Even when it feels like the odds are stacked against you, it’s never too late to push through and make your dreams come true.That’s according to Sligo actor Róisín Monaghan, who after years of pursuing her passion in Ireland, London, and New York as a single mother secured her breakout role In the new Netflix movie Enola Holmes 2.
The film, which stars Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, Superman’s Henry Cavill, and iconic actress Helena Bonham Carter, was released to audience and critical acclaim early this month and was the top film on streaming in numerous countries around the world.
“When I was in drama school in New York a teacher said to me, ‘you’re never going to succeed because you’re a single mum’,” Róisín told The Sligo Champion. “Unfortunately, I there’s a lot of single parent families and people on a low income who think the arts aren’t accessible to them, but I feel with drive and passion you can make it happen.
“It might take a long time but that’s my message, it’s been difficult along the way and there may be more difficult times ahead, but I am very grateful.”
Róisín grew up in Rosses Point with four brothers and one sister and went to school in the Mercy College, she did a small bit of performance as a child in Mary McDonagh’s acting workshops, and says she would watch her mother perform on the Hawk’s Well stage. “I never thought I could be an actor and I waited until I became an adult, it was only when I had my daughter, who is 21 now, that I had the courage to say this is what I want to do,” she said. “You only have one life to live and I thought I am going to do what I want to do.”Things started off slow and Róisín recalls doing voice over work for Northwest and Midwest radio, dinner theatre shows, and any other acting job she could manage to nab. “I never said no to anything, even when there things I thought I could do better than, because you never know what will lead to something, the people you meet along the way can be so fascinating and there’s people who I met 20 years ago and I see them doing so well, it’s incredible,” she said.
Róisín’s mother is Irish-American and this allowed her to move abroad and take on the world in New York City where she began to specialise in method acting at the the Lee Strasberg Institute studying theatre and film.
“I moved to the States and dragged my daughter with me, the poor thing. I just couldn’t afford drama school this side of the Atlantic,” she said. “The minute I came out of training it felt like things were taking off. People were casting me in their short films and I was getting huge auditions but I was also very scared. “In America, it felt like any day you could be on the street if you didn’t get the next job. Then there was a Broadway lead role that was between me and one other actor. I thought if I get this I’ll stay and if I don’t, I’ll leave. “There’s just no safety net there with health care and everything else. America is tough. It’s great if you’re winning, but it’s hard while you’re striving.”
Róisín didn’t get the role and after that she moved to London where she was welcomed with open arms by the Irish diaspora.“I connected with so many people and was doing lots of short films. I got involved with Irish Film London and in 2015 I did a play about the Clancy Brothers where I played Diane Guggenheim, she was a mentor and patron of theirs.“That was very successful and little by little things started to take off and I began to get huge auditions for big films that are out at the moment.” While finding herself in the running for larger roles, such as in the new Disney movie Disenchanted, producers and directors would usually go for a more recognisable name and at the final hurdle she’d be told that they have decided to go a different way.
That was up until she secured the role of Hilda Lyon, owner of the matchstick factory in the latest Enola Holmes film.
Enola Holmes 2 is a spin-off of the iconic Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes and is directed by British director Harry Bradbeer, known for his work on the likes of BBC productions Killing Eve and Fleabag.“It was very serendipitous, usually for a movie like this you’d be cast six or eight months in advance, but because it’s a small role somebody pulled out. However, even though it’s a small role it’s an important one as I am the owner of the matchstick factor,” Róisín said.“I did the audition and they told me straight away ‘you are in’, and within a few weeks I was at my costume fitting with the amazing Irish head of costumes Consolata Boyle who has been nominated for three Academy Awards.”
The story of Enola Holmes 2 takes inspiration from the real life story of Sarah Chapman, one of the leaders of the 1888 Byrant & May Matchgirl’s strike who has since been recognised as a pioneer of gender equality and fairness in the workplace and has left a lasting legacy on the trade union movement.
This industrial action was a reaction to the poisonous effects of white phosphorus being used in the production process of the matches, without proper safety equipment it caused disease of the jaw, tooth loss, swelling of the gums, and even death.
Although the film is aimed at all ages, Róisín says it was an honour to be involved in a project that tackled serious subjects and would empower young women to see the potential of standing up for what is right.“The interior of the matchstick factory was Shepperton Studios and I could feel the hair standing at the back of my neck. You are seeing how hard these people’s lives would have been and today there may be a tendency to vilify the past but we are standing on the shoulders of giants for what these women did,” she said. “A lot of them were poor Irish immigrants whose jaws were rotting and they were dying. They got together to stage this protest and you will see it in the movie that it makes you realise how lucky we are to have running water and warm houses that these people just didn’t have.” While working on the film, Róisín couldn’t help but relate the experiences of these Victorian workers to struggling migrants today, and says that although she may be playing a ‘baddie’ in the movie it is surreal to watch how the treatment of Irish people abroad has changed since that time. “I feel grateful to be an immigrant now, there are people who still experience those things today and you see that as an Irish person we are very fortunate nowadays,” she said.
Róisín says it was incredible to work alongside Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown and that she was blown away by how hardworking and kind the young star was on set. “I am just a tiny cog in the wheel of this film so she didn’t even need to say hello to me, but we did interact and we were acting together, and as a child actor she hasn’t always had it easy,” she said. “I think with any young actors it helps when they have support around them and you can see she has good family relationships and that she’s a normal young person. She’s even younger than my own daughter so I was quite motherly with her while I was there.” Having faced rejection in the film industry before, Róisín says she was nervous to watch the movie for the first time when it was being screened with the cast and crew the night before its debut worldwide on Netflix. “I thought I could be completely cut out of this movie! But I woke up the next day after it was released and my phone was lit up with all these new Instagram followers from all over the world,” she said.
“Millions of people have watched it and I heard from those in Sligo, Dublin, London, and everywhere I’ve been. It’s so heart-warming and has given me such a confidence boost.”
Róisín says she’s received nothing but love and support from family and friends and is delighted her now elderly parents are able to watch her in a major feature film. “My daughter has been dragged all over the place and I would always say ‘don’t worry, I’ll get the next job!’ I was the hapless actor mum,” she said. “Even the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with different casting directors and it seems all anyone needs is for somebody to take a chance on you.“I was forever doing short films but directors would say she hasn’t really been in anything. That’s different now. This is a huge movie worldwide and it was very emotional to see my name up in lights in Leicester Square, I am eternally grateful for this chance.”
Wilde’s own wife, Constance (Roísín Monaghan) is written to also perform what was originally Warden Nelson’s doing: on her visit to deliver his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas’s letter, she brings him paper and pen for a reply (which would go on to become the 55,000-word De Profundis), tightening the plot considerably. In her brief appearance, Monaghan is remarkable.
Independent fan reviews of Laika,
award winning short SFX Film on ALTER 2021
"Effects were ASTOUNDING for a short production, acting was incredible."
"We need a full film of Laika!!"
"I can not believe this film was made during early lockdown entirely on green screen. These actors excelled!"
"Someone please greenlight a full-length feature of this story"