“Normal People” and “Dating Amber” Fionn O’Shea is a rising Irish actor to keep an eye on

PHOTOSLola Petticrew with Instax SQ6
TALENTFionn O’Shea
WORDS: Thilda Riou
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier
SPECIAL THANKS: Instax Fujifilm UK

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

When we look at Fionn O’Shea’s wide range of performances, we can be sure that the future of Hollywood is in good hands. Starting his acting career at 11 years old, in the Oscar-nominated short film New Boy, the Irish actor has continuously been taking on roles after others, proving to the entertainment industry that he is right where he belongs. Today, the 23-year-old actor can be seen in numerous productions, such as Handsome Devil, BBC series Normal People and more recently, the coming-of-age comedy movie Dating Amber. I caught up with Fionn for a social distancing interview as he was quarantined in Ireland, and got the feeling that he is not planning on slowing down anytime soon.

“I started [acting] really young. I would always do these performances for my family in the kitchen,” Fionn starts. Originally from Dublin, his journey began when he joined his sister’s drama class and was brought to the open audition for the poignant short film New Boy. “I did a horrendously bad audition,” he laughs. “It was awful and I was painfully shy, but I ended up getting offered the part.” Working on sets for the rest of his childhood while going to school, the thought of making a career out of acting really struck him when he graduated and went to university. “I went to a business school, and then I dropped out three months in, when I got cast in The Siege of Jadotville. That was the transition from doing it semi-professionally to doing it professionally.” From then on, Fionn joined a series of great productions and worked with acting powerhouses such as Jamie Dornan, Mark Strong, and Guillaume Canet — in Netflix’s The Siege of Jadotville, and Andrew Scott, his co-star in Handsome Devil. “It’s amazing working with people like that, because you just learn so much. And with all of those people, they were everything I expected them to be and more,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a day on set where I haven’t learned something new, whether it’s about acting, stuff behind the camera or anything.” It was actually when Fionn was shooting The Siege of Jadotville in South Africa, that one of the actors recommended him to the director of Handsome Devil, a comedy-drama about two teenagers in an all-boys boarding school in Ireland. “I guess the main message of the film is about not using a borrowed voice, and being true to yourself. It’s a film that focuses very heavily on male friendship and identity.”

I’ve been really lucky to work on stories that I feel really passionately about, and characters that I care about

In April, Fionn got back on our screens in the critically acclaimed Irish drama series Normal People, portraying the role of Jamie alongside main characters Connell [Paul Mescal] and Marianne [Daisy Edgar-Jones]. Based on the novel by Sally Rooney and produced by Element Pictures, the show has been getting amazing feedback all around the world, praised for its beautiful, realistic, and heartbreaking portrayal of first love. “I had seen an article about Element and Lenny [Abrahamsson] adapting Sally’s book, and I was always a massive fan of Lenny’s and of Element. I read the book and fell in love with the story like everyone else,” the actor recalls. “I found this part in it, Jamie, and I was just really drawn to him. I remember at the time, I started recording voice notes about how I’d play that part and recording videos on my phone, before I even knew if I was gonna audition.” While Jamie is introduced as one of Marianne’s friends at Trinity College, the frantic character ends up becoming her boyfriend at some point in the story. “Jamie is an extremely anxious, insecure, and jealous person — he hides that beneath a veil of hostility and arrogance. He can be racist and classist, and can be horrendous at times,” Fionn states. “Lenny and I talked a lot about why he does the things he’s doing, because although I don’t agree with the things that he does, I had to be able to understand him. We were just treating him as a human being.” Brought to life by Fionn’s outstanding performance, Jamie quickly became one of the most hated characters on the internet. “Jamie is an antagonist, so we knew people weren’t gonna like him. But I don’t think any of us expected the level of hate that people had for Jamie online,“ he amusingly comments.

However, Fionn portrays a very different — and lovelier — role in his most recent movie Dating Amber, which was released on Amazon Prime UK back in June. Set in Ireland during the mid-’90s, the heartfelt comedy takes us on the journey of teenagers Eddie and Amber [Lola Petticrew], who fake a relationship in order to stop everyone speculating about their sexuality. “As soon as I read the script, I completely fell in love with it. It’s a film about platonic friendship, and it’s hopeful and joyous,” he shares. “It’s really important that we see queer stories framed in that light, to reflect the full experience. Although it is set in the ’90s in Ireland, I think it can absolutely apply today. Eddie is a bundle of insecurities, who’s got this artifice of masculinity that he’s cobbled together from his dad, music, TV, and magazines of the time. At the beginning of the film, Eddie has no idea who he is or what he can become. I think a message that’s important is that you have to find your tribe and find where you belong.” Although Dating Amber’s ending leaves the audience with questions about Eddy’s future, as we see him leaving his hometown, Fionn envisions his character going to London and never coming back. “Dave [Freyne] has an idea for a film that’s set 10 years later, where Amber comes over and they meet, having not met for 10 years. Lola [Petticrew] and I would love to revisit those characters.” 

In the meantime, we are happy to see more of Fionn’s talent in the upcoming movie Cherry, directed by The Russo Brothers and starring Tom Holland. “It’s a wild, coming-of-age story about a disenfranchised teenager, who joins the army and serves in Iraq. He gets PTSD and forms an opioid addiction, and starts robbing banks. The film is split into chapters and the chapter my character is part of takes place in Iraq. We were shooting in January in Morocco for a month, it was so much fun,” the actor explains, as we conclude our chat. “I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to work on stories that I feel really passionately about, and characters that I care about. If I could keep doing that, I’d be over the moon.”


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