RT Interview: Colm Meaney on Three and Out, Life on Mars and life after Trek
The Irish actor on swapping space suit for itchy beard in his indie latest.
As a supplement to our set report from his latest film, Three and Out, RT sat down with Colm Meaney to learn more about that film and get his thoughts on the state of network television in the US.
Is that a real beard you're wearing?
Colm Meaney: No! The beard is driving me nuts. I don't know if you know the plot of the movie, but in the first couple of scenes my character is pretty down on his luck, so he's got this beard, and then he meets Mackenzie, they hatch their plan and he shaves. I don't know how you can give a whole performance in these things - it drives me nuts. If I had to do it I'd have to grow a beard.
How do you feel about prosthetics of any kind?
CM: I've never really had to do it; even though I spent a lot of time on Star Trek I was lucky and only had to do prosthetics for one episode where we were surgically altered. I really do not like having to go through all that and I find it very bizarre. I think beards and wigs are very restrictive as well; they kind-of deaden you because you use your face to perform, and it restricts you.
How have you been finding the shoot so far?
CM: It's good, we've been up in the Lake District and this is our first proper weekend in London. It's been tough, it's a tough schedule, and it's about money I guess, if you shoot a movie in 28 days producers are going to say to you, "Next time, why can't you do it in 25?" You pull off a miracle and they want you to do it again. Sometimes we've had 39 set-ups a day and that's a lot.
So in that respect it's been tough but it's a great script and a great cast. Mackenzie Crook and Imelda Staunton and Gemma Arterton. It's mostly Mackenzie and I and it seems we're making this movie on our own, getting visits from other cast members!
After seven years on network television surely you're a bit used to fast turnaround times...
CM: Yeah, we shoot up to eleven pages quite regularly in episodic television but you have a crew who are working together a lot and you don't do as many takes. You're almost pre-rigged for lighting and stuff like that so you can actually move much quicker. We're doing a lot of set-ups here, but we're not necessarily doing a lot of pages.
How did you been enjoy shooting in the Lake District?
CM: It was lovely, I've never been up there before that I could remember so it kind-of surprised me! It's very beautiful up there; I saw some of the dailies and it was beautiful. I've never really been to particularly exotic locations in my career but I've been to some bizarre places in my time. I don't get the three-month shoot in the Caribbean movies like Mackenzie does... The fucker!
What was it about the character that really grabbed you?
CM: The first thing was the story. Normally when I'm sent a script I'll read it through to see how it hangs as a story and then I'll go back and read it through again and look at the character. And this is just a wonderful story, and it's one you can tell in three or four sentences. It must have been a great movie to pitch because you can actually get the synopsis over very easily. And it's a total page-turner. It's laugh-out-loud, you know, I loved it.
The writing is very good and all the characters are really beautifully complex. There are no caricatures; they're all wonderfully three-dimensional. We really realised this at the table-read before we started shooting, but it's also really emotional. Very funny stuff but it's very emotional as well. The balance is there in the script and if it's not there in the script you have to rewrite it before you shoot and that's never a good thing. It literally makes you laugh and makes you cry and that's pretty rare.
They're making the new Star Trek movie right now - are you a bit disappointed you didn't get a chance to do a DS9 movie?
CM: No, absolutely not! When we were doing the show and people asked would I like to do a movie my position was always, if I do a feature I'd rather not do it a space suit! I spent seven years in a space suit and that was fine. I did the TV show, but it's funny, a lot of people who watch Star Trek know I do that, but they don't know I do movies too, and similarly people who go to the movies don't know I did Star Trek. It's like I'm these two different actors in two different careers, and that's great - I love that. I think if you start stepping into the feature world in Star Trek you become known to a wider audience as that and it becomes limiting.
We had a great time doing the show; don't get me wrong, we had a great crew and a great cast. And the writing on that show was very good. We did twenty-six episodes a year for seven years and there were maybe three or four duds in a year which wasn't bad. We got on very well. So it was a lot of fun and we all enjoyed it, but after seven years it was a perfect time to quit, walk away and do other things.