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Risteárd Cooper

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

An Crisis' is a 6 part TV series for TG4, the second episode of which airs tonight, Wednesday at 10:30pm.

Risteárd Cooper

"Risteárd Cooper is one third of the hugely popular Apres Match, which first appeared on RTE TV in 1996 and since then has appeared in sell-out live shows in Vicar Street, the Gaiety Theatre and at festivals and venues across Ireland, as well as on best-selling video/dvd.

He graduated from the acting programme at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College and lived in New York for several years where he worked at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Irish Rep. and Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre company, playing Mickey in the American premiere of Jez Butterworth's award winning play, Mojo.

Lead roles in major shows in Ireland include Auntie and Me with Anna Manahan at the Gaiety Theatre, the original production of I Keano at the Olympia, Pyper in Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme at the Abbey Theatre and numerous productions at the Gate Theatre; Lord Goring in An Ideal Husband, Pierre in See You Next Tuesday, Jerry in Betrayal (Pinter Festival), Freddie in The Deep Blue Sea.

Film and television credits include The State Of Us, (which he co-wrote with Gerry Stembridge) Batman Begins, The Closer You Get and the role of Marty the all-action detective in Glenroe. In 2005 he appeared as a variety of characters in Hector and Risteárd Chasing the Lions for Peer Pressure/TV3 and on the best-selling DVD.

Risteárd recently played the leading role of Michael in Bittersweet directed by Declan Eames for Element Films/RTE, for which he received a Best Actor nomination at the 2009 Monte Carlo Film and Television Festival. He has just completed filming Anseo a 6-part Irish language comedy series for TG4.

He recently spent several weeks in South Africa looking for mischief with Hector O hEochagain on, their website dedicated to the fortunes of the British and Irish Lions rugby tour in South Africa, about which he also wrote for The Irish Times.

Most recently Risteard appeared as Dmitri in the acclaimed production of Brian Friel's The Yalta Game directed by Patrick Mason for the Sydney Festival 2009, the Edinburgh Festival 2009 and the Gate Theatre, Dublin. "


Risteárd is here to talk about the new, six part comedy series for TG4, in which he plays Setanta De Paor, guardian of the Irish Language in a rather doomed organization.

Risteárd- where did your love of acting come from?

Risteárd feels that acting is something he fell into, coming from a background of musical performance. The youngest of four children, they all played something or sang and all had to perform part pieces at family occasions. The 1st thing he ever did on stage was a children's opera in the RDS when he was 4. He maintains his acting apprenticeship was done in the home.

You're possibly best known for your part of the Apres Match trio- have you always been into comic acting?

Risteárd has always been a bit of a messer. Again, it's something that was in his genes. His mum had a really quick wit and was well able to cut him down to size and his dad was always doing funny walks and making people laugh. Risteárd always loved to take off people's accents and this has always stuck with him.

Have you ever met the people you were mimicking and what did they make of it all?

Risteárd says that on an island as small as Ireland, you're always bound to bump into people you've taken off. He has had a few uncomfortable encounters where people he has taken mimicked were offended (he won't name names..), although as most of the footballers he mimics live in England, they tend not to be a problem. Liam Brady, Eamonn Dunphy and Bill O'Herlihy etc are well able for him however and always take his antics well.

Do you prefer acting for stage or screen?

Risteárd says he really doesn't have a preference, although he does enjoy that sense of immediate gratification you get on stage. He can't decide whether comedy or drama is more difficult on stage as with comedy, the reaction is immediate, with drama you have to get right to the end of the play before you know how the audience feels about your work.

Risteárd has had a few lead balloons in his day but thankfully he has been able to think on his feet and come up with something to quell the embarrassment!
He once forgot his lines in an Oscar Wilde play only to make something up and have the audience in stitches - to this day he has no idea what he said, only that it thankfully worked!

I understand you were based in New York for a while - are you ever tempted to go back?

Risteárd would be really tempted to go back as he loved NYC but he says you would want to have something specific to go back to and not just arrive in the hope of work.

He loves the city and feels that New York is a place where performance artists are really supported and that the attitude of New Yorkers to acting or any kind of performance is very straight - there's no rubbish - you can either do it or you can't.

Where did your love for rugby/sport in general stem from?

When he was younger, Risteárd played lots of soccer and rugby, at both schools and club level. He was always very fond of sports and this came through later in his acting/comedic career with Apres Match etc.

Tell us about your antics in South Africa with Hector filming 'Chasing the Lions' and again filming 'Chasing the Blues'.

