kirk (photo Gavin Millar)

Kat Kirk, who plays Sharon in Cherrybomb, is one of the young and upcoming talents from Belfast, the city that provided sets and contexts for this film. After the Cherrybomb screening at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on 20 February, Kat chatted to about the film, about actors Rupert Grint (Malachy), Robert Sheehan (Luke) and Kimberley Nixon (Michelle), and many other things! Kat, as someone who is Belfast born and bred, tell us how realistic is the portrait of Belfast teenagers in Cherrybomb?
Kat: It’s very unusual for me, because I’m 20 now, but I’m playing a 15-year-old, and I was like: Oh my god, was I really like that at 15?! You know, it’s been five years since me then and me now, and things have definitely changed. I see kids that age, and they do talk to each other like in Cherrybomb – it’s a bit shocking, but that’s just the way it is. When I first read the script, that was my first thought: yeah, this is real. Sometimes it is hard hitting, sometimes it is raw, and a bit shocking for someone who lives a very sheltered life, but it’s real. How about drugs? Are they really that present?
Kat: I wouldn’t personally know myself, because I never went down that road. But yeah, drugs are unfortunately a big part of culture these days. Drinking, drugs, all these things. But it is nice to see a film that shows what really happens. And I suppose without drugs Cherrybomb wouldn’t be the same movie. During the big party scene, at some point Michelle observes what’s going on and says: “Blame the parents”. But, is this one of the messages of the movie – like, is it the parents who mistreat their kids and provoke their rebellion?
Kat: I don’t think this is the message behind Cherrybomb, I don’t think it’s just parents who’s to blame. All these things you see in the film, it’s just what lots of teenagers do – they’re drinking, partying, having sex, and they’re pretty much out of control. And it’s in the nature of teenagers to blame their parents for everything! How about your character, Sharon? She is apparently head over heels in love with Luke, but he pretty much ignores her throughout the movie, except for the final party…
Kat: Yeah. Sharon kinda looks after Bun and Fanta, she is a bit too cool for all they do, but she is a typical girl, she’s 15-16, the first big crush comes along, and it’s her whole world – it’s all about Luke. She’s like: Malachy – whatever; all the other guys who they’re hanging out with, who are probably really good looking – they just don’t matter. She’s got her heart set on Luke. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had that first crush, and we all know how intense it can be. But isn’t the same thing happening to Malachy as well? I mean, from the moment he meets Michelle, it’s all about her, he gets into all sorts of trouble because he’s so in love with her; so the boys can be like that as well…
Kat: Yeah, this film really shows this important stage in life, because on the one hand you have Luke, he’s only in it for a shag, while Malachy is starting to cope with the new feeling, you know: “maybe I kinda like her a wee bit” – and Luke is, like, “come on Malachy”… So, it happens to boys too, but they try to cover it! Let’s talk about Rupert now. What did you think of his acting? Is he like Malachy in his real life?
Kat: Rupert is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met in my life. You know, when I got the phone call, about halfway through the audition process, and they told me: “Oh by the way, Rupert Grint is playing Malachy, you know that, don’t you?” And I was like: “What? Oh my God…” and Kat (simultaneously): “Ron Weasley?!” (we both roar with laughter)
Kat: But you know, I give him so much respect, because it must be so difficult for Rupert, to be one of the most popular young actors in Britain, in fact in the world — and people probably have so many opinions on him, and expectations of his characters… But he is just so lovely, so down-to-earth. There was never a moment when… So he didn’t get the star treatment!
Kat: No, he never made any of us feel inferior, never. He never put up this “Oh I’m Rupert Grint” kind of attitude. He is just absolutely fantastic to work with, and such an inspiration. What about Robbie? He is such an extrovert!
Kat: Oh, Robbie! You know, Rupert and Robbie are so similar to their characters… Robbie is completely mad – he really is! In a positive way of course! Sometimes you see actors, and the characters they play are totally contrasting; but with Robbie, sometimes there would be a blur – you couldn’t tell Robbie from Luke! But he was so great on set, he made us all crack up. What about Kim? She is a bit older than the boys, and a drama school graduate, so what sort of energy did she bring to this movie?
Kat: I didn’t have too many scenes with Kim, but whenever we were together on set, she was just so professional; I mean all three of them – they know when to have a laugh, but they also know when to be professional. Kimberley has done several films in a row, she works really hard, and she is such a nice girl. As a young actor, I have learned a lot just by observing these three people, and they were all so fantastic, such a pleasure to work with. So, can you just pinpoint the most important things that you have learned from each one of them?
Kat: Yes. From Rupert, I’ve learned just to be cool, to be yourself. That boy is so level-headed, and I think it would be so difficult for anyone else in his situation to stay true to who you really are. From Robbie, I have learned to simply have fun with acting and everything, because at the end of the day it’s important that you enjoy what you do. You can tell that he knows that this is what he wants to be doing, and he just wants to have good fun with it. From Kimberley, I’ve leaned how to be professional, how to interact with people the best way possible.

Helen Sloan, Robert Sheehan and Kat Kirk in Dublin What does your future hold? Do you have any new upcoming projects?
Kat: I’m currently in my final year in college, doing the performing arts, so I’m at some sort of a crossroad at the moment. I’d love to get into more films, or maybe even try writing and directing. I’ve spent a lot of time with Lisa (Barros D’Sa) and Glenn (Leyburn), I watched them develop their ideas, and they were really great, very helpful. But film acting is really fantastic – I do a lot of theatre within my college, but in my opinion nothing beats the experience of acting in a film. If you’re an actor, my advice is to try and get in a film. Even if it’s a small part, just go for it! Did you get a chance to see Cherrybomb before this screening? Did you know what the finished product would look like?
Kat: No, this is the first time I’ve seen it! And it’s so strange, because obviously you read the script, and then you do takes and takes and takes, and you do have certain expectations, but seeing the film… I was just blown away. Did you know that there would be so many close-up shots? And did you know what all those text messages would look like? What did you think of the visual aspect of the film in general?
Kat: No, this was all a surprise to me! I did know that a lot of time was put into editing, they were putting matchsticks in their eyes just to get it done on time, but still I was surprised, it was fantastic! With the text messages, I thought there would be a camera over someone’s shoulder so that we can see him texting, but what they’ve done is so much better! It’s really fresh, and I believe that the film will appeal to the audiences my age, because there are so many beautiful scenes. It’s not a CGI/special effects kind of film… but it’s so imaginative. So, what happens next with Cherrybomb? We have just learned that there will be a screening in Belfast…
Kat: Yeah, Belfast, we’re gonna have a blast! It’s going to be a part of the Belfast Film Festival, so you should definitely come to Belfast, and party along with us! Yeah, let’s all go to Belfast and demolish the leasureplex!
Kat: Yeah! But it’s so exciting for us, because, obviously, myself, and Conor (MacNeill) who plays Fanta, and Greer (Ellison) who plays Bun, and all the crew, we grew up in Belfast, and these are the places we all know… When I was younger I used to go to that leisureplex – well it wasn’t called Titanic Leisureplex! – but I used to go swimming there… and the carpark, all these places really exist! So yeah, come to Belfast, it’ll be great fun!

Many thanks to Kat Kirk for sharing her impressions and observations with us, and see you all in Belfast!

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