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Tuesday 17 September 2019

What it feels like to... raise a child star

With two sons involved in the film industry, Movania Parkinson describes how she keeps her family grounded between shoots across the globe and everyday life in Donegal

Balancing act: Art Parkinson with his mum Movania in Moville, Co Donegal. Photo: Declan Doherty
Balancing act: Art Parkinson with his mum Movania in Moville, Co Donegal. Photo: Declan Doherty

I got into acting when I was really young. When I was growing up in Sheffield there was a radio DJ called Kelly Temple and I was in love with him. My brother entered a competition and won a prize to go the local radio station. I was four at the time and when I went with him to pick up the prize, Kelly's girlfriend - who was an agent - signed me up.

From then on I was in TV programmes like Heartbeat, Children's Ward and A Touch Of Frost - lots of ITV and Granada productions.

My mum's from Derry and we spent all our holidays in Ireland. I moved over to live in Donegal when I was 19 and it's where Pearce, Padhraig and Art were born.

I took on some acting jobs - some local stuff maybe in Dublin or Belfast - but then I opened up a drama school and ran it in towns all over Inishowen in Donegal from Malin to Moville, where we live.

The kids were immersed in drama from a young age. They'd always know other people's lines because they were always there with me. The way I taught drama was I'd write a film and we'd film it. It wasn't all 'jazz hands'. Over the years things would come up where a production would need a kid and Art would jump at it. His first big role happened when my agent asked if Art would audition for a movie called Red Mist which was being directed by Paddy Breathnach. Art was six at the time and he really enjoyed it.

After that he got the part of Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones. He played the son of Sean Bean's character in the series. It was a small part but it became a bigger part in later series. There were lots of other kids involved and they had the best fun. It was two days here and three days there. If he was missing any time in school I would make sure he had a tutor.

Art playing Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones
Art playing Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones

After that there were more movie roles in a short period of time. He did Shooting for Socrates, Dracula Untold, Love, Rosie, the animated movie Kubo and the Two Strings and San Andreas.

At first I was really sceptical. I just wanted it to continue as a hobby rather than be something full time. I felt American movies would mean pressure and I didn't want it to rip our family apart.

But everything we've done we've always said 'let's just do this one and see how it goes - if it doesn't work out, it doesn't matter'. It's always been us making very small decisions and not making some big career choice.

After San Andreas - which was filmed in Australia - we knew we needed a bit of a break. We turned down a movie because the older boys had really important exams - Pearse was doing his Leaving Cert and Padhraig the Junior Cert.

San Andreas was filmed on the Gold Coast and in San Francisco for two weeks. Everyone brought their whole families. Part of it was during the summer and the first month was during school. Art had a tutor for those weeks and then he was off. The rules are he has to have three hours with a tutor every day. I make sure he makes up those hours and he gets through huge amounts of work. It's got to the point where Art will say to the tutor 'let's get some hours in'. I really don't need to tell him anymore.

When Art's on set, I'm there - he has to have a chaperone until he's 18. I'm also coaching him on set and it's important I'm with him. We've always been together and it's a safe environment for him. I'm thinking of the future for when I'm not with him. I want to make sure there are people who are going to fight his corner.

It's a very small world and he's working with many of the same people all the time. They are like family to us and they are people who Art has grown up with who are very protective of him.

You have to surround yourself with the right people. Nobody gives him any special treatment. I say if you treat people nicely they will respect you. If you look at amazing actors like Paul Giamatti, he just hangs out with the crew. Art can get his own tea if he wants it.

Art is 16 now. He goes to a small school and it's a very good school. He gets along with everyone. He's always been exceptionally grown up and aware even when he was a tiny baby. He's so professional and aware of boundaries. He's got three big movies coming out this year - I Kill Giants, The Belly of the Whale and Zoo, set in Belfast.

We've always kept everything on the 'low low'. It was a case of us saying 'maybe we'll do this movie'. It's not like I'm this showbiz mother saying 'we're doing this'. Padhraig, who's 18, is acting too and has been in some big productions. Pearce, the eldest, moved to Galway to go to college there.

Art is doing his Leaving Cert next year so if something does come along, we'll have to decide if it's worth doing. I used to say go to university because you need to have something other than acting to fall back on. But now I say do what makes you happy.

In conversation with Kathy Donaghy

Irish Independent

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