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Making the Character Live: Caoimhe Cassidy on NOLA AND THE CLONES

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Article by Caoimhe Cassidy ©.
Posted in Resources ().

The first time I read Nola’s monologue in preparation to make my self tape, I was completely fascinated by her character. Serious topics up for discussion.. homelessness, social class and prostitution. But at the heart of it lay a deeper question about femaleness, a subject that Graham felt was often neglected in cinema: what it’s like to be a woman in world that commodifies the female form.

Nola’s monologue was powerful and raw and it struck a chord with me. Her story was endearing and I felt I wanted to be part of this story, to help tell her story. As an actor, it can be rare to be presented with a script or a character that you instantly connect with. More often than not we read scripts, take self tapes and do auditions for projects we couldn’t care less about, because at the end of the day- it’s work. Better to be doing something, rather than waiting for the phone to ring. I think our desire to work sometimes clouds our judgement. So many times I’ve read scripts and felt I would be perfectly suited for the role, that I could do the character justice. When in reality, it was my determined desire to be working that gave me an ‘authorization’ to desire anything, to see myself in any role. Bills need to paid so sometimes this is a no brainer. But you always know when your hearts not in it. That’s not to say the project itself isn’t worthwhile, you just question “what can I learn from this experience?”.

Preparation for the film started in early February 2015. The 9th of March had been confirmed as our first day of shooting. Graham and I met on three separate occasions and continually kept in touch through email. The first meeting to talk costume, the second to lock in dates and confirm our shooting schedule and the third to explore my character, Nola.

My exploration of Nola was something that was constantly ticking away in the background. From the first night I read her monologue, her story didn’t leave. A story I felt was poignant and honest- which posed the question, how real can I make her? I had never experienced the hardship of homelessness. I didn’t come from a broken home, I had a very normal, happy upbringing. Although I hadn’t lived these experiences, it was crucial for me to understand these experiences and how Nola’s past had shaped the way for her future. Which got me thinking about my own life- where had I come from, what had I learned and where was I going? Questions that would be reflected in my own writing, a process that began shortly after my journey as Nola ended.

To really understand a character, I feel it’s important as an actor to have some kind of historical timeline. Go beyond the text, to piece together gaps in the characters story. Connect past and present. Answer the unanswered questions and decide what circumstances that have led them to this point. The only scenes in the film that are scripted are Nola’s two monologues and the scenes where Nola interacts with the Clones- played by the lovely Joe Lydon. All of which were written by Graham.

One of my favourite parts of a character building process is delving into a script. Dissecting it. Getting to know your character, finding their voice and bringing their personality to life through parts of yourself. The script really holds the lifeline. It’s the biographical backbone for any character. Nola’s main monologue certainly provided me with an insight into her past. It was loaded with painful memories. Memories I could use like little building blocks, to set a foundation in my own mind. These experiences had certainly carved the road ahead. By analysing her past Nola had come to stark realisations about her mother and father- which would ultimately shape her interactions with both sexes in the future. Her lack of maternal nurturing had damaged her maternal instinct. The father-daughter relationship was deficient and lacked emotional security. These wounds are reflected throughout the film as Nola encounters each of the Clones, a stream of guys- who in her eyes, are all the same. I approached each of the scenes with compassion, trying to maintain her strength of character. Wounded perhaps, but not defeated. I believe Nola’s story is a quest for love. Not a fairytale romance- but a very basic, fundamental need for love that’s unconditional. Something that she has never known and perhaps will never know until she can let go of the past.

This has been an invaluable experience. I started this journey as Caoimhe playing Nola. Two young women, worlds apart. However, through this process I learned that parts of her story resonated closer to home than I had previously anticipated. By the end I was playing parts of Caoimhe through Nola.

I hope you  enjoy the trailer:

(c) Caoimhe Cassidy


Caoimhe Cassidy is an actress who has appeared on stage in As Seen on Radio and My First Gun (Angel Road Theatre Company), The Ice Child(Barnstorm Theatre Company), The Grinch who Stole Christmas (Livin’ Dred Theatre Company) and college productions The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, The Taming of the Shrew, Woyzeck, Tarry Flynn and The Importance of Being Earnest. Film and Television work includes Nola and the Clones (Graham Jones) and The Devil’s Wood (Whitewashed Films). Caoimhe has a degree in Performing Arts from the Institute of Technology, Sligo.

Variety Magazine describes Graham Jones as “a very talented director”. Born 1973 in Dublin, he attended film school in London during the early nineties where his research on indie cinema was published as a book by the British Film Institute. Shortly afterwards, his debut movie ‘How To Cheat In The Leaving Certificate’ caused controversy upon its national theatrical release and was condemned by the Junior Minister for Education. It marked the beginning of a career in which Jones would explore difficult subjects in movies like ‘Fudge 44’, ‘The Green Marker Scare’, ‘Davin’, ‘The Randomers’ and ‘The History Student”.

Find out more here about Graham Jones' feature film The History Student

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