Interview with Robert Sheehan

published 3 April 2009
written by Karo and Ivana

Just like his Cherrybomb co-star Rupert Grint, Robert Sheehan was born in 1988 — however, unlike Rupert, he is the youngest in the family. His breakthrough came at the age of 14, when he got a small part in a film Song for a Raggy Boy. Since then, Robert has done a lot of TV and film work. Apart from Cherrybomb, his recent projects include the acclaimed Red Riding Trilogy for UK’s Channel 4, a show called Rock Rivals, and a fantasy film Summer of the Flying Saucer.

Anyone who has met him will confirm that Robert Sheehan — also known as Robbie — is a very bouncy, upbeat and energetic lad. But he is also a serious actor, hopefully with a long and successful career ahead of him. We were lucky to be given the opportunity to interview Robbie in what surely is an exciting time for him, with Cherrybomb touring festivals and getting overwhelmingly positive reviews. You have just wrapped Season of the Witch: what is it about? What type of character do you play? And what’s up next?
Robert: I have indeed just wrapped on Season of the Witch. The film is about a girl who has been accused by the church of being a witch, and subsequently causing the Black Plague in the 14th century. She must be taken on a perilous journey to an ancient abbey called Severac so that the clandestine monks who reside there can administer a fair trial. I play a young man who desperately wants to become an honorable knight, so he joins them on their quest in order to prove himself.
There are a number of very exciting projects on the horizon but none which I have the uninhibited freedom to talk to you about just yet! How did you get into acting? Did you do any acting before you were cast in Song for a Raggy Boy?
Robert: I fell into it funnily actually, through an open call for Song For a Raggy Boy, in which I got a small part. Then I wanted to carry on acting because of the amazing fun we had, so I acquired an agent (who represented some of the other guys in the film) and carried on doing bits and pieces in TV and film. And my only dramatic endeavour before Raggy Boy was a play in school called Oliver with a Twist! What was your reaction when you first found out that Rupert Grint was cast as Malachy? Did you have any preconceptions about him, and did he fulfill your expectations?
Robert: I was delighted to hear Rupert was on board, and I tend not to expect anything from a person until I have met them in person and come to know them a little bit; so no preconceptions further than the knowledge of who he was and what he had done. He is a dynamite package to have in a film though, because not only did he give a fantastic performance in the film, but he’s also a profoundly sweet, affable character to have around, and his international profile will undoubtedly help to draw more interest to the film. Could you tell us a bit more more about that week when the directors and three of you — Kimberley Nixon, Rupert Grint and you — holed yourselves up and went through the script? Did that experience help you get to know each other better and relax around each other?
Robert: That was the time the film came together in my opinion, the first time we discovered what the arc of our performances was going to be — essentially what you see in the finished product. It was also the point at which we had to say: do or die, dive in or do it half arsed. Thankfully, we all got comfortable enough to perform to the best of our abilities those scenes with intensity in a bare room using our imaginations! That week of rehearsal served to overcome any inhibition or embarrassment we might have been feeling in each others’ presence when having to perform intensely. How much input did you and other actors have in deciding what the characters should look like (in terms of clothes, hair, etc.)? Was it mostly the directors who decided how to style you?
Robert: It was mostly Hazel and Rachel Webb-Crozier who sourced the clothing, and collaborated chiefly with Glenn Leyburn if i remember correctly in what the final decisions would be. Glenn has a great visual knowledge having a background as a graphic designer. Their vision was wholly unique and trendy which is what I love, and contributed hugely to the overall look of the film. I love how cool we look! Which scene was the most fun to play? Which scene are you most proud of? Which one was the hardest?
Robert: I think it’s too difficult a question to ask which one was most fun, but if I was to pluck one out of the ether I would say the scene at the end where we are in the sports hall and we’re all completely high on psychotropic drugs: it’s all very dreamy, and I am bouncing around on the trampoline and throwing pills about and putting pills on people’s tongues. It was such fun to do because the camera crew flowed through the 360 degree set like an observer as we were given free reign to do whatever the hell we wanted… And I went a bit mental!
