Tin Star’s Genevieve O’Reilly on season 2 and living in the moment
Currently in New York performing in the sellout show The Ferryman, Genevieve O’Reilly’s career is on an upward trajectory and showing no signs of slowing down. We caught up with the leading lady of the hit Sky Atlantic show, Tin Star to find out what we can expect from season 2 and how she balances a hectic work schedule that takes her all around the world, the with family life here in the UK.
Caution: contains Season 1 spoilers
You’re in New York at the moment performing in The Ferryman. How is it going?
It’s wonderful! It’s really lovely to share it with a new audience. I was really lucky, I started the show in the Royal Court and then we transferred to the Gielgud where a core of us performed for about 6 months.Having the opportunity to work with Sam [Mendes] and Jez [Butterworth] was really special.
How would you describe your character in Tin Star and her role within the first series?
In season one we meet a little family from our side of the pond who moved to a small town in Canada. We learn that with his family’s support, Jim, played my Tim Roth, is dealing with alcoholism. I play his wife, Angela, and we’ve all moved to Canada to begin again and to try and give our little family the opportunity to heal. At the end of episode 1 there’s a deep family tragedy where we lose our little boy which sets in motion a spiral effect for the family through their grief and their pain. We also learn that the little boy was murdered, so therefore it was targeted. Through the season we learn that it’s Jim’s alter ego, Jack, and his past that’s coming back. We thought we were moving to this little idyllic town but sometimes the past comes and finds you.
Season 1 was left on a dramatic and nail biting cliffhanger. What can we expect from season 2 and your character?
We we’re on the side of a mountain so it literally was a cliffhanger! Angela went through so much in season 1 but what happened at the end was truly horrific. I watched my husband kill my daughter Anna’s boyfriend, Whitey, in front of me and in front of our daughter. It was truly shocking and I remember filming that sequence and it feeling so visceral. I think it translated and it was such a shocking scene. I think it was really brave of our creators to choose to start there. They could have jumped six months to come back to the second season, but actually we begin season 2 back on that mountainside in minus 20 something degrees. It was unbelievably cold yet we were up there and within a heartbeat, as actors, we were taken back to that moment.
Of course there is a huge fall-out from what has happened on that mountain side and really our little family is broken into even further shards. Jack shot Whitey but Angela was up there, she gave her daughter a gun, and she was complicit in creating that moment, she was very much a part of it. She was responsible for her daughter being there as well so the beginning of season 2 starts with all sorts of grief. This season takes a different turn, John Lynch, Anamaria Marinca and Jenessa Grant have joined the cast and they play another little family in the Prairies and take Anna in. It’s truly heartbreaking and devastating for Angela but of course it had to come. You can’t go through that as a family without really needing to do an awful lot of work to piece yourself back together. I feel so much for that little family.
Filming such emotional scenes must be very draining
We film in Canada so I left my own little family to go and do it which is tough in itself. So while I’m there I really throw myself, completely 100%, into this woman and her family. I love Abigail Lawrie [who plays Anna] so much and am deeply proud of her as a young woman, as a friend and as a young actor. Tim, Abigail, and I all have a special bond and a chemistry so I’m passionate about this little family and I want them to be as great as they can be. I want them to be able to wrestle with these demons and I think the introduction of John and Anamaria with their little family at times holds up a mirror to us. We’re all just fractured human beings and sometimes you can look deep into yourself and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have the tools in your lives in order to be able to do work like that and others don’t. Tin Star is not a therapy session, let’s just say that.
Tin Star is a very emotionally complex program with a lot of darkness and violence. How do you deal with that?
Well, I like it to be like that. I love playing complicated women. I am ambitious for my characters and for the women I play to be complicated. I want them to be full of sinew and muscle and flesh, I strive for that and push for that as an actor. Something I love about Angela is the perpetual tug of war within her – I know she has a moral compass but it’s like she doesn’t have practice in it. She’s spent so long just trying to hold things together, she was a single mum for a long time while Jim was away doing undercover work, which was messy and grubby. She’s someone who had driven so hard for herself and her daughter and then for her son who died. I like that she’s not straightforward. But yes, also at times this piece is emotionally demanding and I’m glad of that because great drama should be emotionally provocative. So, at the end of the day if it’s been tough it’s been worth it. It’s worth the sacrifice of me leaving my own home to do this. If the work is good it’s worth me leaving my family.
You have such an incredibly busy life travelling around the world for work. How do you find the time to keep up with your family, stay in good mental and physical health, and keep on top if your wellness?
I’m on FaceTime a lot. Thank God for FaceTime! I get home as much as I can and my kids come to see me. It’s been a bit of a mad year and I’m really looking forward to only working in the UK next year, which will definitely provide a better equilibrium. I have so much to be grateful for and I just have to protect my own little family and myself amongst it. Obviously you have to do your best to keep yourself healthy. I’m quite a social person so I find my relationships with cast mates and directors really important. I have people round to my place all the time and I cook for them because in cooking I feel like I’m a part of myself.
Are there any home comforts that you always pack in your suitcase when you travel abroad for a role?
I’ll always have candles in an apartment to try to make it feel a bit more homey. I’ve lived in London for some time now so when I’m in Canada and New York I can pick a Londoner out on the street from what they’re wearing. They dress really of themselves and I love it, so when I spot a Londoner I always think of home. It’s some sort of comfort in a way. I lead quite a gypsy lifestyle so there’s not a lot I can take. I tend to take photos of my family and paintings that my two kids have done to stick up on the wall.
You’ve just finished filming Tolkien and The Kid Who Would Be King. How was filming Tolkien?
It was a really special experience actually. I loved working with Nicholas [Hoult]. I have quite a small but beautiful role so I was working very closely with him. Dome [Karukoski], the director, was great and a number of people in The Ferryman are also in this film which was a nice crossover. The film is about Tolkien’s experience as a teenager and his friendships leading up to the writing of The Fellowship of the Ring. It examines his friendships which have been well documented as being reflected in some of the characters within The Hobbit films particularly and how they influenced his writing. I play the mother of one of the boys that he’s very close with but can’t say too much without giving it away. It was lovely reading and learning about his early life and how it impacted and inspired his work. When you’ve known a piece of writing for so long it’s lovely to look at it from the other side through the prism of his youth.
Can you tell us a bit about The Kid Who Would Be King and your role?
It’s a Joe Cornish piece essentially about a young Artherian legend, it’s a children’s film really. It’s a modern take on a kid that finds the Excalibur. It has an amazing cast and I think it’s going to be a real fantasy and I hope it’ll be a film for kids to get behind.
You mentioned that next year you’d like to work more in the UK. Do you have anything in the pipeline?
There’s some talk of things but my focus at the moment is to get home to my wee family and be mummy for a while. It’s been an extraordinary year and I’m looking forward to a few months just being at home.