Actors discuss starring roles in coming-of-age film
For me, I think this comes from my parents just to go for everything. I think that’s why I was so busy as a child as well. I just auditioned for everything,” said actor Ferdia Walsh-Peelo on what made him audition for director John Carney’s (“Begin Again,” “Once”) coming-of-age film “Sing Street.” He added, “When an audition sounds remotely for me, I just go for it. My mum and dad pushed me, and I’m glad they pushed me to do it.”
Since the age of seven, the Irish singer, musician and actor has performed as a soprano soloist. He was coached by his mother, soprano Toni Walsh, and grew up subsequently winning numerous national vocal competitions. At the age of 12 he toured throughout Ireland in the production of Mozart’s Magic Flute with the Opera Theatre Company. By the time he was 14, he had formed his own band playing blues music. “I spent loads of time busking, playing on the streets and making a bit of pocket money with my band,” recalls Walsh-Peelo.
For Mark McKenna, who developed a love of music and acting from a young age, he landed the role of ‘Eamon,’ Conor’s soon-to-be bandmate, through the insistence of a friend convincing him to audition for “Sing Street.” McKenna’s friend, who was also trying out for the movie, gave him a lift to the audition where they waited in line for about an hour and a half to two hours, according to McKenna.
He went into the audition not thinking that he would be selected to star in the film. “It was like two minutes and then they emailed me and asked for a picture. And, then when I sent them the picture they asked me to go for the character and I just kept getting call backs from them, and eventually just got the part,” said the actor, who makes his feature film debut in the drama.
Shot in Dublin, Ireland and inspired by Carney’s life and love of music, “Sing Street” tells the story of 14 year-old Conor in 1980s Dublin who’s looking for a way to break free of his strained family life, while trying to adjust to a new and tough inner-city public school. Every day is a new day of torture for him until one day when Conor spies Raphina (Lucy Boynton) across from his school. He boldly approaches her, and in trying to impress the aspiring model, he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. The only problem is that he’s not part of a band — at least not yet.
Since starring in “Sing Street,” both Walsh-Peelo and McKenna’s lives have changed somewhat. Their faces have become more recognizable back home, and even a few of McKenna’s friends have been teasing him a bit about becoming famous. Of his newfound notoriety, McKenna states that “the main thing that I’ve found that has changed is walking around Dublin somewhere, anywhere. I see people staring at me and I’m like ‘do I look weird?’”
But for now, both actors are working on maintaining a sense of normalcy which includes continuing with both acting and music. As to what’s next for the both of them, Walsh-Peelo said that “we’re taking it slow and we’re both in a really great place. We’ve just done this awesome film and we’re both been really adapted. Acting is something we’re both going to do. We both love it.”