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good craic Actor James Martin speaks of new comedy An Irish Goodbye ahead of premiere

The comedy, launched next month in Leeds, will be in contention for Bafta, Ifta and Oscar nominations


James Martin in An Irish Goodbye

James Martin in An Irish Goodbye

James Martin in An Irish Goodbye

James Martin could be saying hello to another award with his latest film, An Irish Goodbye.

The Belfast actor takes centre stage in the comedy about a farmer with Down syndrome whose brother wants to sell the family land after the sudden death of their mum.

When the local priest discovers their mother’s bucket list, the brothers agree to put off the move until they’ve fulfilled her final wishes.

The short comedy, written and directed by local actors Ross White and Tom Berkeley, is being launched next month at the Leeds Film Festival, which puts it in contention for Bafta, Ifta and Oscar nominations.


James Martin (L) in An Irish Goodbye

James Martin (L) in An Irish Goodbye

James Martin (L) in An Irish Goodbye

James has already scooped film gongs for his first movie Ups and Downs, including a Best Actor award from the New York City TV Festival, and the 29-year-old is keeping his cool about the awards buzz around An Irish Goodbye.

“When I did Ups and Downs it was great to have the awards, and I know the Oscars are big,” he says.

“When it comes to any festival if they love the way you act it doesn’t really matter what way it turns out. With any show you might as well do the best you can.

“But the writers will be very happy if this goes further, and it leads up to the Oscars.”

James, who won praise for his role in the third season of Marcella earlier this year, stars with Give My Head Peace legend Paddy Jenkins and Game of Thrones actor Seamus O’Hara in the new movie.


James Martin with Anna Friel in Marcella

James Martin with Anna Friel in Marcella

James Martin with Anna Friel in Marcella

He almost got a role alongside Seamus in The Northman after producers approached him about the Nicole Kidman film, but the plan was shelved when Covid halted production on the Viking epic.

“I wasn’t disappointed. It would have been nice to meet Nicole and to meet Seamus O’Hara for the first time, and it would have been great to work on the north coast,” says James.

“But it’s just one of those things.”

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He loved the script for An Irish Goodbye — to leave a party without saying you’re going — as soon as he read it and says the craic continued on set.

“I couldn’t believe how hilarious the script was. I like the comedy roles. It’s one of those parts where you just have to say I can make my character so funny.

“And it was hilarious off camera. You’d be waiting to see who started the laughter first. I would try and hold it back until Paddy started laughing and then Seamus started. The craic was just good.”

James, who also works in Starbucks and Scalini, hopes his film and TV career, which has helped him forge friendships with Marcella’s Anna Friel and Susan Lynch in Ups and Downs, will encourage other young actors.

“I’d like to open doors not just for people with Down syndrome but autism, physical disabilities, hearing impairment.

“I’d say go to a local drama group to see if you like it or not. Go and do what you can, and you will be a star in no time.

“If you can drink coffee and eat chocolate cake, of course you can act.”

Writer and director Ross White says he and pal Tom had been working up the idea for An Irish Goodbye for a few years, and when they saw James on TV they had to sign him up for the Floodlight Pictures project.

The pair, who met at the Guildford School of Acting, made their first short film, Roy, last year with Harry Potter and After Life star David Bradley, a part they’d written with him in mind.

“He is a gem of an actor. He read the script and liked it and trusted us as two first-time filmmakers. It makes sense that he’s a Bafta winner. We’ve been blessed to work with some great actors.

“We didn’t go to film school so having these two films has been a crash course in film school in the real world.”

The 26-year-old got Game of Thrones star Michelle Fairley to voice the mother’s part in the new movie and snapped up Paddy Jenkins after seeing him step outside his usual comedy roles for a darker part in televised play Sadie.

“He has that sweet spot between darkness and comedy,” says Ross.

“Seamus O’Hara has been working non-stop, and give it a couple of years and he will be one of the biggest actors here.

“And when we saw James everything clicked, and we knew we had to get this guy involved.

“We spent a lot of time trying to get the three boys to behave, and they brought a great energy to the set.

“James was best mates with every crew member. On one location he had filmed there before and when we went looking for him, he was having tea with the woman who owned the house.”

The movie has been supported by NI Screen, the British Film Institute and independent backers Goldfinch as well as a crowdfunding scheme.

The writer and director says they’re excited about the prospect of awards, but they’re also playing it cool as the film goes on the festival circuit.

Northern Ireland short films have a good track record at the Oscars with nominations for Dance Lexie Dance in 1998, The Crush in 2011, Boogaloo and Graham and SLR in 2015, and a win for Terry George’s The Shore in 2012. Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical movie Belfast is hotly tipped for Academy glory in 2022.

“There is a long tradition of films from Northern Ireland and Ireland doing fantastically well, but that’s a long way off,” says Ross.

“People are saying lovely things about our film. The feedback from NI Screen is really positive, and we’re really excited, but we’re keeping our feet on the ground,” he says.


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