How These 6 Irish Actors Conquered the World

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Photo Source: BBC/Focus Features/BBC/Stanley Morgan/BBC/Break Out Pictures

What do Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan have in common? They are all Hollywood royalty and they all hail from Ireland. Time and time again we watch Irish talent dazzle in a variety of diverse roles on our screens in Britain, America, and around the world. So, who are the next generation of Irish superstars currently making big waves in the industry and what is the secret to their success? Could it be the famous “luck of the Irish” or is there something else which links these rising stars from the Emerald Isles together? Let’s find out and delve into the performances shooting these Irish artists to global success.

Chris Walley
Chris Walley was still studying at RADA when Young Offenders was released, an independent film shot and set in his home town of Cork. The feature soon became the fastest Irish film to break the €1 million mark at the Irish box office and Walley received multiple accolades for his depiction of the juvenile delinquent Jock O’Keeffe.

The film, written and directed by Peter Foott, was so popular the BBC commissioned the concept for a TV show, offering Walley the opportunity to develop the role of the lovable rogue over three series. Following the success of Young Offenders, Chris Walley earned a place on the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit programme – a scheme which showcases the next generation of “most exciting new talent” in the UK and beyond. And in 2018, he performed as Davey in Martin McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, produced by Michael Grandage in the West End. The production led to Walley swooping up the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. An Olivier at 24 ­– imagine that.

We all could do with a laugh during these cold winter months, so do yourself a favour and watch Young Offenders now. It’s bizarre, surreal, and full of mindless teenage antics, petty crime, and cringe-worthy hilarity.

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Jessie Buckley
You may remember her from the BBC TV talent show I’d Do Anything – the nationwide search led by Andrew Lloyd Webber to find a new Nancy for the West End performance of Oliver. If not, it hardly matters now, anyway: Jessie Buckley (another RADA graduate) is utterly unstoppable. A master of accents, skills, and instruments, she was nominated for a Best Actress in a Leading Role BAFTA for her tear-jerking performance in British feature film Wild Rose, directed by Tom Harper. She played Glaswegian singer Rose-Lynn, who is hell-bent on a career in American country music despite being recently released from prison with two young children to care for. As well as creating such a multi-dimensional character, she also sang a whopping 17 songs for the film’s official soundtrack. And she keeps on ascending, as we saw in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a physiological televised thriller which was released during the height of the national lockdown, leaving audiences in a frenzy. It is no wonder the British Film Institute (BFI) announced: “Jessie Buckley was born to be a star.”

Paul Mescal
Writing about the next generation of stars hailing from Ireland without mentioning the colossal success of Normal People would be remiss. Based on the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney, the mini-series was a stunning showcase for fresh, upcoming Irish talent, most notably the co-lead Paul Mescal.

After graduating from The Lir at Trinity College, Dublin, Mescal trod the boards at Dublin’s Gate Theatre, taking on the notorious Great Gatsby himself. He also performed in a run of The Plough and The Stars at London’s Lyric. Mescal had limited screen credits aside from a short film but his captivating work in Normal People, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, was the ultimate game-changer.

He sensitively portrayed a devoted yet vulnerable student, Connell, who falls for his childhood sweetheart, the co-dependent, complicated Marianne. Mescal’s chemistry with on-screen lover Daisy Edgar-Jones captured hearts and imaginations across the globe. His stellar performance even earned him an Emmy Award nomination. Now 24 and with the world at his feet, he has just finished shooting Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, due for release in 2021, which is sure to be a big year for Mescal.

Ruth Negga
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Limerick, Ruth Negga studied at Trinity College, Dublin before landing a role in Ireland’s hit show Love/Hate, and later as Nikki in the loveable cult sitcom Misfits. Since then, her platform has expanded rapidly and she is currently ranked as one of Ireland’s top ten greatest actors of all time by The Irish Times, which credited her breakthrough role as her “stirring” performance in the Hollywood feature Loving.

Directed by Jeff Nichols, the film followed the true legal battle of Loving v. Virginia at the US Supreme Court in 1967. Negga plays Mildred, the wife of a white construction worker in Virginia. Their union was considered unlawful and they were expelled from their hometown for 25 years for engaging in an illegal interracial marriage. The case changed history forever and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in America. Negga’s performance as the trailblazing mother of three is deeply moving, human, and memorable.

For her work in Loving, Negga was nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar. She is now undeniably a global phenomenon, playing across Dominic Cooper in AMC’s hit show Preacher and as a series regular in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ruth Negga is here to stay.

Sarah Greene
Sarah Greene’s star turn can be attributed to her portrayal of the hot-headed Helen McCormick in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan directed by Michael Grandage. The show was a huge success in the West End and on Broadway, and her terrific, fiery performance earned her a nomination for a Tony and an Olivier award. The triumph of the run led to a meteoric on-screen rise for the Cork actor. Greene, who trained at Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting, went on to book various TV shows as a series regular and also won Best Supporting Actress at the 2015 Irish Film and Television Awards for her part in the feature Noble. Most recently we saw her as Paul Mescal’s on-screen mother in Normal People but she can also be spotted as the double-dealing May in RTE’s Rebellion, or as Hecate Poole in the star-studded British-American horror drama Penny Dreadful, or as Detective Cassie Maddox, the joint lead in the new crime series Dublin Murders. Next, she stars in the upcoming Irish comedy Frank of Ireland alongside brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson.

Dónall Ó Héalai
Rising star Dónall Ó Héalai was spotted for his work in a powerful, independent Irish-language feature, Arracht, directed by Tomás

Ó Súilleabháin, about a fisherman from rural Connemara on the run for a crime he did not commit in the wake of the Great Famine. Ó Héalai’s lead performance is full of anguish, depth, and strength as we follow his plummet from doting father and dedicated husband to troubled, starving destitute. Since the film’s success, Ó Héalai has been named one of Screen Daily’s Stars of Tomorrow. The Galway actor trained at Dublin’s prestigious film and television academy Bow Street before going on to book multiple screen roles in Ireland, many of which were performed in Irish. The Irish Film & Television Awards have selected Arracht as Ireland’s entry for the 2021 Oscars Best International Feature Film category, and you can catch it now on the online festival circuit.

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