Irish Daily Mail 8 Nov 2014
Like an excitable child entrusted with a secret for far too long, Eoin Macken can barely contain himself when I meet him for a drink in a Dublin bar. ‘Wait until you see this,’ he gushes, pulling his phone out of his pocket and swishing through photos until he comes to one of him dressed up in biblical garb, next to Kelsey Grammer – yes, Frasier. ‘It’s just ridiculous. I mean that’s FRASIER for God’s sake – it’s crazy,’ he whistles.
Indeed, crazy is one way of describing Howth-born Eoin Macken’s trajectory of late. Oh, and very, very busy. Eoin is based in Los Angeles, Venice Beach, in fact, and despite being dressed down in a ten-year-old fake leather jacket, worn jeans and a baseball cap, he oozes health, and dare I say it, Hollywood.
He seems affronted at this. ‘Maybe it’s the hat – I drink more in LA, ye know. I drink about five days a week there as they make really nice tequila. Have you ever had mezcal, a type of tequila? It’s not shot tequila – you drink it with ice and lime. You’ll probably find it one of these new bars with all the pretentious s***e. I go for pure spirits and none of this mixing with Coke or juice.
Look at the Russians drinking pure spirit and they all live to 100 and in the Caribbean it’s straight rum and they’re a healthy bunch. ‘You see in LA people go hard but when they get up it’s so warm and you can just get in your shorts and go for a run or go off and do some yoga – it’s not cold like it is here. I eat well, drink a lot of water and if I have a hangover I go for a run.’
So is he the next Irish hellraiser in Hollywood? ‘No I’m not – I’m too nice for that. I’m too socially aware. I’d love to do that stuff but I’d feel too guilty.’
To those following Eoin’s career – his latest incarnation is America’s new Dr McDreamy, the hunky Dr TC Callahan in hit NBC show The Night Shift – the 31-year-old is now a bona fide Hollywood star. But he has clearly been doing a lot of living in between shoots. And not just in the bar, either. When I got in touch with Eoin a few months back, he was keen to talk about his recent trip to Mozambique, where he made a documentary about blindness, as an ambassador for Sightsavers.
He also mentioned – in rather blasé fashion – that he would be home in Dublin soon for the launch of his debut novel Kingdom Of Scars. By late-September, the invites had gone out, the wine and canapés were ordered and friends and fans alike were delirious at the prospect of getting their mitts on Kingdom Of Scars – and maybe even the man himself – at the book launch party at Easons in Dublin city centre on October 2. But just the day before, Eoin contacted guests to say he wouldn’t be able to make his own launch, citing ‘unforeseen circumstances’. As it turns out, those circumstances involved him jetting out to film in Morocco with none other than Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, John Rhys Davies and a host of stars cast in the ‘telepic’ Killing Jesus, based on a book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.
Eoin plays the evil Antipas in the Ridley Scott production. ‘I’ve had to climb to get back to the point where I’m getting these great opportunities.’ ‘They offered me the job on Monday when I was flying back to Dublin and I needed to give them my answer that day,’ reveals Eoin. ‘I was only blessed I had email on the flight. I spent the whole flight emailing LA. Only when I landed in Dublin was it all sorted. Then I went straight to the publishers to get the book and cancel the launch as I was due in Morocco.’ Starring in Killing Jesus will be yet another huge leap for Eoin, who is set to continue riding his Hollywood wave as hunky doctor TC Callahan in The Night Shift, recently commissioned for a second season. It’s an impressive achievement, considering Eoin’s relatively late stardom, but a testament to his sheer doggedness.
Eoin first arrived in Hollywood when he was 22, as a psychology graduate of UCD where he’d begun acting. He’d also had a successful modelling career – he was the face of Abercrombie & Fitch in 2003. His first major role was with Brendan Gleeson in Studs in 2005, after which he flew Stateside, took acting classes and secured an agent. ‘I got cast with Colin Farrell in a movie and was screen-tested by Disney and Warner Bros. I just made up a monologue. I didn’t really know how they did things so when I was in being screen-tested in front of these studio executives I performed my monologue, a sort of mock of Disney, and ended up crying and screaming and smiling and being a bit mental and they really liked me. I felt it was really easy back then.’
