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Kerry Condon Is Going ‘Global’ In The Banshees Spotlight

Feb 2, 2023

Kerry Condon has had a weekend. After a 4 AM flight from Savannah, Georgia, and a transfer no less, she’s about to participate in another post-screening Q&A for her new film, Martin McDonagh‘s already celebrated “The Banshees of Inisherin.” This conversation is in Los Angeles and the audience this time around is working (and voting) Screen Actor’s Guild members. But this is par the course for awards season and Condon is reveling in it. She’s dreamed of going “global” as an actor in Ireland and now, a little over two decades later after starting her career, her buzzworthy performance for “Banshees”has her on the precipice of an Oscar nomination.
READ MORE: “The Banshees of Inisherin”: Martin McDonagh has a timeline for a third Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson feature
A few sips of a Coke from the concession stand and not only is she ready to go but ready to delight the “feck” out of the audience. (Oh, and as the moderator of this particular Q&A I can attest that she utterly smashed it.)
Earlier in the week, before Condon trekked to the East Coast to promote “Banshees,” we jumped on a zoom call to discuss her role as Siobhán in the period drama. This is Condon’s second film with McDonagh after “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri,” but she has a long history with the playwright and filmmaker having starred in two of his stage productions, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan” which saw her win a Drama Desk Award. The pair have a longstanding friendship outside their professional work, but even when McDonagh says he’s writing a part for her in mind she keeps her enthusiasm somewhat in check.
“I was really excited, but I didn’t know if it was going to get made or not or if he was going to do it,” Condon says. “Because he’s written scripts in the past with me in mind and then nothing’s ever happened to them, you know what I mean? So, a little part of me was like, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ But when he finally did ‘Three Billboards’ and he kind of decided to revisit this and it sort of seemed like it was going to happen, that’s when I started to get super excited. Because I felt like his plays, I believe his Irish plays, I always thought they were the best of his work and what I loved the most about him as a writer. So, I was like, ‘Oh, this is great. It’s exactly like one of your plays, but it’s a movie.’”
Over the course of our interview, Condon discusses how McDonagh’s rehearsal process provided both her co-star Colin Farrell and herself with a necessary backstory for their characters, her “tricky” scenes with Brendan Gleeson, and, of course, tea on the film’s scene stealer, Jenny the miniature donkey.
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The Playlist: I think it sort of went without saying that people assumed Martin wrote the roles in this film with Brendan and Colin in mind. But he also told me he did the same with you. When did you find that out and what did it mean to you?
Kerry Condon: I suppose I found out a good few years ago actually because he had kind of written this script a long time before he revisited it. And what it meant to me, I mean, I was really excited, but I didn’t know if it was going to get made or not or if he was going to do it. Because he’s written scripts in the past with me in mind and then nothing’s ever happened to them, you know what I mean? So, a little part of me was like, “Oh, that’s great.’ But when he finally did “Three Billboards” and he kind of decided to revisit this and it sort of seemed like it was going to happen, that’s when I started to get super excited. Because I felt like his plays, I believe his Irish plays, I always thought they were the best of his work and what I loved the most about him as a writer. So, I was like, “Oh, this is great. It’s exactly like one of your plays, but it’s a movie.” So I knew that loads of people were finally going to get to see how great he was at the Irish characters and the Irish language and the Irish sense of humor. S,o I was just really excited for it.
So correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s directed you in his stage plays, correct?
Well, he co-directed me, so it was Wilson Milam, Anne Martin, and then Gary Hynes. So he’d be there with the other director at the same time giving notes too. So, I would say co-directing and then “Three Billboards.” But “Three Billboards” was really more of a, “Do you want to come hang out in Nashville?” kind of thing.
What do you think the difference was working with him on the stage and on the screen? Did it feel like he was focused in a different way or did it feel like just the same old hanging out with Martin, making something fun?
It was the same old hanging out, making something fun. Totally. I mean, he’s very prepared with his preparation for the shoot, so I don’t really, I don’t see a debate of what will we shoot or how will we shoot it. It’s very, that all ran very smoothly. So, I never saw any debates or dialogue over that. I only really saw him directing me and giving me notes, and so that felt very similar to theater exactly really, to be honest with you, there was really no difference in how he directed me in a play or in a movie. It was the same.
Did the cast have time to rehearse beforehand or was it you just went on set and worked it all out?
No, no. What was the best thing about it is that, so for two weeks before the movie started shooting, we rehearsed. And what was beautiful is that we rehearsed in Galway in the theater company that first commissioned Martin’s plays and put all his plays on. That same rehearsal room, that theater company we rehearsed in their building in the rehearsal room. That was where he started his career and so it was kind of a beautiful full-circle moment. They had pictures on the walls of all of Martin’s plays that they’d done and stuff. And it was like Anna Manahan was this lady who was in one of these plays and she’s gone now. It was just beautiful to see all these lovely memories and it just felt really exciting to be back in that space for Martin. And then most of the cast had done Martin’s plays at some time or another so everyone knew the rehearsal process was very similar to theater. So we discussed a lot of the backstory about how our parents died, how did Brendan and Colin’s characters become friends. All these kinds of things that we wanted to know about.
Our relationships to each other before, prior to the movie where we start in the storyline and then we put it on its feet a little bit. But we didn’t block it in a way that when we got to the set, we were kind of that was what we were going to do. There was still a freedom once we got to set, but we were very sure of our intentions and stuff. And also it was kind of handy because we were able to get an idea of, “O.K., I need to know my lines for this scene ’cause they’re,” you know what I mean? You could get an idea of where you needed to work. But then me, Colin, and Martin went to Inishmore a little bit earlier than everybody else to spend a day in the house where we were going to film all our scenes in and workshop. Just be in the house and just spend the day in the house and be with the animals for the day. And that was a load of fun too because we got to go, “Oh, this is where the bedroom is and this is where…” And I could spend time in the kitchen going, “Where’s everything in the kitchen? And does this all make sense for my character,” and blah blah, blah. And it’s very theater. You do, do all that in the theater. It makes you go “Why doesn’t every movie do this?” It’s so weird that they don’t.
I mean…
You arrive on the day and you’re like, “Oh, my character’s been living in this house for 20 years and I just got here.” It’s all, it has to happen so quickly whereas this allowed us so much time to get used to the environment.
I’ve talked to both directors and actors who say they don’t like to do rehearsal because they feel like spontaneity is lost on set. And all I can think of is, “But aren’t you still doing 20 takes? Isn’t it still the same?” I don’t understand that argument, but whatever works for people.
You don’t have to do it exactly as you’re going to do it on the day when it’s rolling. But in theater you have to do it every night for sometimes a year and a half for $400 a week, so you get pretty good at doing it.

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