Brian and Domhnall Gleeson in a scene from “Frank of Ireland.” PHOTO COURTESY OF AMAZON
By Karen Butler
The new sitcom, “Frank of Ireland,” was a family affair for brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson and their screen icon dad, Brendan.
“I love it. Anytime we work together, we have an amazing time,” Brian told the Irish Echo in a recent email interview.
The siblings star in the six-episode show, which they penned with Michael Moloney. It debuted on Amazon Prime Video April 16.
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Brian, who is 33, plays the title character, a self-absorbed, aspiring musician who still lives at home in Malahide with his single mom, Mary (Pom Boyd).
The 37-year-old Domhnall plays Doofus, the well-named and loyal best friend who supports Frank in all his endeavors, regardless of how delusional and humiliating they might be, and Brendan, 66, turns up late in the series as Frank’s free-spirited father, Liam.
“Domhnall is a great writer. He’d done shorts and sketches with Michael Moloney,” Brian said.
“I wanted to work with him, so I asked him to put me in something. Domhnall then said the three of us should meet up and chat, and we did. Lots of laughter followed. Somewhere in that noise, Frank was born.”
The fact the show is coming out during a global pandemic — when people really need some entertainment — isn’t lost on Brian.
“Our most important goal was to make people laugh! If you can get more than one laugh-out-loud moment in any episode, you’re doing better than most,” he said.
“It’s a daft show, but one of the aims was to make sure people like spending time with Frank and Doofus. That’s important. Once you accomplish that you can put them in basically any situation and the audience will forgive you.”
Brian and his collaborators worked hard to balance the show’s outrageous silliness with the characters’ relatability.
“It’s interesting. Humanity sometimes gets confused with goodness. For me, a character’s humanity is just their relatable qualities. And those can be good, bad or shitty,” Brian said.
The folks at the heart of the show don’t need to outwardly demonstrate love or tenderness to make viewers understand or care about them.
“The important thing is that their actions are funny and surprising whilst having some kind of cogency. So, the show doesn’t run away from itself and become a series of sketches,” Brian noted.
The comedy is gleefully packed with famous film references and episodes have clever titles such as, “You Talking to Meath,” “James Caan’t” and “A Good Few Angry Women.”
“It all started with Frank,” Brian said. “He sees the world through a film lens because he wants his life to be a film. One where he’s the hero. So, it made sense, first and foremost, and then we were lucky because it’s also such a fun thing to play around with.”
Frank and Doofus’ co-dependent relationship is extensively mined for laughs.
“There’s a toxic love between all the characters in the show,” Brian acknowledged.
“They’re needy and they hold each other back. They don’t want any responsibility. We all have a little bit of that in us. I take that back — we don’t. I hope we don’t. Remember we were talking about humanity?
“Humanity is doomed if Frank and Doofus become the torchbearers for how to live a life,” he quipped.
Brian and Domhnall always wanted their father to be a part of the project.
“But it had to feel right,” Brian emphasized. “Liam’s character made sense once we figured out Episode 6, but not really before that. I’m so glad it worked out in the end, and that he wanted to do it. He’s such a warm and inspiring presence and we had the best time.”
The artist — who loves shifting gears to work in film, TV and theater, comedy and drama — said being a writer-actor means one has more control over projects and that can be both a blessing and a curse.
“Every second on set is accounted for, which, for an actor, is hard because you’re trying to make the current scene work … not think about why the next scene has to be rewritten,” Brian said. “But no complaints, we’re so grateful to have had the opportunity.”
There’s no Season 2 of Frank of Ireland currently in the works, but Brian is keeping an open mind about the show’s future.
“We set out what we wanted to do. I think there’s more adventures for Frank, but this season has a satisfying arc and, for now, we don’t want to mess with it,” he said.
Brian acted alongside his father, Brendan in the 2006 film, “The Tiger’s Tale,” and appeared with Domhnall in the 2017 movie, “Mother!” The three actors worked together in a staging of Enda Walsh’s play, “The Walworth Farce,” in 2015. Domhnall and Brendan shared the screen in the “Harry Potter” blockbusters, as well as in the 2004 short film, “Six Shooter,” and 2014 drama, “Calvary.”