But Eoin turned his back on his Hollywood dream and returned to Dublin to be with his father James Macken, a highly regarded barrister, when he became ill with cancer. He briefly considered giving up on his artistic dreams and getting a ‘proper job’ working in marketing, but he decided to study cinematography at Ballyfermot College and made his first film Dreaming For You, which set him off writing and directing films. After his father’s death in March 2007, after a two-year hiatus, Eoin tentatively got back into acting, playing drug dealer Gavin Cluxton in Fair City, while also working behind the camera on a number of hit movies – he was director of photography on Charlie Casanova and Stalker. A big break came with his casting as Gwaine in the BBC series Merlin, in which he starred for two years, in between making indie films, before being cast to play the lead in the pilot of the ER-type drama, The Night Shift.
‘I’ve had to climb to get back – I was so close, I felt I had to try again and now I’m back to where I’m getting these great opportunities. Back when I was 22 I found it so easy but now I get how hard it is. For a while it seemed those opportunities disappeared – and, yes, they are hard to come by but now I’m here I appreciate it a lot as I’ve battled.’
After his whirlwind filming trip to Morocco, Eoin returned to Dublin to launch his novel this week. The book is a coming-of-age story about a teenager called Sam, who lives in Howth, where Eoin grew up, and goes to Belvedere College, where Eoin was schooled. ‘I always wanted to be a writer or a journalist as you get to meet really interesting people and I like making stuff and meeting people and talking to people – for a while I wanted to be a photojournalist,’ says Eoin. ‘I started writing Kingdom Of Scars about three years ago, then I’d leave it a few months, then get back to it. When I had 250 pages done I sent it out to a couple of people and my friend, the writer and actor Caroline Grace Cassidy, loved it and next thing I had a publisher. People have been saying really lovely things. My mom only recently read it and she loved it and she’d usually be critical of stuff so that’s a good sign!’
The novel is a very evocative portrait of shy 15-year-old Sam, bullied at school and striving for acceptance among his friends. We witness Sam’s discovery of girls, sex, drugs and alcohol. Eoin smiles coyly on the subject of whether the novel is autobiographical. ‘I just tried to remember stuff, about how I felt being a teenager. Writing it, some of the stuff did happen but I couldn’t remember if certain things happened to me or friends of mine,’ he explains. ‘I placed it in an environment I knew really well. ‘I love books by authors like SE Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders, and I loved Stand By Me, based on The Body, a novella by Stephen King. I love these stories drawn from childhoods, based on people they knew and I don’t know many Irish stories about a group of boys, growing up in the late Nineties.’
He laughs: ‘I remember after the screening of my film Christian Blake, my aunt said to Mom, “I think you need to talk to Eoin…” They thought Christian Blake, who is a gay psychopath, was based on me. I was like, “It’s a fecking film!” People need to remember these are stories – that’s what I do, tell stories.’ Eoin also reveals his dream of making Kingdom Of Scars, this month nominated in the Best Debut category of the Irish Book Awards, as his first big feature film – he plans to begin filming around Howth next year. ‘That’s the one I want to make properly as a first proper feature so I’ll be looking into getting funding together,’ he says. ‘I know what to do with it and I know the locations already. Howth is so gorgeous.’
Between now and then, however, Eoin will be locking himself away in the editing studio to cut the Sightsavers-sponsored documentary about blindness in Mozambique. “They asked me to be an ambassador but I said I’d only do it if I could make a documentary and they knew my work so they let me off,’ he explains. ‘I’ve watched that crap of actresses going over to these poverty-stricken countries and saying, “Oh they’ve no water, isn’t it terrible?” and it’s just awful, so myself and Tim McDonnell pitched our idea. ‘We wrote, shot and directed it ourselves and we’re both in it at different times. It was absolutely hardcore. We spent time in the hospitals, in the slums and in the bush, meeting patients, going to their homes, going to outreach programmes. We met one woman who was blind for years. She travelled 100km to get to hospital to see if doctors could cure her blindness. We filmed people who had operations and were there when they first saw again. It was all very intense.’
He continues: ‘I’m trying to edit it at the moment and I find it hard as it feels quite voyeuristic. I’m watching kids in a hospital who are blind and might die and then I’m zipping around LA, Morocco and Dublin. It seems wrong, somehow, or should I say, rather strange and bizarre. But it’s a hugely important documentary – I want to try and get it on RTÉ and all the money we raise goes to the families. I’ve been doing it intermittently. I need a block of time to sit down and do it.’
What’s more, Eoin is also halfway through another book. ‘I’m interested in doing lots of things. As an actor there is a lot of sitting around, between jobs and auditions and waiting for things – so what else would you be doing? I feel now that someone has read my book and people don’t seem to think it’s crap, I feel like I’m allowed to keep going.’
We’ll drink to that.
Irish Daily Mail 8 Nov 2014