Tuesday 19 November 2019

'Better Call Saul' star's long road from Tipperary to Tinseltown

Kerry Condon
Kerry Condon
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

It was Tuesday of last week before millions of people across the world were confronted with the harsh reality that they would have to move on with their lives.

There is no more Better Call Saul and no amount of scrolling through Netflix would conjure up another scene with the sleazy anti-hero lawyer.

The 10 episodes of the prequel spin-off to Breaking Bad have proved every bit as addictive as the original multi-award-winning TV series. The New York Times recently said that as the series wore on, it "turned the corner to greatness" and Forbes singled out the performance of one particular cast member for particular praise: Kerry Condon.

The 33-year-old, from Thurles, plays the daughter of one of Saul's associates with the steely-eyed intensity of a young Jodie Foster and is well on her way to becoming one of the very few Irish women to make a name for themselves in Hollywood.

At home in Ireland for a few days, she says that the abrupt ending to season one of Saul caused consternation amongst her friends.

"They were like, 'what's going on?' It all went so quick, the 10 episodes totally flew. I only met the make-up girl randomly and she said we're only going back in June. Which means it might not be out until September. People will have to wait until then to see what happens, I can't give anything away because I don't even know yet!"

Kerry says she always knew growing up that she wanted to be an actress.

She told the Sunday Independent: "I was just into performing. A friend of mine, from my primary school, reminded me this week that I used to do a thing called Kerry Live - Kenny Live!, with Pat Kenny, was on TV here at the time, just pretending I was on TV too. I'd make them all be my 'guests'.

"I remember seeing Anna Paquin, who was only my age, winning the Oscar for best supporting actress (for The Piano), although I already wanted it, even at that stage. But everyone thought it was a crazy plan. You have to remember, there was no X Factor or anything in those years.

"Growing up in the country, in the middle of Tipperary, there didn't seem like there was a route toward making it happen."

The comparison with Jodie Foster is apt, she says, because Foster's performance in Bugsy Malone was the reason she wrote to Alan Parker, who directed the film, seeking a role in Angela's Ashes, which Parker also directed.

Kerry won the part of the lascivious Theresa and was well on her way, soon landing one of the hottest roles on the London stage, playing Mairead in Martin McDonagh's play The Lieutenant of Inishmore for the Royal Shakespeare Company (McDonagh has remained a mentor over the years, she says).

It wasn't long before Hollywood was taking notice of her, but she says there was also a price to pay for her early success.

"I was very conscious in secondary school, that I wasn't even having a boyfriend because I didn't want to get attached," she says.

"I also knew that I wanted to leave and move away to another country. I didn't do the college thing."

How did she navigate her way through the world of cut-throat agents and scrupulous casting directors?

"Well, it can be lonely. It's funny, I'm talking to this young actress now and she was telling me 'this is pretty lonely', and I was like 'yeah it is, I don't mean to be mean but that's part of the job - this is the way it's going to be'. I mean, that's why Judy Garland was on uppers and downers the whole time!"

Kerry would go on to work with legends like Sean Penn, Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte on This Must Be The Place and also scored roles in The Last Station, HBO's big-budget drama Rome, and Luck, in which she caught the eye of Vince Gilligan.

As the years progressed and her career soared, she says she also relaxed about her personal life and how it coexists with her professional life.

"Well, of course I relaxed because you want to experience life and be a good actor", she says. "I think vanity and selfishness are the enemy of good acting. Being in the studio system and going from one movie to another, that can be a rather artificial, sheltered kind on an existence. I didn't want that.

"I've had loads of boyfriends, loads of heartbreak. It was all great research."

What about now, is there a love interest? She laughs: "Ah only when I feel like it"

What about going for roles and not getting them?

"I don't obsess about not getting roles," she says. "I move on quick as that. It can be something as simple as that the director is too f**king stupid to realise that the hair and make-up people can do their jobs, and he's still like 'oh she doesn't have blonde hair'. But then you don't want to work with those people."

Kerry, who is giving her voice talent to the Avenger's movie, has also had the odd difficult co-stars.

"It's about give and take, not that you're carrying someone - but when someone is doing their lines and they're on camera, you have to give them as good a performance as you did when it was your turn on camera. That's only fair, right?

"You'd be surprised the amount of people who f**k you up because in the editing room, they'll just take my scenes because they'll be better."

Sunday Independent

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