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a boy's life

"I'm restless": Love/Hate's Robert Sheehan on moving to LA, and his latest challenging role

The young Portlaoise native lives in LA.

Film Festivals and Indie Films / YouTube

ROBERT SHEEHAN DIDN’T go to LA to escape Darren from Love/Hate, but with his latest role the Portlaoise actor is proving he’s more than just a one-gang wonder (or make that two-gang, considering his role in Misfits).

For his new flick The Road Within, the 27-year-old got to play a young guy who’s radically different from the ill-fated blue-hoody-wearing Dubliner.

Life with Tourette’s

The character, Vincent, is a man with Tourette’s Syndrome, who is sent to a therapeutic centre to help him deal with his condition.

At the centre, he bonds with characters played by Zoe Kravitz and Dev Patel, and the trio end up going on an unsanctioned road trip.

Sheehan is perhaps best known for his roles of Nathan in the Misfits and Darren in Love/Hate, but he has appeared on stage and screen since the late 2000s. The youngest of three, he was encouraged to act by his mother, who took him to his first audition at the age of 14.

With his striking looks and youthful demeanour, it’s no surprise that he’s had no problems picking up roles in the US in recent years.

road within gif 1

In The Road Within, Vincent’s physical tics and offensive language are at first shocking, but Sheehan shows the person behind the syndrome.

For Sheehan – who was in Dublin today to promote the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival – it was a role that he relished.

One thing he wanted to ensure was that his portrayal of Tourette’s wasn’t done badly.

A friend of the film’s director, Jaxon Kramer, spent time with Sheehan to show him what life is like with the syndrome.

“He was sort of an open book,” said Sheehan, whose most recent films include The Mortal Instruments.

His objective in the whole thing was not to have Tourette’s expressed in a dishonest way.

“He’s very involved with the Tourette’s Society of America and very aware of the fact that this ailment has been expressed dishonestly quite a few times in film, through no fault of people,” said Sheehan.

The pair spent months working together, but it took a while before Sheehan got things right. He recalls “a couple of months of getting it desperately wrong, and being over-zealous, jumping into the Tourette’s and the physical expression of the whole thing”.

It took me jumping in and being way over the top and then scaling the whole thing back, to a point where then we could start the exploration of the character. Where the tics I’d come up with were very natural for my body.

The tics are “completely out of your control”, said Sheehan.

“It’s hard to take control of something that you ultimately don’t want to be in control of.” He had to learn to “try to manifest it in my own body”.

For about six or seven weeks, he lived with the tics. Did this help him gain an understanding of what life is like for people with Tourette’s?

I wanted to encourage it and make it feel as natural as possible in me. But by no means did I gain a true, real understanding of what it is to live with something like this for years.

The only real understanding he got was from talking to Jaxon and his family and friends, and watching videos of him as an adolescent.

“I could never really know what it was truly like to grow up like that. But I got a slice of it.”

Greetings from LA

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones Premiere - Madrid AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Sheehan recently moved to LA from London. Was going to the City of Angels a way of enabling him to escape his best-known characters like Nathan and Darren?

“The task of an actor is always to, in my opinion, break new ground and go for different stuff,” is his answer.

The drive to decamp to LA was inspired by the prospect of a “cold and hard winter in London” and a film role in Louisiana. He took the opportunity, and jumped.

“Frankly I was… I’m a bit restless by my nature so I was ready to live somewhere else,” he said. “Even though I have people I deeply love in London.”

With at least three films out this year – The Road Within, Anita B, and Moonwalkers – Sheehan is firmly taking steps away from the Dublin gangs and teenage misfits.

What could be next? “Broadway,” is his answer. But not musical theatre – unless “it’s ‘I Can’t Sing- The Musical!” Well, he clearly knows his limits.

The 13th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival takes place until 29 March. Robert Sheehan will also appear at an Actors in Conversation event in the Tearchers Club tomorrow at 3pm.

Festival highlights include The Breach (Tuesday 24 March in the Light House at 8pm), and Irish horror The Canal (Saturday 38 March, the Light House at 8.30pm), starring Rupert Evans and Antonia Campell Hughes.

Read: 9 proper celeb-spotting opportunities at this year’s Dublin Film Festival>

Read: The day a lioness terrorised Dublin: The story of the 1951 Fairview lion escape>

Read: What should you go see at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival?>

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