“Moone Boy,” an Irish sitcom created by and starring “Bridesmaids” actor Chris O’Dowd arrives in the U.S. via Hulu today after premiering on the U.K.’s Sky1 last fall. Drawing from O’Dowd’s childhood in Boyle, Ireland, in the ’80s, “Moone Boy” recalls the comforting nostalgia of fare like “The Wonder Years” and “A Christmas Story,” with a whimsical touch — while the series sets out the charming adventures of 12-year-old Martin Moone (David Rawle), O’Dowd plays Sean Murphy, the boy’s not particularly imaginative imaginary friend. O’Dowd co-wrote the series with Nick Vincent Murphy (“Hideaways”), and while the six-episode first season is currently being rolled out on Wednesdays on Hulu, a second and third season have already been commissioned by Sky. On a call with press, O’Dowd spoke about making the transition to writing and producing a TV series after starring in ones like “The IT Crowd,” “Girls” and “Family Tree.”
On casting a boy to essentially play himself as a child. “Well, you try and find someone that seems far more charming and clever than you are, and preferably better looking. It was important to find somebody local to where I’m from — preferably someone who hadn’t done a lot of acting before, someone more natural. We did open casting calls for kids who hadn’t really been on camera before — we did that with all of the kids. And everybody is from within a half an hour of where I grew up.”
On his role in the series. “I’m so involved throughout the show that the performance part of it was probably the last thing I thought about. I play a character who is obviously [Martin’s] imaginary friend, but essentially is how he imagines himself to be in 20 years time — a middle-aged, middle level insurance salesman. So he probably doesn’t have a lot of ambition or imagination — which is why having an imaginary friend who is actually just a guy in a cheap suit was quite attractive. Writing the first series and the second series of the show… I did it while I was doing acting jobs. So I would try and do three hours after I got home from work. I write at night, so generally speaking, in my acting work, I look tired.”
On the series starting as a short film. “Sky TV has this project where every year they make 10 or 12 different short films over Christmas. I did one of those, about a kid who was essentially me, based on a photo I found at home where I’m in Santa’s Grotto and I wet my pants because apparently I was terrified. So I made a short about a kid who was terrified of Santa Claus and tries to entrap him in his house.
“It went really well, so they asked if I’d be interested in writing this show for them, a proper sitcom. I just didn’t have any other ideas, so we had the same world, my family and me. The second series is in the can now, just finishing the edits for it, and I found that easier. I’m writing the third series at the moment. It’s a bit trickier because we feel like we’ve used a lot of our great ideas, and now we’re just clutching at straws. [laughs] It gets more and more surreal.”
On how many of the storylines are based on real events. “Nearly all of them. Definitely breaking down the wall to get to school quicker. Being bullied at school by a couple of twins. My favorite episode is episode five, where [Martin] joins the altar boys. I was an altar boy for years and it did feel like it was this weird clandestine organization where anything goes.”
On how the imaginary friend is actually one of the aspects that’s not autobiographical. “I did talk to myself a lot — I still talk to myself a lot — but I didn’t actually have an imaginary friend. That was more of a construct where we thought, how do I appear in the show? [laughs] In the short that we did I played Santa Claus. Unfortunately, it seemed weird to have Santa Claus in every episode of the sitcom.
“[Playing Sean Murphy], you almost get into a cul-de-sac sometimes with it because I can’t be more knowledgeable than the kid is. So I like to think that I’m the devil on the shoulder and the angel on the shoulder, sometimes within the same scene. It’s somebody else offering advice, whether that’s good or bad.”
On preparing to make his directorial debut in the planned third season. “I’m going to direct for the first time, which is terrifying. But alluring. And I’m looking forward to that. I think as time goes on I’ll definitely be behind the camera a lot more. We’ll probably try and do a film next, but we’ll see how it goes. I want to see how I take to the directing thing before making any bigger promises. But I feel that I’ll write a lot more.”