Martin Carr chats with Anthem of a Teenage Prophet and Gotham star Cameron Monaghan…
Cameron Monaghan is familiar to American audiences for his recurring role as Ian Gallagher in Shameless, while others will consider Gotham’s Jerome Valeska his most memorable . In conversation he is thoughtful, grounded and above all genuinely passionate about all gamuts of his profession. As we talked about Anthem of a Teenage Prophet and what attracted him to role, it became clear that Cameron had learned more than a thing or two from Shameless co-star William H Macy.
What do you look for in a role whether it’s for film or television?
CM: Really I look for a few things. One of the key points is diversity and something I haven’t done before. I appreciate variety in roles and I like a new challenge so I want something that’s a little bit different. With this role it was showing a level of sensitivity and vulnerability that I felt I hadn’t shown before. I also look for a certain amount of emotional character growth in a story. Where you start in one place and move to another, especially with this when it is the protagonist and leading role. He really needs to overcome huge obstacles and change a lot throughout the process. This character goes on a pretty difficult journey throughout the story. It’s ultimately a hopeful film but it starts with his best friend dying and him coming to terms with adolescence and life in general. You are tackling a bunch of big questions and he is a kid. The role pretty much immediately jumped off the page and sometimes it’s one of those things you sort of know it when you see it.
How were you first approached for Anthem?
CM: I was given the script with an offer about a year and a half before we started filming it. I had a conference with Robin our director and some of the producers and talked about the project, talked about how she saw it and and we seemed to align in most regards and I wanted to give some notes about the script, so we worked on it for the next eight months to a year. Just looking over new things talking with her writer and trying new things out. It’s based off a novel but obviously any time you adapt something for the screen there are things which are going to need to change. It was also to make sure it was tailor made to the actors we were choosing and finding a story we felt would resonate with this generation even though it takes place in the Nineties. It took about a year of that and I also wanted to learn to skateboard considering that was a vital part of what the character does. We didn’t want to use any body doubles and even though he’s not doing crazy tricks, I just wanted to feel comfortable and see how it changed my demeanour or how I held yourself. I wanted to be around other kids at skate parks and sort of experience that.
How did you approach the intense and emotional elements of the film?
CM: For this project I just felt I needed to approach it with vulnerability, transparency and honesty. So that just meant being all right with looking wounded, being comfortable with the fact that this is a very difficult time in this character’s life. His face is in close up for most of the film and the camera is always with this guy, so it’s one of those things where there is nowhere to run. So it was about choosing the right key moments to fall into it, to pull back from it. I had to rely on instinct more than anything because the character is operating from such a raw and instinctual place.
When I spoke to Robin I said it felt a lot like a documentary being both very intimate and intense. What did you think?
CM: Robin wanted it to feel very naturalistic which meant we weren’t slaves to being exactly to the syllable with the writing, we were willing to improvise or find things in the moment sometimes. A lot of the kids weren’t necessarily actors they were just local guys from around there and we just wanted it to feel like a bunch of kids just hanging around trying to figure their lives out. And the way she shot it too just shows the naturalism. Being shot in long takes, shot raw which worked well with the budget we were working with as well.
Was there any one piece of advice which you incorporated into the character of Luke?
CM: I don’t know that there was one piece of advice. I know that for me my teen or adolescent years were a little bit different from Luke, but I still felt I was dealing with a lot of those same things. I think we all work on finding ourselves, making choices and defining who we are and I know for me I was just putting a lot of my experiences into it. I know there were times when we decided to put things into the script from when we were teens, these little honest moments from when we were younger and we were able to have open conversations about things we experienced.
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