The incredibly talented Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, and Emory Cohen star in heartwarming new period drama Brooklyn, based on the best-selling novel. In the film, set in 1950s Ireland, Saoirse's character makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and immigrate to Brooklyn, New York, to make a better life for herself in America. And we might be emotional people, but we pretty much started sobbing approximately five minutes into the film.
We sat down with the cast at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about that relatable feeling of being homesick, what it's like for them now when they return to their hometown, and the person who's had the biggest impact on their lives. Here's what we learned.
Everyone can relate to the feeling of being homesick. Is there something you do that keeps you tied to home and family while you're away?
Domhnall Gleeson: Skype helps! But also, I think what Saoirse realizes in the film is that making relationships with people in new places is a huge part of fitting in somewhere. It doesn’t happen by itself; you don’t suddenly feel like this street is your street. I keep in touch with people from home, but you have to form relationships with new people in order for the new place to feel like home. Every time I forget that, and you lock yourself in a bubble for a while. You can’t lock yourself in a bubble — there’s no key. So, you burst it. But you keep in there for a while and realize, no, I need to experience this new place for it to feel like home. And yeah, seeing the place is important. I mean, not a whole new family. My family is still the best family.
Saoirse Ronan: I do think technology is great in this way — when it’s used to keep in touch with people at home, it is amazing. I mean, you know, I can see my mom’s face whenever I want and talk to her whenever I want. And actually, even when I lived away in London or when I work away, I talk to her so much. She’s home for me, and once I see her and I get to talk to her, I can kind of get through it. And then I find that when I go home and we see each other again it’s kind of like I’ve never been away, and we kind of think, “Huh, did we actually miss each other? Cause I feel like..” So yeah, technology is a huge thing. [And] Tea, Irish tea. It does genuinely make a difference. And every single morning before work, I’ll sit down at the kitchen table wherever I’m staying just for like five minutes and have a cup of tea and just, like, zone out. So that really helps. And Father Ted! Father Ted is an Irish show; it’s great.
Emory Cohen: Yeah, I follow the news and I follow sports. I follow my Mets and Giants and boxing, and the news as well. And honestly the reason why I do that, with me and my mom I can talk to her about anything, but my dad we came up playing sports together and all that, so I do that to be able to have a common ground with my dad. Now that you're talking I'm missing my home now!
How does it feel now when you return to your hometown?
DG: Yeah, it feels great. I do love being in Dublin and not having anything else to think about. It’s amazing, it’s amazing. I’ve been back for a couple of weeks actually recently, and yeah it’s just family and friends and fun. It’s great.
SR: Well, I’m living at home at the minute. I’m moving to New York in January which is really exciting. And I wanna go to Brooklyn. I’m doing a show there, but after I finish the show I’ll probably move to Brooklyn. I never had a social life in Dublin before because I didn’t grow up there, but I live there now, and it’s nice going out with people now, and going to the cinema, and I go to the gym. I have a car; she’s a little Toyota Yaris and her name is Barbra Streisand. That’s her full name, which everyone has to call her that. You can’t call her Babz or anything. It has to be Barbra Streisand out of respect for the Jewish goddess that is the real Barbra Streisand.
EC: It's good. It's tough, you know. It's different. You know my people are all proud of me, but I feel bad being away from them. I want to be back with them. You know I miss family dinners, I'm missing Rosh Hashanah, which is big for my mom — she makes this great brisket. In fact, we could get real talk here, but I was coming in from London where I’m working, and I’m going back to London, and on the plane ride over I was reading some, and I ate a little food, and I was trying to go to sleep and I just started crying. I was just crying because all I wanted to do is to be going back to New york and be with them. Look, I love the festival and all that, but I’d much rather be back with my people than be here, you know?
If you could give you could go back and give yourself advice, what would you say to your 16-year-old self?
DG: Invest in Apple would be a good start. It’s funny, I think the notion of advice is a really funny thing. Certain mistakes you need to make for yourself and you will make for yourself. There’s no saying, “Don’t fall in love too early!” That’s not gonna stop you falling in love early — like, you’re going to fall in love! So, I don’t think there’s a lot you can say. Just, the world gets bigger. The world is an easier place as you get to know it a bit more is what I would say.
EC: Uh, shut up and listen. Be humble, stop driving your mother crazy. And also, I think it would be to relax too. I was a crazy little 16-year-old. Just take a breath, you know?
Of all the people you’ve worked with in your life, who has had the biggest impact or been the most influential on you so far?
DG: My dad and my brother. I did a play with them at Christmas and it was the best experience of my life and probably the best job I’ll ever do. And then Martin McDonagh had a pretty major impact on my career early on because he made me want to be an actor by writing a script that made me laugh so much I thought I was going to vomit on a train.
SR: The directors that I’ve worked with have always had the biggest impact on me. Because actors will do their thing and you’ll do a certain amount of scenes with them or maybe work with them the whole way through, but with the directors you’re with them for the entire journey, and one of my favorite things about acting is that I kind of feel like it’s a challenge in a way to adapt to how your director works. To be able to kind of stretch yourself to work to facilitate what they want and need from a scene, I love that.
EC: Woody Harrelson and Mark Wahlberg. I’ve worked with them on different jobs. I really liked how they operated with their team, and are just very good people. Just really good people. I love Woody and Mark, and when I worked with Mark it was a shift within me. And my friends talk about this, how all of a sudden I became much more focused on a bigger picture than just acting, and seeing what else I could do writing-wise, producing-wise, and doing those kinds of things. So those two guys really are heroes of mine.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you have downtime on set?
DG: Oh, I always bring books I’m supposed to read and I always only get like halfway through. I listen to a lot of music. I like having fun, just chatting with the people you’re working with. And also seeing the way that different people work. Because when you stop working as an actor everyone else works even harder on the crew. They all go into overdrive getting stuff ready for the next take and getting ready to move on, so keeping an eye on that and just the way a set works is kinda cool, I like that.