Dublin actress Tara Lee on new movie Moon Dogs and getting life advice from Kim Cattrall
Dublin actress and singer Tara Lee, who featured in BBC hit The Fall, chats to Jenny Lee about making music in movies, finding a mentor in Kim Cattrall and baring all in new coming-of-age comedy Moon Dogs
TARA Lee is a 22-year-old making waves in the acting and music worlds, but thanks to Sex and The City actress Kim Cattrall she's also not forgetting to live and enjoy life.
Tara came to prominence in RTE series Raw and as Daisy Drake, best friend of serial killer Paul Spector's (Jamie Dornan) teenage protege Katie Benedetto (Aisling Franciosi) in the BBC's hit crime drama The Fall.
The Dubliner has since gone on to to sign a publishing deal with US music giant BMG Chrysalis and combined her passions for both acting and music in critically acclaimed independent movies A Date for Mad Mary and Moon Dogs – the latter winning Best of The Fest at last year's Edinburgh International Film Festival and won Best International First Feature at Galway Film Fleadh.
Tara is delighted Moon Dogs is being released in cinema's next weekend.
This debut big-screen feature of TV director Philip John (Downton Abbey, Outlander) is a deft blend of mismatched-buddy road movie, coming-of-age comedy and youthful love triangle.
The storyline contrives to give step-brothers Michael (Jack Parry Jones) and Thor (Christy O'Donnell) a reason to hit the road together to Glasgow. Michael, who flunked his A-levels, is tracking down his hometown girlfriend Suzy at uni, while Thor wants to meet the mother who walked out on him when he was a baby.
The duo becomes a trio when the boys gatecrash a wedding in Orkney, exiting with Irish waitress Caitlin (Tara Lee) in tow.
Smart, capable, impulsive and sexually curious, she doesn't take long to bring the brothers out of their shells.
"Rejection and putting yourself out there is something people are so afraid of nowadays," says Tara, who thoroughly enjoyed the filming experience.
"Moon Dogs is about three characters who are all so flawed and imperfect but it's not going out getting f***ed and off your head and not caring about what you want to do.
"It's about rebelling in a sense of not being afraid to fall in love, follow your dreams and really try.
"There was no pretence. That's mainly down to the director Philip John who is such an anarchist. You'd think he just cast people who shared the same vision."
Tara admits the role unleashed her sassy side.
"Caitlin definitely resembles a more extreme side [of me] – but I don't know if I would go into a bathroom and drop my towels," she laughs.
"When I read the script I practically forced Philip John to cast me as I said this was a side of myself I haven't had a chance to explore fully."
And has she gone as far as seducing two men at the same time, like Caitlin?
"Not that I know of," chuckles Tara, who admits she was nervous about filming the intimate scenes.
"I was cast six months before the guys, so there was so much nerves about who these dudes are going to be. But Phil handled the scenes very classily and when we were nervous, he took us aside and told us personal stories, so that he would be just as embarrassed as we were. It was really funny."
The film's soundtrack as well as Thor's psychedelic music is the work of Anton Newcombe, of San Francisco band The Brian Jonestown Massacre. It's a score which embodies the film's celebration of rebel spirit.
"Anton Newcombe was the other main reason I wanted to be part of Moon Dogs. He's like the fourth lead character. What he did with the music, I haven't seen in a movie before – it was genius," says Tara, who helped Anton write the music for the gig within the film and would love him to produce one of her albums in the future.
While she admits her heart gives "an extra flutter" when she finds herself in roles which combine acting and singing – like the forthcoming flick Schemers – she doesn't want to be typecast.
"I want to do everything – there is nothing I don't want to try. I do fancy something vastly different, like a period piece.
"But I say that and then something like Schemers comes along and I think – I have to do this. It's like 1979 Scotland [with a] Debbie Harry vibe and of course I had to do it," says Tara, about that Dundee-set feature about gangs, violence, love and music promotion which is due for release later this year.
She has also recently finished filming Songbird, which follows the lead singer of a 90s Britpop band who breaks up with her boyfriend, splits from her band and enrols in college.
"Jamie Adams the director had been in touch with me about writing the title track and then one day he said 'actually we are looking to cast the role of Hannah, if you are free?'.
"I went down to Cornwall for a week and I had an amazing time filming with such talent as Jessica Hynes and Cobie Smulders."
When it comes to a dream role, Tara, who has been ballet dancing since she was three, doesn't rule out taking to the West End stage – where she'd choose "Roxie Hart in Chicago or the Natalie Portman character in Black Swan".
She credits English-Canadian actress Kim Cattrall, best known for her role as Samantha in Sex and The City, as inspiring her zest for life and song lyrics during the past year.
It was after the screening of Moon Dogs in Edinburgh last year, where Cattrall was on the judging panel, that Tara plucked up the courage to ask her idol for some tips.
Her advice? "Don't forget to live a life, because if you just work and don’t live, you’ve nothing to draw from."
"I was going through a vicious circle where if I wasn't working I was really anxious and not able to write because I wasn't experiencing anything new, and then beating myself up about it," Tara says.
"With Kim's advice I've learnt that if you ever have that mental block or nothing new happening, it's your responsibility to do different things – even if you find yourself in situations with as****s – and then you will have tons to write about.
"I've opened my eyes to writing more things and I've experienced a lot in the past year thanks to that girl."
Tara, whose musical influences range from Massive Attack to Tori Amos, has already released two singles, Paradise and Narcotic Heart, on Spotify and will release her new EP, Paradise at the end of this year.
"[The upcoming EP] is the short story of one night, told backwards, and every track will have a video," she explains.
:: Moon Dogs is in cinemas from September 1. See Moondogsmovie.com. The film will be at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork from September 17 – 20.