I’m very proud of a lot of the scenes dealing with my dysfunctional family, but again it’s so hard to pit one scene higher than another in enjoyment terms, because there is no scene that I am not proud of or that I’m doubtful of, and that’s the God’s honest truth! Several Cherrybomb people have remarked that you are very similar to your character Luke! Is this true? And if yes, in which ways can you relate to Luke?
Robert: I can relate to the following: the love of a good party etc., the love of fashionable clothes — I’ve always got an eye peeled for a funky tee shirt or blazer! Also, the love of showing off a bit!
I cannot relate to the horribly dysfunctional family background: I’m happy to say I have a wonderful, encouraging family who are my best friends. I can’t relate to the incessant drug-taking — can’t say I’m a fan. And Luke’s nasty streak which, when aggravated, motivates him to destroy everything around him, and relinquish control and responsibility for his actions. I must admit I’m more responsible, or more of a wuss maybe! Luke and Malachy are best friends. Did you have time to bond with Rupert, considering the tight filming schedule — did you go out together, did you discuss the relationship between Malachy and Luke and what they’re going through?
Robert: Of course we had time to bond, and a grueling schedule on a film set would mean that you would be in the company of fellow cast and crew for 10-12 hours, 5 days a week; and since none of us out of the three were indigenous to Belfast, we would spend the weekends together too. So I’m happy and lucky to say I made some great friends on the shoot. And The Rotterdam was a bar which became our local after we used it as a location! That’s The Lifeboat in the film, great spot! What about those Polaroids on the walls of both boys’ bedrooms — did you and Rupert take those photos yourselves, or was it Helen Sloan, or the directors?
Robert: I believe Laura Ng from prop department took a bunch of Polaroid photos of us one day before shooting, and we jumped around and pretended to party even though we were just on this couch in a cluttered room, surrounded by all the other props from the film! How did you and your co-stars prepare for the most emotional scenes — the swimming-pool fight with Malachy, the big brawl after you wreck Malachy dad’s car, your scenes with Lalor Roddy, and of course the grand finale?
Robert: I think a great deal of preparation was done in that week of rehearsal; and then, on the day, it was just about keeping the energy at that intense level throughout the shoot of those scenes. We would run through the mechanics of how we were going to grapple physically etc., and then rehearse it a few times, tweak and change, and then just go for it — dive in or don’t bother is my motto with those types of scenes! What is your best memory of the entire Cherrybomb shoot, on and off set?
Robert: My best memory is probably the wrap party. After the shoot was over we all had that feeling like we’d just ran a marathon, and felt so great about what we’d managed to get recorded, and then we partied like mad people until dawn the next day. The wrap party was in The Rotterdam bar as well! Although you (and your Cherrybomb co-stars) are all very young, you’re already seasoned pros. What was your reason for accepting a role in Cherrybomb, and what do you expect of this film, in terms of furthering your career?
Robert: I was so grateful to be offered a part in this film because it was so fantastically written and Luke was a character that was everything an actor wants to sink his teeth into, or should want to. I think this film will do amazingly. The feedback and praise for the film so far has been astonishing, from people of all ages who have just related very closely with it. I’ve spoken to a lot of adults who have said that it reminds them so viscerally of their youth.
And let’s just say it has already helped my career wonders, I have experienced a lot of admiration and interest, so fingers crossed! Was Berlinale your first red carpet? What was that like for you, with all the “crazy fans” there?
Robert: Yes it was, and I instantly relaxed into the excitement of it, maybe a bit too much! It was a fun novelty, and it also reminded me how extremely famous Rupert is! And that whole weekend in Berlin was just an absolute blast and I cannot wait to go back. Who are the actors and directors you would like to work with in the future? And would you like to work with some of the Cherrybomb people again?
Robert: Oh Lord, the list is five miles long, but if I had to give you a few names… As regards actors I would say Cilian Murphy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Russell Brand’s fantastic… the usual names I’m sure! And directors… Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen I thought was stunning, and of course Irish guys like Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan; but really the list is endless.
And nothing would give me greater pleasure then to work with the Cherrybomb cast and crew again — I could easily say it was the most fun I have ever had on a job.

Many thanks to Robbie Sheehan for taking the trouble to answer all our questions — curious people we are indeed! Also, thanks to Jonathan Shankey with Lisa Richards agency for making this happen.

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