Monday, December 10, 2012

Meet Anna Elizabeth McGrath, Actor

Anna Elizabeth McGrath graduated from university in 2010 and began acting professionally in Dublin, Ireland immediately after this. She started out in theatre but has moved into television and film. She loves working in TV and film, even more so than the theatre because every day you are doing something different, and it is always fun and exciting.

1. As a known theatre actress in Ireland, what has the process been like for you to transition into TV and movie work?

When it comes to the transition itself, it has been very easy and enjoyable. I love the theatre and always saw myself as a theatre actress, but there is so much film and TV work out there these days that I eventually fell into working in front of the camera, almost by accident. It turns out I absolutely love film and television; I love being in front of the camera; I love doing something different all the time. I now consider myself a film and television actress rather than a theatre actress. What is strange about being known as a theatre actress is that I still get people coming up to me on the street in Dublin trying to work out where they know me from. I have a million films running through my head where they might have seen me, and then they exclaim, "Oh! You were in Hamlet!" or "Oh, you’re the girl from Savage In Limbo!". It is funny because I would have always assumed that it would be the exact opposite, that people would always be recognized for their film work and never for their stage work.

2. What are the benefits of making short films for actors, writers, and directors?

There are many benefits to making short films. They are a great training ground for making features, especially for writers and directors. You have exactly the same scenario including all the problems and complications that go with it on a micro-scale. From an actor's point of view, doing shorts has its pros and cons. A major pro is that you are doing something different all the time. If you do a succession of shorts, you are always working on a different character, in a different scenario. The downside is that you don't get nearly as much time to work on your character as you would with a feature as the turnaround is usually pretty quick with short films.

3. Would you tell us about the three short films you've recently completed?

I wrapped on three short films recently. The first was called Revenge, which is a film about someone who suffers at the hands of their noisy neighbor in an apartment block. It is all about the revenge that she wreaks upon the noisy neighbor. It was screamingly hilarious to shoot, and I think it will be fabulous when it finally comes out. The second one I did was Capturing Beauty, which is a mobile phone short, shot entirely on Android and iPhone devices. It was about how we capture absolutely everything that goes on around us in the world with our mobile/cellular devices, perhaps at the expense of living our lives. The last one was called Lucky Strike although the name may change. This one is about two female friends. One is down and out and has just lost her job. The other one (me) buys her a scratch card--a winning scratch card. The film is about how the dynamic in the relationship changes and what the etiquette is when someone buys you a winning ticket. I loved doing all three; the comedies in particular are always a lot of fun to shoot.

4. What's your character like in the new full-length film, The Smoker and the Dame Who Wore Red Shoes?

I play the lead villain in The Smoker and the Dame Who Wore Red Shoes. She was described by my director as a "replicant-like, humanoid creature." She is beautiful to the point of perfection, beautiful in a very plastic way. She is not a human being; she doesn’t experience emotion in the same way you would expect a human being to experience emotion. It's there, but emotion is something to be controlled and used. She is intent on destroying the protagonist of the film, but the further along the protagonist gets to his goal, the more her ability to control her emotional center starts to fail. It was a very different part to play. I often get cast as a villain, but I've never filmed anything like this before. I've always had a very human core to my character despite all the flaws. My director told me to take her up to 110%, and if it was over the top, he would scale me back. I just let it all out: I was worried it would be over the top, but he didn't need to scale me back. I loved it; it was such a different experience playing her.

5. What are you currently working on, and what are your goals as an actor for 2013 and beyond?

At the moment I am working on a script called The Burning of Bridget Cleary about a woman from County Tipperary in Ireland who was burnt alive by her husband in 1895 as he suspected that she was a faerie changeling. That is, he suspected that the faeries had stolen his wife and left a faerie in her place. It is a true story and absolutely blood-curdling. I can't wait to shoot it. I've also just been sent a script about an oppressed woman from the 60s in Ireland, also based on a true story. It's amazing how much society can screw people up. I can't really say anything more about it yet until it gets greenlighted, but I would die to play the role. So fingers crossed!

Thanks, Anna!

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