INTERVIEW: Mark O’Brien of ‘Republic of Doyle’
It’s hard to not enjoy an interview when you get to nerd out over both The Maltese Falcon and The Mighty Ducks with the person you’re interviewing. This time around I got to chat with actor, writer, and director Mark O’Brien who will be appearing in the sixth and final season of Republic of Doyle and the short film Dennis. In this interview Mark talks about what inspired him to become an actor, what it’s like going from acting to directing, what his dream role is, and what superpower he would choose. For the record, he was a lot of fun to chat with and has pretty much earned my eternal loyalty because he ended our phone interview with, “Go, Ducks, Go!” You read that right, my friends.
Check out the interview to learn more about this hilarious and multi-talented guy!
What inspired you to become an actor?
I have always loved movies so much, particularly when I was twelve or thirteen and I was able to recognize a good performance. I didn’t just see it as entertainment, I could finally see the craft behind it. To tell you the truth it was Edward Norton in Primal Fear which he was so good in that it was the first time that I noticed in a performance in a movie. I watched what he was doing and thought, “Oh my god, that is so cool.” I think it was somewhere around there that I started making films with my buddies and started to appreciate it a bit more and it just went from there.
I agree with you, Primal Fear and Edward Norton’s performance in it is amazing.
Oh my god, yes. It literally changed my life. Fight Club and a lot of his stuff had a big effect on me.
Republic of Doyle is coming to its sixth and final season. What is it like to have the show come to its finale and to be a part of it?
It’s sad, but at the same time there is a really nice closure to it. Most shows don’t have the opportunity to know that they are going to be ending, so the fact that we know that this is the last season means we can take it for what it is worth and really appreciate the last hurrah. It’s been so great, but at the same time it feels right. It’s a weird mixture of sadness and excitement to do what’s next and plan for the next thing. I directed this season I really hope to do more of that, and it brought a lot of opportunities and I think the producers decided to air it at just the right time.
As you just said you’re also directing an episode this season, so what is it like to go from in front of the camera to behind the camera?
I think it’s really great. I’m a big believer in directors who have acted before and actors who have directed before because I think the two are so intertwined. You kind of have to see where the other person is coming from. When you are an actor and you see what another actor is doing you understand how they are doing it or why they are doing it and what obstacles they are and are not facing. Of course every actor is different, but it creates an understanding. When I’m directing now I totally just get it. I get what the actor is trying to do and if it’s going to work or not work. As soon as I start preparing to direct I kind of have in mind a certain way I want it to be and I also understand what’s reasonable and stuff like that. As an actor you also can see a different way one could do something because you think, “I could try it this way or another way.” Luckily I have been acting for so long that I have all of that at my disposal. When I go back to acting from directing, I understand what’s going on completely. I can see what the director is trying to do because I can now put myself in their shoes. I think it’s a great thing and I always want to do it and I really like acting for myself as the director because you’re seeing it in a whole new light. It’s really liberating creatively.
Do you hope to do more directing in the future?
Yeah, I’m directing a short film at the end of the season. I’m going right to Toronto to direct the short film. I have a number of things in development. The great thing about directing, producing, and writing is that it allows you even more creativity and that’s what I really like because I love acting, but I like to delve into other aspects too.
Speaking of short films, tell me about your role in the short film Dennis.
Dennis was a short film I produced and starred in. We raised the money to make it ourselves. The writer and director Nicole Dorsey is a really great talent. It’s basically about this guy who is based very loosely on a number of disappearances of women in Newfoundland where I am originally from. I play this guy who is going into this deepening kind of psychosis or madness. It was a really big challenge because we had talked about it for so long and when you’re playing a part like that I think it has to be so subtle because you don’t want to play the obvious creep. People aren’t just like that, you know what I mean? I think when you meet someone who is creepy what is weird about them is something you cannot put your finger on. As opposed to just being like, “HELLOOOO, HOW ARE YOUU HE HE HEEEEEE.” No one acts like the way they picture a creep (laughs). The reason why we find them creepy is because they are unpredictable. It’s like, why are they acting so weird? Weird is not defined. The reason why weird is weird is because we can’t locate it. Like, why are they like that? There is a reason as to why someone is like that. Not to defend people who commit violent acts or anything like that, but there is a reason why at some point at the end of the day. There’s never just one and for me it was a really interesting part because I had to find a way of deciding why someone would go in that direction. It was a great challenge.
Wow. Just wow. I read that it will be playing at film festivals?
Yeah, we really took our time with it. Our goal is to make a feature out of it in the end. We selectively chose some film festivals and then we’re going to move from there. We’ve been talking to some producers about a feature which we have a treatment for. It’s something that I feel really close to. I think it’s probably something very different from the character I play on Republic of Doyle and the characters I have played. We’re going to take our time and make sure we make the right decisions along the way.
How exciting, good luck with that. For my next question, and this can apply to acting, writing and directing, what is your dream role?
