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Tom Vaughan-Lawlor: ‘I fought my way up from the mean streets of Rathgar’

Seán McGinley: Being an actor

Sean McGuinley

Seán McGinley ‘Being an actor, doing it for a living certainly was nowhere on my radar… There was no conception of something like that happening’

Braveheart, The General, Gangs of New York, Donegal-born actor Seán McGinley has been there, done that and maintained an admirable level of humility despite a stellar career.  However, acting was never the plan.  He joined Dave Fanning on The Ryan Tubridy Show to talk about where it all began.

“I fell into drama accidentally.  I was in UCG doing my teaching diploma and I got involved in a one-act play…  Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen from Druid happened to be in the audience at one of the three performances.  About two days later I was walking down Shop Street in Galway…  This woman in a long green coat, blonde hair, was walking towards me and I knew who she was because I’d seen Druid stuff…  She said, are you Sean McGinley and I said yes.  Would you like to do an audition for Druid? They were doing a production of The Playboy of the Western World and being an actor, doing it for a living certainly was nowhere on my radar.  I didn’t have radar at the time.  There was no conception of something like that happening but anyway I ended up doing that play.  It was only ever going to be for one play and then we did another one and here we are forty years later and we’re married and we have two kids” 

Seán continued to land on his feet, winning role after role, and a career in teaching was put on the backburner, much to the chagrin of his father.

“When I was working in Druid for years, he would send application forms for teaching jobs with a footnote saying, I’ve had a word with the principal and you’d be in a chance here.  All that stopped because Gay Byrne came to see a show I did at the Abbey and he went on at great length about what I did in the show – the letters from my father stopped after that!  It kind of changed my life.”  

Success followed success, both at the box office and on the small screen.  Recently, Seán has been busy filming the sixth season of the smash hit The Republic of Doyle and is returning to his roots with a Druid production of King of the Castle by Eugene McCabe which opened in 1964 to much controversy.

“It is one of the greatest Irish plays of the last fifty years.  It’s up there with Murphy and Friel in terms of quality…  The rough bones of the story is that this ageing farmer who’s done very well for himself marries a woman half his age.  It turns out he’s sexually impotent but they’re living their life anyway and he’s spending money and lavishing money on her and the farm…  For various reasons, there’s a little bit of provocation, goading, from neighbours and stuff like that but he decides to get one of his hired in labourers to sire an heir…  I remember reading the play a couple of years ago and, bloody hell, this is very hardcore stuff.  Imagine this in 1964.  I can only imagine what kind of a stir it must have caused.” 

The play opens in The Town Hall Theatre in Galway on September 29th and then runs in the Gaiety as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.


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