Arts Q&A: Ian McElhinney on Bob Marley, Charles Dickens and Game of Thrones

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, actor and director Ian McElhinney

Belfast actor and director Ian McElhinney

1. When did you think about a career in acting and what were your first steps into it? I got the acting bug when I was 16. I spent my university years doing plays and eventually trained as an actor in America. I put off going into the profession, because I wasn't sure I could make a living, and started teaching. At 30 I realised it's now or never and that I couldn't resist it.

2. Best gigs/plays you’ve been to? Personally my favourite 'gigs' have been my roles in Observe The Sons Of Ulster and in HBO's Game of Thrones, which was filmed in Northern Ireland, Croatia and Morocco.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? Queen

4. The record you’d take to a desert island? Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. Music and lyrics designed to cheer you up if you are feeling down.

Dan Gordon stars in Fank Carson – A Rebel Without a Pause, directed by Ian McElhinney, at Belfast's Lyric Theatre

5. And the book? Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Wonderful array of diverse characters and plot lines. Also would remind me of our weather, which I might miss.

6. Top three films? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Burnt By The Sun and Night On Earth. All have detailed narratives, are character rich, absorbing, sometimes funny and often moving.

7. Worst film you’ve seen? Anything featuring Jerry Lee Lewis. Totally manic and totally unfunny.

8. Favourite authors? Charles Dickens, Philip Roth and George RR Martin.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top teams? I love watching rugby and support Ulster and Ireland. I also love watching Leinster and the All Blacks. I enjoy watching golf, especially Rory McIlroy and listening to cricket on the radio – the commentators are wonderfully eccentric, knowledgeable, funny and quirky.

Belfast actor and director, Ian McElhinney, has appeared in many stage productions, films and TV series in a career spanning more than 30 years

10. Ideal holiday destination? The Greek Islands. Totally relaxing, great food and beautiful consistent weather for months.

11. Pet hate? Saucepans scraped with a spoon. Restaurants and bars with metallic surfaces – the din is unbearable.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Pot roast.

Dessert? Bread and butter pudding.

Drink? Red wine.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? Bill Malyszko. We met in York over 40 years ago, when he was a student and I was a teacher. We were both fascinated by theatre and I was convinced he would go on as a director. In fact he became a very successful teacher, who has had a significant influence on a lot of his students over many years.

14. Is there a God? The dictum is – God created man. I believe we create God, if we need to, to help us make sense of our lives and all those things – good or bad – that we may experience.

:: Ian McElhinney is the director of Frank Carson – A Rebel Without A Pause, a 75-minute whirlwind comedy drama celebrating the man, the myth and the mouth, running at Belfast's Lyric theatre until June 30.

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