The 39-year-old Co Down actor was speaking to The Sunday Times about his work on the upcoming BBC New Year’s Day drama The Tourist.
Talking about Belfast, Dornan also revealed he “[wears] the importance and the history of the place every day” and said he thinks “the divisions are still there today” in the city.
The actor’s father - well known obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Jim Dornan - passed away in March aged 73 after having suffered Covid-19. He had previously been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
His son – who stars in the Kenneth Branagh autobiographical film Belfast – said he was in quarantine during the time of his death.
“I still had three and a half days in that hotel. It was a mad time,” he told The Sunday Times.
“For my dad not to see Belfast really hurts,” he told the newspaper.
“I take comfort from the fact that he knows I did it. Some people go their whole lives without being told they’ve made their parents proud. My dad told me every day.”
He also revealed it was his father who allowed him to explore his creative side.
“I didn’t want to become an estate agent in Belfast and play a bit of club rugby at weekends — with the greatest respect to estate agents in Belfast,” he added.
“I just felt I had a wee bit more to offer than that... even though it is lunacy to try to be an actor. Only 4 per cent of actors are employed — who in their right mind would pursue that?”
Earlier this week, Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic love letter to Belfast received seven nominations in the 79th Golden Globe Awards.
It has also received 11 nominations in the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards, won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival and is tipped to be in with a chance for an Oscar.
The film is a poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the social and political tumult of the late 1960s and is set for general release in the Uk in January.
“I wear the importance and the history of the place every day,” said Dornan.
“Let’s be honest, the divisions are still there today, particularly in working-class communities. Sectarianism is real.
“There’s not an actual war happening any more — and that’s huge — but the problems haven’t gone away. It’s important to try to understand it.
“Belfast is an interesting way to see it, through the eyes of a boy — the beginnings of a conflict that ran on for 30 years.”
The Holywood actor will be back on television screens on New Year’s Day, starring in the upcoming comedic drama The Tourist – set in the sweeping plains of the Australian outback.
“It’s a proper trip,” the actor added.
“Different to anything I’ve done before.
“It’s both an action movie and a goofball comedy. And a thriller.
“One of my mates who I really trust said it’s the best comedy ever. I’ve been lucky enough to film both this and Belfast during lockdown and they couldn’t be more different.
“Television has the ambitions that movies used to have — The Tourist has hints of Christopher Nolan’s film Memento about it.
“You don’t want to watch dramas that make you feel any worse than we all already do, so we wanted to have some fun. And, let’s be honest, have a massive car chase with an enormous lorry because why wouldn’t you? This is entertainment.”
The Tourist is on BBC1 on New Year’s Day at 9pm and then available on the BBC iPlayer.