Why Does Domhnall Gleeson Like Doing Accents in the Roles He Plays?

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Actor Domnhall Gleeson

“Doing an accent is an amazing way to study text… you need to drill those lines into your head so hard it makes you think about what the words mean, and it also puts you in a certain headspace—it changes you.” – Domhnall Gleeson

Actor Domhnall Gleeson has appeared in both critically-acclaimed films like The Revenant and Brooklyn as well as mega-franchises like Harry Potter and Star Wars. He has received the most acclaim for his performances on stage, having received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Martin McDonagh‘s The Lieutenant of Inishmore. In a lengthy interview with Men’s Health, Gleeson spoke about why he has difficulty performing in his own voice as well as what recognition for his work means to him as an actor.

Though Gleeson is Irish, he confesses that he actually finds speaking in his own Irish accent challenging. He explains, “The Irish accent, yeah I find it tricky, actually, in a funny sort of a way. I didn’t always love doing my own accent. Because doing an accent is an amazing way to study text, like if you’re doing an accent, you need to drill those lines into your head so hard it makes you think about what the words mean, and it also puts you in a certain headspace—it changes you.”

Early in his career, Gleeson developed an association with playwright/director Martin McDonagh. On that relationship, Gleeson says it dates back to even admiring his plays. He says, “I owe everything to Martin. If I hadn’t read his work, I don’t think I would be an actor.” Later, the recognition for his own performance in McDonagh’s play in The Lieutenant of Inishmore inspired Gleeson to continue acting. He says, “The first time somebody recognizes you from work, or the first time somebody comes up to you after a play and says, ‘Oh, you’re the guy from that play, well done,’ it’s totally thrilling, totally thrilling, and there’s no point pretending otherwise.”

As an example of how that recognition felt to him, Gleeson recalls when someone who had seen The Lieutenant of Inishmore when it was produced in New York recognized him in a bagel shop. Gleeson recalls, “That made my life at the time. I was like, ‘Holy God, I did something and it mattered to somebody. That’s really cool. Like, that’s really cool.’ And then I went home and was unemployed for quite a while.”

More: Domhnall Gleeson on Acting: “I think the key is not to be comfortable”

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