The Banshees Of Inisherin Star Kerry Condon Stands Out While Blending In [Exclusive Interview]

Irish actor Kerry Condon has done a little bit of everything, but it might be her scene-stealing role in Martin McDonagh's "The Banshees of Inisherin" that finally makes her a household name. Condon's career kicked off at the age of 18 when she starred in the McDonagh play "The Lieutenant of Inishmore." That same year, she played Ophelia in "Hamlet" for the Royal Shakespeare Company, making her the youngest person to tackle the esteemed role with the company. On television, fans might know her as cranky criminal Mike Ehrmantraut's daughter Stacey on "Better Call Saul" or as Clara on "The Walking Dead," while Marvel fans would know her by voice only, as Tony Stark's AI companion, FRIDAY. She's managed to show off her incredible skills in just about every arena, but her performance in McDonagh's latest is her finest yet. 

In "Banshees of Inisherin," Condon plays Siobhan Súilleabháin, a bookish woman who longs for adventure but finds herself trapped on the island of Inisherin, off of the coast of Ireland. Her brother, Pádraic (Colin Farrell), has had a falling-out with his best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), and poor Siobhan ends up stuck between them, trying to make either man see sense

I had the opportunity to chat with Condon via Zoom about her collaborations with McDonagh, her onscreen sibling relationship with Farrell, and the other breakout star of the movie, Jenny the mini-donkey.

'There was just a sadness to the story that you can't really deny'

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Siobhán really struggles with isolation on Inisherin, and I was wondering if it was isolating for you as well, filming sort of in a remote location. Did you have much access to the outside world?

The initial first part of the movie, I didn't feel isolation. Because the first part of the movie that we shot was just me and Colin in our house and we did that for three weeks straight. So that was a really great way to start. I could bond with Colin, and we would establish the brother-sister relationship very early on in this almost daily existence.

When we moved then to the other island is when we started to shoot the stuff in the pub, and we started to shoot in Brendan's character's house and stuff that I was disconnected from Pádraic a little bit. I also had that scene where the policeman says, "Oh, no wonder no one likes you. You're an awful strange woman. No wonder no one likes you." So I felt when we got there, then those kind of vibes started to creep into me.

Whereas on the other island, it was more of a spiritual, beautiful feeling. But of course, the script has both elements, and I felt like I experienced both elements — that on the other island the wave seemed much more aggressive, and it was a bigger island. So we were all more spread out. Whereas on the other island, we were so close to each other. I mean, I'd see Colin running down the road every time I'd leave the house, or I'd see Brendan somewhere else, whereas we were very spread out to each other. And so it started to feel a little bit lonely to me.

And then I suppose I just subconsciously probably leaned into that loneliness and started to look for confirmation that, "Yeah, no one likes me, nobody on the shoot likes me." Which is ridiculous, because, obviously, loads of people were nice to me.

Strangely enough, my mother came to visit and one of my really good friends, Claire, came to visit, too, and we were sea swimming and having this beautiful time, but there was just a sadness to the story that you can't really deny. And I felt it a little bit.

'He's just driving her a little mad'

It's funny that you mentioned spending that three weeks with Colin because you two have this really natural sibling relationship, and I was wondering how you built that almost unspoken language that siblings seem to have.

Oh, great. I'm so glad. Basically, he is very close to his sister, and I'm very close to my brother. So that was a sort of an easy one. It's not like neither of us had a sibling; we had a very close relationship with them. And we spoke about why we were very close to our siblings. Then we also had a lot of rehearsal period with Martin. We had two weeks rehearsals before we started shooting to explore all those things. 

Then I started to think about, "How do I behave when I'm with my brother?" And obviously, you probably don't think about it, but there's nothing sexual about you, or you're not aware of any sexual side of yourself when you're with your siblings. You sort of revert to the kind of person you are when you're growing up, and there's a little childlike aspect to you. I try and make my brother laugh, or we laugh about silly things. So I try to bring that back into some of the scenes with Colin. But yet, there's a jadedness to Siobhán, that he's wearing her down. And she is a mother to him and does all the chores and stuff. So I think I had to play — while I was playing that childlike aspect, there was also, he's just driving her a little mad. 

So it was just finding the moments, and then taking away any sort of vanity in how I walked when I was with him. Or when I would look at him in a particular way, I would try and do it with a facial expression that wasn't too attractive, not necessarily on purpose. But you know what I mean? When you're given out to your sibling, you're not doing it with a posed, beautiful look. You're not [poses dramatically]. You're like [makes a silly annoyed expression]. They're annoying you, and you have a look about you. So I just tried to do the things that I feel like I do when I'm with my own siblings.

'I had to just be naked, and we rolled, and that was the job'

I cannot blame her for being a little worn down, because there aren't very many women in the film. Siobhán is the only sane person on this island surrounded by all of these stubborn, bullheaded men, and a few older biddies. She's interested in books and progress, but she's slowed by that. Do you think that there's something to be said for how those traditional roles might have held women back and still hold women back?

