Gleeson is, in fact, sitting on his bed in a pair of adjacent pajama bottoms that his mother brought him a few years back for Christmas, and a scruffy T-shirt which – looking down to refresh his memory – he realizes that ‘it’s upside down. He recently finished filming a Channel 4 sitcom in which he plays Doofus. Her haircut, says Gleeson, fits the name perfectly.
Really, he assures me, most days have gone better. He dresses, walks within the prescribed 2 km radius. It’s just this afternoon that he’s still in bed, looking like a Lego man in pajamas.
Lazing around the house in Dublin is new for the 36-year-old. It has been busy for the past few years, appearing in three Star Wars movies, Peter Rabbit and his 2021 sequel, and the highly anticipated The Kitchen, which we will set aside. Soon there will be Frank of Ireland (with his aforementioned haircut) and Run, the long-awaited HBO comedy-romance thriller created and written by Vicky Jones – director of the original stage show Fleabag – and produced by his longtime collaborator date Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Gleeson and Merritt Wever (nurse Jackie, Godless) play ex with an escape from the new life they’ve created since their breakup. When they receive a text of a word, the two know the time and the meeting place. From there, they try to rekindle their love story. In other words, if the other decides to introduce himself.
Aside from an episode of Black Mirror and a handful of sketches, Gleeson has, until recently, avoided television. You can end up walking on water when nothing is happening on TV, he says, unlike movies, which have to be wrapped in credits. In Run, however, Gleeson saw something different: a pilot script full of energy and excitement, though he made no secret that it was the name of Waller-Bridge that first caught his eye. .
The writer and star of Fleabag arrived on the set halfway through the set in Toronto, then on the spot. “It’s so funny to congratulate Phoebe,” he says. Yes, she is talented, funny and quick on her feet; his reputation as one of the most knowledgeable people in his field is well deserved. “But,” he asks, “who the hell needs to read more people who talk about his incredible incredible? “
He might just say she was shit …
“Yeah shit, let’s go big and give people something to read. It strikes people; she has a body odor. I don’t really know where to go with this … No, it didn’t hit anyone I saw, and as far as I can remember, it smelled good. At least he tried.
Despite the huge hype around the exit – this is Jones’ first big project after Fleabag – Gleeson says he didn’t feel an increased sense of pressure as a prominent man with all eyes watching . And to be fair, with roles in Star Wars and Harry Potter – two of the biggest movie franchises of all time – he’s used to high expectations. Instead, he says, the names on the script were comforting.
Gleeson is more attentive than he usually would be to Run’s critical reception, now that there is little to do to distract himself; there’s nothing stopping him from clicking on links to reviews that he could have avoided otherwise. But whatever the reaction, the momentum of the Run Train-based storyline is maintained with the tense and sparkling chemistry on screen between the main characters. “It’s funny when people talk about chemistry and worry about it. I never thought, “Oh shit, I wonder if I’m going to have good chemistry with X person. He thinks that if you work hard and try to be generous – as long as your partner has talent – the rest will take care of themselves.
And Gleeson is full of praise for Wever’s talent, although he’s not sure about their off-screen relationship. “I’m not sure I really know Merritt,” he says. “I think she would probably say no. “That doesn’t mean they didn’t get along; Gleeson really enjoyed his company. He often finds himself meeting people he has worked with after finishing a job – from Margot Robbie to Saoirse Ronan – and thinking, “Jesus, they are totally different from the way I remember them. “
Maybe Gleeson has a bad memory, or more likely he’s just not a fan of showbiz life. That could explain why he avoided moving to Hollywood, opting instead to stay in Ireland with friends and family – a family that casts a shadow.
It would not be unreasonable for Gleeson to object to talking about his father, Brendan, in interviews. Being constantly compared to your Emmy Award-winning actor father could become irritating. But Gleeson Jr clearly admires his father very much, raising him of his own free will twice.
Just before speaking, he had listened to Gleeson Sr talk on the radio about how Ireland was coping with the coronavirus. A few years ago, Brendan appeared on national television to talk about the plight of the country’s underfunded health services. “He was back today to say how proud he is that the Irish have come together to smooth the curve.” Her son agrees.
And when he talks about his tendency to be too self-critical (something he wonders if he should never have mentioned in previous interviews: “Everyone feels it”), he compares his work ethic to that from his father. Putting yourself in the place of a parent makes them work harder. The pair is close; Dad is always available for advice.
“Look,” he said, “there is no way to get in the way. I was aware, when I came back to stuff, that there would be a certain amount of, “Maybe he got the job because of who’s daddy,” or whatever. But it’s hard to make a movie or a play, and if someone has spent money on something, they won’t hire someone who can’t do the job just because they know your father. “
Maybe, he adds, it was naive. However, he never considered using a different surname at first, in order to distance himself from his father. Brendan Gleeson was less known during his son’s early years in the industry, he suggests, and everyone in Ireland – where Domhnall cut his teeth – would have known anyway.
“It might have been nice to take my mother’s last name just to spread it. I’m afraid I’m not a good enough son to come to my mind. “
Although he appears in his fair share of dystopian science fiction, he fears that no one has helped him prepare for this pandemic. He has a few plans to keep himself busy enough for now – and he’s excited about a piece he should play this year, even if he won’t tell me more in case it doesn’t happen.
” I hope and just hope that people will always want to go to the theater on the other side, “he says,” that there is another side. When we emerge, he believes, people will always want to go to the movies and the theater. The film Jackass was on television last night; seeing him at the movies was the most common event he had ever experienced. Everyone laughs and talks, standing; praying that they wouldn’t do this thing with sandpaper. “We have to be responsible now, but we will come back to it. We want to live stories; to laugh and cry together. “
Until then, however, Gleeson will focus on small wins, such as getting out of his pajamas more often.
• Run is on Sky Comedy and NOW TV, April 15, 9 p.m.