It was a true Cindarella moment for Clare Monnelly. She was in Wagamama in Dundrum, working as a waitress, when she heard her phone vibrate inside her soy sauce-stained apron. It was a television producer ringing to tell her that she was to be plucked from obscurity to join the cast of Moone Boy. Time to throw off the apron and go to the ball. Or was it?
"I literally ran away from the restaurant", she remembers. "I rang my mam and my brother, I was so excited. But then I had to go back inside and finish my shift. What a comedown. But I was so happy. I was walking around the place going "noodles? No problem!"
Monnelly was given the first six scripts right off the bat and could not believe how witty they were. Chris O'Dowd, the show's creator and star, was riding high on the crest of a Hollywood wave following his movie-stealing turn in Bridesmaids but the quality of Moone Boy, hailed in the British press as "the funniest thing to come out of Ireland since Father Ted" showed that he is a man of many talents. "We had a great rapport straight away with him", Claire says. "I'd met him in the recall and I was speaking to my best friend afterward and I said 'at least I can say I was in the room with Chris O'Dowd'. He is exactly as you see on the screen and that whole world that him and Nick (Vincent Murphy) conjure up is something I could relate to. My Dad is from Mayo, so we used to spend quite a lot of time down in Ballina when I was a kid. I have vague memories of Italia '90 as well. Just the whole boredom and awkwardness of being a child growing up in Ireland is captured so beautifully and rang so true. I laughed my head off reading the scripts."
Now 28, Monnelly grew up the youngest of three kids in Balinteer, her mother worked in a bank and her father is a taxi driver. "I went to drama school which was held in this little chalet in Churchtown. We were down there twice or three times a week and soon all of the other activities just fell away as I got more and more involved in drama. At that age I just assumed that I was going to be an actress. I had no idea of the practicalities of what that entailed."
She went to Trinity where she was active in Players and then after a year off, finding herself on a trip around the world, she enrolled at the Gaiety School of Acting.
"I knew you would have to give up your life and your soul - nothing major, just those little things! But I was hungry, I was ready, almost too determined. I almost had the attitude 'I'm not here to make friends'. I'd be quite, not bossy but a little…" Assertive? "Yes, that! From the very first day I put up my hand to be class rep. I loved my time there and all personal boundaries go out the window and you become unnaturally close to people."
She met her boyfriend, a fellow actor, through the company she got her first job with. "My mates are really supportive but it's difficult to really understand the job we do unless you do it, so that's a great thing about having an actor as a boyfriend."
She juggles her TV work with stage plays (she's currently in King Lear) and when work is scarce she has "a day job I can go back to, thank God. Like a lot of actors I've been on the dole and it's terrible. You have nothing to do but sit around thinking why am I on the dole." She's been asked if she'd ever go into television presenting. "And my response was 'you mean be myself? God no! That's the whole reason I'm in acting: so I don't have to be myself."
Next up for Clare is a self-scripted one woman show about a woman who's had her baby taken away from her. "It's a dark comedy, emphasis on dark. It's going to be on in Smock Alley, I'm excited about it."
'Moone Boy' season 3 begins Monday, March 2 at 9pm on Sky 1. Catch up with seasons 1 & 2 on Sky's Box Sets service.