I mean, I suppose you could say that maybe there was a little bit of resentment from the older women towards Siobhán, because of the fact that they knew that she could go away and that she could go do things now. And I think maybe nowadays, there can still be a little bit of an element of that with people who didn't have the freedom that women have nowadays. That sometimes, while you want progress, there can be a slight jealousy or a resentment towards the fact that, "Oh well, you are getting it much easier than I had it."

I think I have that sometimes myself, too, and I have to check myself. In the sense that when people talk about intimacy coaches and merkins, they say that, and I'm like, "Hey, are you joking me? I had none of that. I had to just be naked, and we rolled, and that was the job." And I think, "Oh no, but you can't not want progress just because you didn't have it." You know what I mean? But I understand, though.

I understand how you can be in that mindset, because you wish you'd had it, and you're probably still a little hurt that you didn't have it. So maybe the ladies in the island felt that way towards Siobhán, perhaps, when they could have been more nurturing to her.

'Oh, you just want versions of me'

You've known Martin McDonagh and worked with him for years, both on stage and in "Three Billboards." But this role was basically written for you. Was that something that was exciting or intimidating for you to approach?

Oh, it was exciting, of course, yeah, because he's known me since I was 17, so he just knows me so well. We've had massive arguments, and then had massive times where I've been so happy for him and he's been so happy for me, and he's always been there for me. When I'd be at a low ebb in my career or I wanted a job and I didn't get a job, he'd always encourage me and tell me that I was brilliant and to hang in there and everything. 

So I've always felt like he supported me in my career regardless of if we were working together at the time. He always encouraged me. So I was just excited. And also because he knew me so well, I was like, "Oh, you just want versions of me. Or whatever way I think it should be played, you're thinking it's the right way." It was a confidence builder that he knew me so well and he wanted me to do it.

'Anytime we had scenes with Jenny in the house, Rosie was in another room'

Jenny, the donkey, is absolutely adorable. What was it like working with the mini-donkey on set? Was she as adorable in person?

Oh, Jenny, she is adorable in person, and the ladies looking after her were so kind. But also, what was really beautiful is that there was actually two donkeys, because Jenny was so young that she had to have a friend with her. Because she'd get nervous without her friend. And her friend was called Rosie, and Rosie was a few years older. And Rosie was a little bit more not so nervous. So anytime we had scenes with Jenny in the house, Rosie was in another room with her head sticking out or by the camera. Just as long as Jenny could see Rosie, she knew she was okay. But if Jenny came into the room and she couldn't see Rosie, she'd get nervous. And so Rosie was as important, I felt, to us and the shoot as much as Jenny was. So I gave Rosie loads of love because of that.

'I love when people don't know I'm the same person'

Your career has been incredibly varied. You've done everything from play Ophelia on stage, to being the voice of FRIDAY in the MCU. How do you approach these wildly different worlds and types of storytelling?

There was no plan, of course. I did not plan my career at all. Everything is just what I got lucky enough to get and what came to me at the particular time. And honestly, I have to credit the FRIDAY voice to [casting director] Sarah Finn, really, because she's just been very kind to me throughout my career in the sense that there was a lot of things I auditioned for her and I didn't get. But she kept calling me back in. She just wanted me to catch a break. That's lovely when you feel like, even though you're not booking something, that it's not going unnoticed, the work that you're putting in. 

So the different worlds, I don't know. That's what keeps the job so interesting and so fun, to be honest, is that you feel — it's kind of like horse riding, because I have horses. But it's like a thing of horse riding, where you never know everything. You'll never ride every horse in the world. You'll never do every job, you'll never do every role. So you can always learn something. There's always more to explore and I think it just makes this job so much fun and so interesting. And I've always liked to keep myself really open and also do different accents and different parts.

I love when people don't know I'm the same person. Lots of people don't put it together that, "Oh my God, you're the person who was in this, was in that." And I always think, "Oh my God, that means I did a great job." So that was my goal, really — to be so convincing that nobody really knew I was from Ireland, and nobody really knew much about me, so I could blend into the project.

'If you don't go see these kinds of films, then it's going to be harder and harder to make these kind of films'

Is there anything that you want the folks at /Film to know about "The Banshees of Inisherin" before it comes out?

I suppose I would say to the general public to go see it. Because if you don't go see these kinds of films, then it's going to be harder and harder to make these kind of films. So then it becomes a very money-driven industry, and there isn't really room for these smaller films. So it's not just supporting "Banshees," it's also just supporting smaller films in general. And we need those kind of movies, because we need all sorts of movies to entertain everybody. So hopefully, people will go to the movie theater and watch it. Also, I would say watch it on a big screen because it's beautiful.

"The Banshees of Inisherin" is in theaters now.