Wednesday 13 December 2017

Life lessons with Simon Delaney

Simon Delaney: being married to an actor isn't easy. Photo: Damien Eagers
Simon Delaney: being married to an actor isn't easy. Photo: Damien Eagers
The big time: Simon Delaney in Cannes with Judd Hirsch, Sean Penn and Eve Hewson
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Actor and new co-host of TV3's Saturday AM, Simon Delaney, has enjoyed great success on both sides of the Atlantic. Best known here for his work on RTÉ's Bachelors' Walk and Marie Jones' West End hit, Stones in his Pockets, his US work includes TV roles on the The Good Wife and Touch, and the film Delivery Man. Simon met his wife Lisa 13 years ago and they have three sons, Cameron (8), Elliot (7), and Isaac (3).

When I got into musical theatre, I was driving a van for Sam Hire and playing for the local football team. I took a bit of ribbing, as the lads were saying it would all be about make-up and costumes, but they had no idea that you're surrounded by women in a musical society and many of the guys are gay. I was a novelty, and I met my wife Lisa when I was directing a local music society show and she was a dancer in it.

I realised just how important family is when my mother Margaret died. My three siblings and I had a great relationship with our folks. I was only 19 when Mammy died, aged 50, from pancreatic cancer. My dad Billy was devastated and he died seven years later from a heart attack. My brother and sisters and I are very close and talk to each other every day. My mother's parents, Mary and Maurice Kenny, are still with us and they were an amazing help to us.

I wanted to have a big family because of the fantastic relationship I had with my own family. Fatherhood is hard work, but the boys are great lads. I won't push them, but would love them to play for Manchester United or win a golf tournament while writing a play at the same time! Whatever they want to do themselves is grand by me. I would love them to learn a musical instrument, though. I have my dad's saxophone and clarinet in the house, and nothing would warm my heart more than to see one of my boys pick it up and play it.

I have a very small amount of knowledge on a lot of subjects, but I'm always prepared. I love talking to people and putting them at ease. I'm nervous about Saturday AM but that's good because it creates an energy. You need a plan because when you're directing plays, you have 20 people looking at you, saying, "What will we do today?" I'd like to be like Mark Cagney, who never ceases to amaze me as his preparation is second-to-none.

I have had various different wives for work, but Lisa doesn't mind. My new TV wife, Anna Daly, is lovely and a seasoned pro. We're going to have a bit of craic, which is good as I'll be spending a lot of time with her. Lisa's probably delighted to get me out of the house for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

Lisa should be sainted - being married to an actor is not easy. With this job you spend more time with the people you're working with than with your own family. It takes a lot of patience and strength, but no one believes in me more than she does.

I got very close to life-changing jobs in the States, and when you don't get them, it knocks you. Thanks be to God I have Lisa to put her arm around me and say, "It wasn't meant to be so keep going," or give me a kick in the arse sometimes.

Revenge is a dish best served on the red carpet at Cannes. When I said on The Late Late Show that going over to Hollywood was something I wanted to do, some elements of the press slated me. The lack of support disappointed me, because there's a lot of hard work involved. But I went over with my Irish agent and friend, Lorraine Brennan, and we spent three weeks meeting with casting directors and agents.

I was fortunate and got signed with United Talent and have been with them for three or four years. My last job, Delivery Man, with Vince Vaughn, was 18 months ago and I haven't done anything since, but I'm still trying. I tape auditions here and send them over to the States twice a week. I have to give myself the best chance to shine, because there are so many people doing it there that you can't just be good, you have to dazzle. I adore America.

The producers on The Good Wife came to welcome me on the set when I arrived and thanked me for coming over. The attitude is amazing over there, and they're all so welcoming. The truth was that I would have given them a kidney for the part. TV presenter Jennifer Maguire's brother Cathal has been in New York for 30 years and he's a great mate. When I did Delivery Man, I stayed with him for six weeks. I would love to live there and so would Lisa, as she loves New York, which is where we got engaged.

You have to be versatile, because you can't survive as a freelance actor in Ireland, and I have three kids to feed and a mortgage. You have to do voice-overs, directing, theatre, TV, etc, to survive. I set up two production companies last year, and they're new businesses so it's all very slow at the minute, but we have a few pitches in with TV channels for documentaries and it looks like one is getting the green light.

I like to think I bring something into a room when I come into it. I'm a people person, and think humour is a charming quality to have. I love making people laugh, whether on stage or dressing up and acting the gobshite with the kids at home. There is no better feeling than my seven-year-old son wetting himself laughing when I have a funny hat on.

I have no patience and it's a dreadful trait. My worst trait used to be smoking, but it has been 15 months now since I last had a cigarette. I was asthmatic, and my dad died of a heart attack so I wanted to give it up for the boys' sake. I was 19 when I started smoking and I'm 44 now, and I've noticed the wheeze is gone and I don't cough any more.

Like the majority of people, I would like to be a lot fitter and more health-conscious than I am. I use the excuse that I don't have the time but it's bull. I love crisps and chocolate at night while watching bad American television, but I try not to eat as much crap these days. Lisa and I eat very well, and I try to exercise and play a bit of golf.

'Saturday AM' begins on TV3 on August 29, from 9am-12pm. Interview by Andrea Smith

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