'I could end up doing something totally different'
Young David Rawle shot to fame as the star of 'Moone Boy', but he tells Graham Clifford his future may not involve acting on TV
'Excuse me? Did I hear you right?" I exclaim, nearly choking on my ketchup-drenched chip. The brightest young star in Irish acting has just informed me that his future may lie away from the small screen... and I wasn't prepared for the bombshell.
"People think I will keep the acting going forever just because I'm in Moone Boy but I might decide not to – I could well do something else," explains David Rawle, who plays Martin Moone in the Chris O'Dowd co-written and multiple award-winning comedy series.
"The young guy (Evan McGuire) from the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells is now a professional runner, I've heard. I could end up doing something totally different with my life, who knows?"
I've come to David's hometown (some call it a village) of Carrigallen deep in Co Leitrim to chat with the 13-year-old star who shot from obscurity to earning a nomination for the Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist at the British comedy awards in 2012 – all in the space of 12 months.
Moone Boy, which won an International Emmy award, tells the story of 12-year-old Martin Moone, his imaginary friend Seán (played by Chris O'Dowd) and his quirky family as he grows up in the Roscommon town of Boyle in the early 1990s. Sitting on the shore of a lake opposite David's home, we talk stardom, school and Moone Bay mania while chomping on "exquisite" takeaway food, wrapped in newspaper, from the local Mitchell's Restaurant.
Our feast is washed down with thirst-quenching orange squash courtesy of David's mother Bernie, who joins us lakeside. It's a Saturday afternoon and Carrigallen (population 384) is buzzing to the sound of tractor traffic. A busy farming community, it even has its own mart – a "must-see", according to David. Maybe next time.
The last time I set eyes on David he, as Martin Moone, was celebrating after becoming an uncle when his sister Fidelma (played by Clare Monnelly) gave birth in the final episode of the smash-hit comedy's second series.
Those episodes were shot in 2012 and I can't help but notice little Martin has changed into not-so-little David as something of a teenage growth spurt kicked in – Moone boy is becoming Moone teen.
Last year, the third series of Moone Boy was shot at locations in Wicklow and, of course, Boyle, but Sky TV, which owns the rights to the programme, has yet to announce when it is to be shown.
"Yeah, we don't know when it will be on yet," says David as he chews on a chicken nugget. "They reckon it could be the last series of Moone Boy, we haven't be told that for definite yet though. I've also heard talk of a movie. Sure we'll see."
Laid-back, confident, polite and wonderfully articulate, there are many similarities between the down-to-earth David and the loveable Martin. He tells me how he went from playing Bashful in a local theatre production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when he was five to walking the red carpet in Wembley for the British comedy awards.
"Well, I'm part of the Leitrim Youth Theatre, and occasionally we put on productions at the Corn Mill Theatre here in Carrigallen. One day my drama teacher, Maura Williamson, got an email looking for young lads from the West of Ireland to audition for this programme, so I thought, 'Sure I'll give it a go for the craic'."
With his mother's consent he did just that along with 200 others. Initially, David went for the part of Martin Moone's flamboyant sidekick Padraic, but the casting people asked him to try out for the lead.
In a hotel in Sligo, he impressed Chris O'Dowd so much at his third audition that within days he was given the part, and within weeks he was on set in Boyle.
"I'd never been on screen before in my life," David says. "I honestly thought those film clapper board things you see on TV were just for show and that the phrase 'lights, camera, action' didn't exist in real life, but it does. I was nervous at first but Chris, director Declan Lowney and all the cast and crew put my mind at ease really quickly."
Back in Carrigallen David's slightly disbelieving classmates weren't sure if his stories of camera shoots, pampering, stars and soon-to-be fame were real.
"It was odd leaving the set at the end of filming of the first series where the crew would be following me around with a jacket to make sure I didn't get cold.
"Some of my friends weren't sure if I was telling the truth," he says with a grin across his face. "Some thought maybe I had a very small part. It was a bit strange but everything went back to normal."
Once the first series of Moone Boy was released to universal acclaim, though, the young lad from Carrigallen started to get recognised far and wide.
"Where people would have been coming up for Chris's autograph and picture, now they were doing the same to David," explains his mother Bernie.
"It was fine but we had to be careful that it wasn't too much for him, especially when there were crowds of young people around. We didn't want him standing for hours on end smiling for photographs.
"He's been asked to do some local and charity events too, which is fine, and he enjoys doing them, but we just have to make sure he doesn't try to do too much – he's still very young really."
"My sisters were impressed with me for a while, but they still rule the roost, especially when they want to watch their girlie programmes on TV," jokes David.
"In fairness Aisling (16) was a great help with learning the lines.
"She was very strict, but by the time I got on set they were stuck in my head."
While he tells me that he and Chris don't tend to text each other, he explains they've become best of buddies over the last two years:
"He's just so funny, he'd have you in stitches the whole time. He's working on a Moone Boy-themed book for children and sent me the early drafts, which was really nice of him."
And so like every interviewer David has had to endure in his brief acting career, I ask the painfully obvious, obligatory question – did he have an imaginary friend when he was younger?
I'm expecting a shake of the head, but instead he says: "I would say stuff to my mother like, 'Can I have a chocolate bar... and can my imaginary friend Scooby-Doo have a chocolate bar too?' It never worked. Scooby-Doo died of starvation while I was eating my bar."
Through Moone Boy he's acted alongside the likes of Steve Coogan and Amy Huberman, and at award ceremonies has rubbed shoulders (when the adults bent down to chat) with comedians, including Graham Norton. He also met the cast of CBBC's Horrible Histories – one of David's favourite shows. At last year's IFTAs, he even got life advice from Philomena Lee about whom the film Philomena was written. "She just told me to make sure and enjoy it," he says.
It's been a whirlwind two years for a young man who can normally be found with his head buried in a book.
He's wise for his tender years but knows that worrying about grown-up stuff at too young an age is, well, boring.
Whatever David does, you get a feeling he'll do it expertly.
Graham Clifford: a life in brief
Name: Mum Bernie, Dad Felim and two sisters Deirdre (18) and Aisling (16)
Education: Just finished first year at the Vocational School in Carrigallen. He asks me (hostage-on-camera like) to include "The teachers are all really nice!"
GAA career: On hold. "There was a picture of me lining out for my local club online, but it was me just warming up on the sidelines."
Film career: As well as Moone Boy, David plays Ben in the soon-to-be-released Song Of The Sea alongside Fionnula Flanagan.