‘Winning the IFTA was great … Chris O’Dowd has won enough awards!’

Enda Oates is now one of the most accomplished actors in the country, across a range of disciplines. Whether it’s the theatre, film or television, Enda is equally at home, and his talent ensures that he is working all the time.

  Enda (53) is probably best known for his part as Pete in ‘Fair City’, but he is appearing in a number of productions on the stage and on TV in the coming months.

  Just a couple of weeks ago Enda won the IFTA (Irish Film and Television Award) in the best male actor category, defeating the likes of Chris O’Dowd to win the prestigious award.

  Indeed Enda is currently sporting a heavy moustache which he has grown to play the part of James Connolly in a major TG4 series about 1916 which is currently being made.

  It’s a role that he is really looking forward to playing.

  The man from Creevy just outside Roscommon Town was back on home soil recently to launch Ciaran Mullooly’s book at Roscommon County Library.

  Enda is married to Louise and they have one son, Sam, and live in Dublin. We chatted about his life and times, Fair City, returning to Roscommon, and some very exciting work that he has coming up.

  Enda Oates wasn’t always into acting. In fact when he was in school in Roscommon he didn’t show much interest in it at all but when he went to Athlone RTC (now Athlone IT) his interest began – and grew quickly.

  “I got involved in the Drama Society there and I liked it from the start. After that I went to Dublin and my interest really started there.

  “I was working in the civil service and Eamon Tighe, who was in a flat with me, suggested one day that we might go off and do a bit of drama because we were bored during the long winter nights.

  “Eamon found some group and we got started and then after a while I got a bit of a gra for it and I went off at the weekends then to an Acting School run by Chris O’Neill. Chris is the dad of Aisling O’Neill, who plays Carol in Fair City.

  “There were great tutors in it like Alan Stanford …and it was held in the Oscar Theatre in Serpentine Avenue. I went there at weekends. Then I started doing a few fringe shows. After that I got an Evening Herald Acting Award which was a big boost. So I took a career break from the civil service to give it a go full-time.”

  It was mostly theatre stuff at the start for Enda and he enjoyed learning his craft in that environment.

  “I started working for a lot of independent companies – doing fringe shows – that’s where you get known. I turned professional in 1986 and I was doing a play called ‘The Silver Dollar Boys’, which was a brilliant play and one I’d love to do again. But there was a new artistic director in the Abbey Theatre and I got a contract in the Abbey for a year. Then I was on and off in the Abbey and then I got offered some TV work.”

  Enda says that he enjoyed the TV work and that it is a totally different discipline than working on the stage. But he had a less than successful start to his TV career!

  “I was doing a play called ‘Studs’ and Paul Cusack, who is a producer in RTE, came to see it and he had an idea for a show, an urban series, and we shot a half-hour pilot. That was my first work on camera and I have to say it was awful. That show was cancelled, needless to say, but a year later Fair City started.

  “I got a bit of work in 1989 in ‘Glenroe’, which was huge at that stage. But there was a small pool of actors available for work and if you got well-known then there was work available.

  “I would hate to be starting out now because there are so many more young actors in competition for the work.

  “We were not making too much money at that stage but you were surviving, and there was always work. But TV was a totally different discipline and I have to say I love film, stage and TV equally and I would never like to stay too long in either.

  “It is great to have variety. TV is so much more technical and you have to make sure you are not over-playing or under-playing, whereas on the stage the audience reaction is immediate. But I am well trained in the various disciplines now, which is great.”

  Enda says that he really enjoys working in the film industry and he has done a lot of work in latter years in film.

  “I have worked on a lot of films over the years. I have just finished one called ‘Brother’ or ‘Bouer’ which is an Irish/Belgian co-production and I got to work with some fantastic actors on that. It was shot mainly in West Cork. I really enjoyed that.

  “The things about working on film is that you get to work with different people all the time, whereas in the theatre you are working with the same people all the time and from my point of view it is nice to go off and work on something new.”

  Enda is now an established main character in Fair City, which draws huge audiences four times a week on RTE 1. He says that it is a superb show to work on.

  “I started in Fair City in 2009 and originally it was only for a few weeks but I came back in February 2010 and I’m there since. I really love it. It is a very flexible show to work on. I work a few weeks at a time and then you have a number of weeks off when you can go off and do other stuff, which is great for me. But I can tell you that if you are in a main storyline, it is very tough work on Fair City. You are in at 7.15 am in the morning and we would seldom get finished before 8 pm at night – and we are going all day.

  “You have to revise and learn when you get home and the weekends are gone too when you are in a main storyline. The reality is that they are putting out the equivalent of a film every week, four half-hour episodes, which is huge. I have to say that I love it though.”

  The recent IFTA award was a huge thing for Enda and he is very proud to have won it against such fierce opposition. 

  “Well I have to say that I couldn’t believe it when I heard I won the IFTA. It was such a thrill and against such stiff opposition as well. Chris O’Dowd was nominated too, which meant there were two Rossies nominated in the male actor category.

  “I haven’t been talking to him since and I hope he is alright with me winning! He has enough awards won anyway. Maybe what I have done over the years was a factor in that win too.”

  The future is exciting for Enda. He is currently sporting a large moustache which he has grown in preparation for a major role he is playing in a series on the 1916 Rising on TG4.

  “I am playing the role of James Connolly on a major TG4 three-part series on 1916. I am really looking forward to that role I have to say. The sets were built in Galway and we will be shooting there very soon.

  “I’d love to do more film. I would be less pushed about the theatre unless I can land a few major roles, to be honest. But Fair City is great. It keeps the name out there and it doesn’t really pigeon-hole you into a role either which is very important.”

  Enda now lives in Dublin but he likes to return to his roots in Roscommon every so often.
  “I have not got down to Roscommon as much as I would have liked this year because we moved house in Dublin. I have to say I like living in Dublin. It’s a good town and it is a small city really and easy to get around.

  “I am delighted to be in Roscommon to launch Ciaran Mullooly’s book. He is a mighty man for the local community and I was delighted to come when I was asked.

  “Look, life is good I have to say and I have no complaints. I’m living with my wife Louise who is from Kilkenny and son Sam and we also go down to Kilkenny to Thomastown where her family are and that’s usually good craic too.

  “But I love coming to Roscommon. It’s a great town and I have plenty of family and great friends here.”