Eileen Walsh

Another week, another disclaimer: I didn’t consciously set out to run a series on TOTALLY AWESOME women working in the arts, but here we are, another week, another lady I love. Soon a man will pierce these pages, a human tourniquet to stem the oestrogenic flow.

Until then, here is the totally awesome Eileen Walsh.

When I meet Eileen – as I have, a few times over the years – apart from feeling like I’ve known her for decades, I’m always awakened by her honesty. This is in part due to my innate chemical attraction to ‘over-sharers’ – a finding-my-tribe kind of buzz – and because it’s not all that easy to find raw-talkers. Most people deal in finely crafted spin, if you listen hard enough.

Eileen got her first big break while studying a Theatre Studies diploma at The Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College. Landing the role of Runt in the Corcadorca production of Disco Pigs, the show – and her performance – was met with rapturous praise and went on to tour the UK and Australia. Since then she has worked consistently in film, TV and theatre in Ireland and the UK. She received the Irish Times Best Actress award for Terminus in 2008 and the same year also won the Best Actress Award for Eden at the Tribecca Film Festival.

Here she is on bad reviews and swimming, among other pearls.

The Grilling

OR: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

EWA dog groomer. Which would have been a right little earner in NW10 if I’d stuck to my 10 year old dreams.

What or who were you most influenced by in your mid to late teens?

My sister Catherine, an actor too, who ran away to join the urban acting circus in Dublin and I thought she was an early Carrie Bradshaw! Also, seeing Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit made me want in on that world.

When did you start taking yourself seriously?

When I was seventeen. I had an innate belief that acting was something that I was good at and worth following. I worked with Rough Magic in Dublin and London and it felt thrilling.

Did you have a mentor or someone who championed you along the way?

You never really know ’til you’re older who was there leaving a bread trail. But I knew Leo Davis (casting agent) fought my corner when I got left out of one job; and the wonderful Vicky Featherstone always had her hand to my back.

How do people react when you tell them what you do? 

They look sad. Do a head tilt. “Tough job”

“Would I know you from anything?”

In terms of how you work, what is your craft/graft/ instinct ratio?

Love this question! But can’t quite work it out as I think I take some jobs just to work, pay the bills and buy Saltwater sandals for my kids. Each job takes 100% graft as it’s never really “money for old rope”, as my dad thought.

The Craft comes in when you turn up – be funny, be sad, be fragile, be touching, be there.

Do you believe in writer’s/ creative block?

A friend recently took a break from acting (mainly film) to reboot, as their life was mainly set-based and they needed more to draw from, like life in general and probably sleep. I get that work can run you dry sometimes. Like writer’s block it can also help to work through it. Keep swimming.

What do you love most about your job?

The short-term contracts (also the thing I hate).

What do you find most challenging?

Fighting the need to be liked.

Not getting a job, that’s a fucker. Particularly as the older you get the jobs (sometimes) get juicer so not getting them can be a sucker punch.

Hearing: “it’s not always the best actor who gets the part.”

I could go on.

What is your super power?

Spinning classes save my life. I teach at spinn-offlondon.com but even when not teaching I’ll go take a class every day – so good for your head!

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken, personal or professional?

Every job is a risk. Having babies was a risk (how was I ever going to feed and take care of other people when I could barely manage myself)!

What’s your biggest fail – professional or otherwise – and what did you learn?

Awful reviews for one show I did. (Meaning, awful reviews for me, not for the amazing production or director so I’ll not name them). However, I did learn to always trust instinct and keep on keeping on with the work even though sometimes it’s like treacle. And never read reviews as they’re out to mess with your head even if they’re brilliant. Read them after if needs be but you always know a turkey when you’re in it so why punish yourself more?!

What is your relationship with time and ‘time management’?

Never late for work. Always late for everything else. Parent/teacher meetings, labour, drinks with mates. Life seems to run away with me.

What experience has most shaped who you are today?

Being the youngest of 6. There was never any money growing up but I have an incredible family. Their humour and love has made me who I am.

What would you say to an 18 year old now, hoping to trace your career?

Instinct. Follow your nose. Read read read. See shows ‘til you’ve got double vision; find only positives (that can be tricky); and, as I was once told in a moment of stage fright, “Leap darling, theatre will always catch you!”

Coming up, Eileen will be on RTE’s On The Hemline, part of their Storyland series; in SKY Atlantic series Melrose and back as Kate in Channel 4 Series, Catastrophe: Season 4.


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