The A-List Interview: Chris O'Dowd
BY Brandon Voss
March 10 2014 3:00 AM ET
Kristen Wiig and Chris O'Dowd in Bridesmaids
Before blowing up in America, you made a career of playing awkward misfits.
Yeah, I’m drawn to the outliers of society. I’ve always felt a bit like that myself, like many people who do arts and comedy. I grew up with three older sisters who would beat me up. When you’re a boy around a bunch of incredibly strong, independent women, you’re basically made to feel like having a penis is wrong.
You created the comedy Moone Boy, which is shown in the U.S. on Hulu, based on your own upbringing in Ireland. In one episode, Martin, the 12-year-old protagonist, inadvertently wears makeup to school, where his classmates think he’s expressing his sexuality. What inspired that?
My sisters would put makeup on me when I was asleep and send me to school. At their cruelest, they would do a good, subtle job, so people would look at me strangely, thinking something was not quite right, and then finally realize that I was wearing blusher.
Martin also deals with bullies. Were you bullied as a kid?
Yeah, to an extent, by the bigger boys. You never look back on those moments and laugh, but you always look back and feel like they shaped you into the person you are.
Any upcoming LGBT storylines on Moone Boy?
We’ve got a lot of good stuff with Martin’s best friend, Padraic, leading him slightly in the direction that he’s clearly gay but he just doesn’t know it yet.
What was your earliest exposure to gay people?
At the age of 10 or 11, I remember having a friend I suspected was probably gay and watching him have to deal with it in the west of Ireland, which was still behind the times. I come from a very artsy family, which was much more open. My sister was in art school at the time and had a gay roommate, so I knew that world a little more than most people my age did. Now, of course, I have loads of gay friends.
Are you friends with the gay one from the boy band Westlife?
Mark Feehily, isn’t it? [Laughs] I do know a couple of those guys, but I don’t know Mark too well. I’ve maybe met him once.
Sorry, that’s the first gay Irish celebrity that came to mind.
Oh, we’ve got a few. Like the guy from Dracula, Jonathan Rhys Meyers? He’s gay, isn’t he?
Ask his girlfriend. You also starred as a man investigating his lineage in the HBO series Family Tree. Any gay branches on your tree?
I may be related to George O’Dowd, better known as Boy George. I found out my great-grandfather was a bigamist, and it looks like he had a second family in Birmingham, England, where George’s family is from. I mentioned it to him once and he loved the idea that we might be cousins.