Interview with Co-Creator and Writer Michael Moloney.
Tell us about Frank of Ireland?! How did it come about?
An excellent question! It’s a 6-part comedy all built around the character of Frank, that's where it sort of grew from. In the show we're always with Frank, we never really leave him, it's always from his perspective, for him and the audience. Domhnall and I had written a character ages ago who we sort of played with and built on and Domhnall and Brian had worked on a short and we weaved elements of both in to create this guy, Frank. This idea of a struggling musician, who is messing up everything in life. We then built it out from there, the kind of world he lives in and the kind of people around him that let him get up to what he does.
Frank is an individual created by the three of you, was there a combined process of the three of you sitting down and riffing together to kind of create him or did you know a Frank, were there kind of any inspirations for the series?
I think it was the first thing, a lot of it is exploring the worst possible character traits and how someone would live and react if you were less guarded, for comedy effect. So, I think probably more the first thing, just the three of us all, bouncing off each other about the worst and funniest things someone would get up to.
Can you sum up each of the characters? Did you have a favourite one to write?
A favourite one? That's tough! Well, Frank, I'm not sure if he needs a summary! I mean, he's entitled, and he's not willing to put in the work, he's quite lazy and feckless. I think his mother, Mary, is struggling to be her own person, while also struggling to be his mother, trying to break away and have her freedom, but her own shortcomings drive her back to Frank! Aine is in a lot of ways, a good person, but I think, surprisingly, not that positive a character either. She doesn't have a lot going on in her life, she has her own problems as well that have stopped her from developing. She's also caught in a cycle, they all are. Doofus, maybe he's the most tragic in that he probably has the most promise of any of the characters. He has the most potential to be happy, to be self-actualized. And it's his own fault that he doesn't, it’s his own fault that he's kept in place by Frank.
The women in Frank of Ireland are just as messy and also doing ridiculous things. Was that important to you, that they weren't just there to hold Frank to account?
Yeah, for sure. And I think I think the more negative personality traits are always more interesting to explore, more interesting to develop, to sort of sit with and play with. It’s something we definitely had in mind with Mary and Aine. Nicola is probably the healthiest character, psychologically she she's kind of just getting on with her life and she's able to cut loose from Frank’s world when she needs to. Aine and Mary, not so much. Although, you know, admittedly, Mary is Frank's mother, it's not the worst reason in the world not to cut someone out of your life!
As we’ve said, Frank is a complete misanthropic narcissist in arrested development. Why do you think characters like him make good comedy? And were you ever worried about him being likable?
I think because they go into situations setting up a pretence, and then reality pushes back and breaks it down, which I think is a big part of comedy. In terms of him being likable it is a tricky balance because you do want to be invested in him. He doesn't necessarily have to be a positive person for you to be invested in him, he's certainly not a role model. He's certainly not how I would recommend anybody live! But maybe it's a reflection of some of the more negative personality traits that people can have all combined, maybe that's enough for people to relate to him.
You've grown up with Domhnall and as a result Brian, have you always written together?
Myself and Domhnall have for a long time, I guess since we were about eighteen, just working on various things. This was the first thing I've written with Brian, but we've known each other and worked together on little things before. This is the first big thing we've written together.
You're also a musician and were in the band Director. You've written a lot of the music for Frank of Ireland. Can you tell us about that and that process?
I wrote a lot of the songs, a lot of the music was written by Jody Jenkins, a great composer. So I wrote a lot of the musical songs performed by the characters. A lot of them are just a couple of lines! It was just a bit of fun, it was nice to do.
Did you have a favourite line, or favourite lyric?
Probably the cowboy song, in ep two, it’s called “I Lost You”, because, you know, it's not that funny a song, it’s a sweet song, so I enjoyed doing it for that reason.
We hear another Gleeson brother is on that track… How did that come about?
Oh, Fergus, yeah, Fergus is a great musician. We've played together a little bit and it was just a good idea that came about randomly. He's got a very soothing baritone voice, so we thought he was perfect for the cowboy character!
The series has a film pastiche, for want of a better word, running through it from Home Alone to Taxi Driver to Misery, how did you settle on each of those films?
In terms of settling on them, I think we just allowed it to happen naturally, we tried not to force it. We tried to just let it happen naturally in the writing and I think we tried not to go too far in terms of pastiche. It's more Frank interpreting the world that way, him seeing his life as a movie with him at the centre, so it's kind of localised. And it makes sense, in a way when you watch it.
Were there any films that you wanted to hook episodes to that you collectively rejected?
Yeah, there was, there was a Weekend at Bernie's ep and we had a Bernese Mountain dog! It was the episode where Mary goes missing and it was in an earlier draft, but it ended up changing a lot, so that ended up being dropped. I think there was also a karate kid line at one point, running through one of the episodes, but that also fell by the wayside!
Have you got a favourite episode?
So hard to choose! Probably episode six. I mean, there’s so much good stuff in it, I think!
Frank Of Ireland begins Thursday 15th April at 10pm on Channel 4.