Hector was someone Risteárd had wanted to work with so when the opportunity arose, he jumped at it. He remembers All Black's Tana Umaga's infamous tackle on Brian O'Driscoll and when filming for "Chasing the Lions", they decided to do up some funny t-shirts.

With Tana's face on shirts saying "WANTED for the assassination of Brian O'Driscoll", Hector and Risteárd sold quite a few outside stadia etc. When they returned to the hotel wearing their t-shirts, they got into a lift and as they stood waiting for the doors to close, four monstrous All Blacks got in with them. They weren't long zipping up their hoodies!

And you were recently nominated for Best Actor in Monte Carlo, what was that like?

This is Risteárd's second nomination in Monte Carlo, first for 'Bittersweet' last year and now for TG4's "An Crisis". Whilst he loved the glamour of it all and was amazed at the size of the event, he says he's not going to get carried away with himself just yet. He's not really sure about awards ceremonies though - as in why you would be nominated for some roles and not others- he's grateful though!

And you're taking to the Concert Hall stage with the 'River Tenors', tell us how this came about?

This all sort of emerged as part of the Apres Match live act and developed into a whole show, according to Risteárd. It's a pun on Riverdance and the Three tenors. Risteárd can never understand the fascination with having to have three tenors

So tell us about 'An Crisis', is it like an Irish version of 'The Office'?

Risteárd says he's always nervous about comparing it with anything, particularly something as good as 'The Office' although 'An Crisis' is set in an office. It's an original comedy series, where he plays an incompetent director of an organisation in difficulty. "The characters are all really dysfunctional with a bad manager trying to get them all to work together, it's pretty funny. I suppose it's a satire on the state of the country"

Risteárd reckons a lot of people will be able to identify with one character or other as many people are desperately trying to cling on to their jobs.

What was it like acting 'as Gaeilge' for a change?:-

"I grew up in Ballsbridge and went to Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh which is where I now live. My Mam taught Music and Irish for many years at Loretto Crumlin and my Dad was educated through Irish by the Christian Brothers in Waterford. His Irish is still impeccable which is very annoying.

This is the first acting role I've ever tackled in Irish and it was quite a challenge as the last time I performed 'as Gaeilge' was when I was 7. I went to secondary school at St Michael's College where sport took preference over the native tongue. I remember as a teenager reluctantly speaking Irish at home and my Mam telling me I'll be glad of it one day. Well here we are! Still trying anyway."

When was the series filmed?

It was filmed roughly 8 months ago in the latter half of 2009.

Any particular highlights?

Risteard maintains that the highlight of the job was being able to take on the challenge of working through Irish. He had never been cast in an Irish speaking part before and although he was nervous about it, it excited him and he felt great about it afterwards.

What's next?

Next on the agenda for Risteárd is an Apres Match tour which kicks off on April 23rd and finishes at the end of May. It's then into the World Cup with RTE- he then reckons he'll take a well deserved break.

"April will see TG4 air a new six part office-based comedy series based in a State Irish language organisation. The series chronicles the strange world of ACT (An Chomhairle Teanga), an Irish language organisation that seems to be following policies that are quite unusual.

'An Crisis' follows the downward spiral of ACT and its current director Setanta De Paor played by Risteárd Cooper (Aprés Match). Setanta is the guardian of the Irish language but is about to grapple with fate in the form of cutbacks in Government spending, media scrutiny of very questionable projects that have been previously sanctioned and a new Minister who has some scores to settle with him from their schoolboy days together. Other scandals arise from ACT's proposal for an unusual method to increase the ratio of Irish speakers, trips abroad of dubious benefit and a strange choice in film-funding.

Setanta's hit-woman is Caoimhe played by Kate Nic Chonaonaigh (The Clinic). While nobody is quite sure what Setanta actually does, there is little doubt about his colleague, Donncha Crowley's (Rásaí na Gaillimhe) Muiris. Muiris has been working on his crossword in the offices of ACT for the best part of twenty years now and he has no intention of going anywhere. Receptionist Aoife played by Michelle Beamish (Rásaí na Gaillimhe, Seacht, Eden) is in the job of her dreams.

Other cast members include Norma Sheahan (Ondine), IFTA nominee Don Wycherley (Zonad), Barry McGovern (Na Cloigne), Seán T. Ó Meallaigh (Kings) and Bríd Ní Neachtain (Cré na Cille).
The series was written by Antoine Ó Flatharta (Anseo) whilst the series' director is IFTA winner Charlie McCarthy (Pure Mule). The producer for Wildfire Films is Martha O'Neill (On Home Ground). 'An Crisis' has received funding from the Sound and Vision scheme of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

'An Crisis' shows on TG4 at 10.30pm on Wednesdays from April 7th"