Oh, wow. Hmm. I really like what Woody Allen did with his career, you know the fact that he was able to act in his own movies and he got to make a movie a year. I think he’s done that since… 1969 or something. That’s incredible to be able to do that. He doesn’t have a tight budget, like some bring in money and some don’t, some get Oscars and some don’t, but the fact that he has been able to have that freedom is amazing. Also, what George Clooney has managed to do. It took some time, but he got to a point where he could make his own films. He could be in his own films, in other people’s films, and write his own films. I think for me it’s having choice. It’s a great thing to not audition (laughs). It’s a tough thing, I mean even if the audition goes well it’s tough mentally and physically and emotionally. It’s the same thing with writing because there’s a vulnerability with showing someone your script or a film you made. To have the option of, “I’m going to do this one or that one, “ or, “I’m going to write this instead of that,” and know that you can actually do it and have it made and get it done is my ultimate goal.
Is there a fictional character you have always wanted to play or write about?
Oh, wow. That’s interesting. I have always wanted to make a film based on the short story Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett, like a film noir kind of thing. That’s the only thing that really came to mind because I think at some point every guy would love to play a Humphrey Bogart type. You know what? I would actually love to play a hardboiled detective who can’t sleep and has a checkered past (laughs). That would be so much fun.
I love those characters! They’re so much fun!
Yeah! They’re so fun right now and I would love to do something like that. That would be cool. I’d love to do a film noir kind of vibe with characters like Sam Spade.
I was about to say like The Maltese Falcon, yeah?
I just re-watched that the other day, yeah! It’s so much fun because it’s a classic kind of archetype and I would love to do something like that.
I read the book and saw the movie and they are just perfect.
Yeah, and like The Big Sleep, movies like that. A lot of those movies are so great and so fun. You don’t see a lot of them anymore, I mean True Detective is sort of doing a thing like that, but I love that film noir kind of world. It’s a bit of a stretch for me because I’m not a grizzled looking kind of guy, but at the same time I think I would love to do that some day.
Bring back the film noir genre!
Exactly, that’s what I’m saying.
This kind of ties into my next question, what are the things you geek out for?
Oh my god, well movies. Movies movies movies movies movies. I watch like ten movies a week probably. Even when I’m working sixty hours a week I still manage to get at least ten movies in there. I have finally converted to television because there are so many good shows out there. My major thing is geeking out on movies. It’s ridiculous. I collect them too, so that’s kind of nerdy I guess. I never download anything, so I buy all my movies. My collection is ridiculously geeky, like it’s really big. It takes up a whole wall in our place. The other day my wife said, “You cannot buy anymore movies.” I asked why not and she said, “Not for the next while because you told me last week that you have sixty movies you haven’t even watched yet that you bought.” I thought yeah, that is pretty bad (laughs). I also geek out on hockey. I know the stats on like every player. When I get into something I get super into it. I’d say I live on hockey and movies.
Which hockey team do you root for?
Oh, the Montreal Canadians all the way! I just moved to Los Angeles though so I have become a little bit of a Kings fan.
Yeah, I’m in Orange County so for me it’s the Ducks.
Oh, I like the Ducks.
There was the movie The Mighty Ducks and the animated television show, so regardless to the team itself I already feel obligated to love them.
I know The Mighty Ducks movie embarrassingly well. Goldberg and Adam Banks!
Nice! So which superpower would you pick if you could pick one?
You know what, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. It’s a good question because it says a lot about a person. Hmmm… Holy crap. Well, what would you pick?
I picked super strength. Other people have said invisibility, invincibility, the ability to fly-
Oh, I got it! So thanks, you inspired me. Okay, so you know how in every superhero movie there’s that moment when the main character says, “I didn’t ask for these powers.” Well I would never want most powers. Flying would scare me, being invisible would just freak me out that no one could see me, being invincible would be weird because I’d never die but everyone else would and that would just make me sad, and reading people’s thoughts would make me go crazy! I would just lose it after a while. I realize that being able to teleport without flying would be my power. I spend a lot of time in airplanes, so it would be great if I didn’t have to fly to travel anywhere. If I was like, “I want to be in Rome,” and I could just be there like that would be great. Teleportation one hundred percent. I’m actually surprised more people don’t say teleportation. It’s the best! Everything is taken care of.
You don’t have to worry about going through security or checking your bags.
Or even if you just want to go to the washroom. Boom, you’re in the bathroom. It’s so easy.
Awesome, well done. So what other projects of yours can we look forward to?
The next season of Republic of Doyle is coming out this October in Canada, and then I have a movie called The Dark Stranger which I filmed a couple of months ago which is kind of like a suspense thriller. It has Enrico Colantoni from Flash Point. I have another film called The End of Days at Godfrey Global Inventory which is coming out this year, and I have another movie called Len and Company this year. I also did an episode of a show called Saving Hope. I’m working a lot this year, but mostly I’m looking forward to future projects. I have a feature in development right now that I’m working on that’s kind of a mix between The Game, Michael Clayton, and Three Days at the Condor. I’m always writing, so I have a lot of projects I’m hoping to make.
For my last question, what is your favorite comic book movie and why?
You know I’ve seen all of them and I don’t like saying the obvious choice, but I really think The Dark Knight is such a good movie. It’s rare that you go to a movie like that. I love the Burton movies too, like Batman and Batman Returns. They’re great too, but there’s just something about The Dark Knight that is so thrilling the whole way through. Batman Begins is great because it starts everything off and it’s so cool to see him building Batman and the first real comic book movie in a serious situation that feels like it could really happen. I have to say The Dark Knight, I don’t care if it is a popular choice.