Actress Caoimhe Cassidy stars as a homeless down-and-out Dublin-based prostitute whose encounters with various men that seem similar in resemblance and disposition is brilliantly realized in Irish filmmaker Graham Jones’s indie melodrama “Nola and the Clones” which is currently available to watch for free on YouTube.
Ms. Cassidy has other film acting credits including her turn in 2015’s “The Devil’s Woods” as well as considerable stage productions such as Angel Road Theatre Company’s “As Seen On Radio” and “My First Gun,” Barnstorm Theatre Company’s “The Ice Child” and Livin’ Fred Theatre Company’s “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
In fact Caoimhe Cassidy’s profound and pronounced performance in “Nola and the Clones” presented the resourceful actress an opportunity to pen her experiences working on the film project, sharing them in her wonderfully revealing article, “Resources for Writers: Write for Stage and Screen.”
The talented performer was gracious enough to be interviewed and offered her thoughts ranging from her involvement with “Nola and the Clones” to her overall philosophy on acting and creativity in general. Now let’s hear from stage and screen actress Caoimhe Cassidy.
FO = Frank Ochieng
CC = Caoimhe Cassidy
FO:: For starters thanks for taking the time to share your noteworthy insights about your exceptional role as homeless hooker Nola in “Nola and the Clones.” Despite your character Nola’s tragic malaise into prostitution and homelessness what do you see in her that is considered triumphant and empowering?
CC:: Leaving home at young age must have been a difficult decision for Nola to make — but a brave one at that. Her ability to foresee how her life would unfold if she remained in this environment helped her to break free from the constraints of her social class. I think this is a difficult thing for anyone to do — especially a young teenage girl to weigh up your options. Stop and address your present situation and ask yourself “is this the life I want?” Nola’s power lies within her ability to accept responsibility for her own life, to be an agent of change. Change can be scary for anyone in any situation — it’s the unfamiliar, the unknown. More often than not we dream of change, yet are too fearful to take the necessary steps forward. I think Nola’s decision to leave home wasn’t a whimsical or spur of the moment kind of resolution. I believe this is something she thought long and hard about. It’s unfortunate to think that a teenage girl could see herself having a better life if she became homeless. I don’t think she had any romantic notions or naive expectations about the realities of being homeless. I expect she was fully aware that by choosing to leave her home and live on the streets she was placing herself in an equally vulnerable position. A brave little soul, in my opinion.
FO:: How much to you agree with your character Nola’s immense distrust in the male species? Do you agree that her embedded anger in men is warranted or is she hiding too much behind her acquired cynicism?
CC:: I think she has good reason to distrust the male species. Unfortunately most of her early experiences with men have been troublesome and traumatic, she doesn’t know any different. Nola definitely has her guard up when it comes to men. Any encounters she has had with guys since leaving home have been forced and problematic, thus reinforcing her idea that “all men are the same.” Every flawed experience gets added to the rubbish pile of unworthy candidates. Her pile of untrustworthy men is getting bigger and bigger, making it increasingly difficult for her to see anything good beyond this rubbish heap of deceptive clones. Yet she continues, appearing unscathed and unmoved by their pathetic and sometimes dangerous advances. Cynical indeed . . . and so she should be, in my opinion — based on what she has had to endure. However, I believe her cynicism is a protective barrier; like a defensive skepticism she uses to protect herself from the outside world. She’s not stupid, she knows that she is vulnerable and could be any easy target for any predator, opportunist or wannabe “hero.” It would be very naive of her let down her defenses instantly with anyone, she must be wary. However unsuccessful and depleting her experiences with men have been in the past, this doesn’t seem to deter her ability to move forward. I don’t think that she is hiding behind her cynicism. It is behind her cynicism that she hides a very distant, faint glimmer of hope–that someday she might find someone who she can love and they in return will love her unconditionally. Perhaps on some level she isn’t fully aware of this “blind faith” she carries. Like a tiny little piece of optimism, that peaks through the cracks of her damaged heart. Nonetheless she guards her heart carefully — not wanting to expose an innocence that remains ajar. Is she angry at men? I don’t think so — I think it’s a mix of exasperated pity and harrowing acceptance, that perhaps this is just the way men are, simple. If I was her I would be pretty pissed with the male species . . . I would probably be a lesbian by now. Ha Ha.
FO:: So do you share any similarities with your character Nola in terms of her sense of curiosity about an unfeeling, indifferent and distant world?
CC:: Most definitely. I think we all experience moments in our lives when we feel disconnected from the world around us. These feelings usually arise when we become disconnected from ourselves in some way. When our inner world is “under construction” so to speak, it can have profound affects on how we interpret the external world. Like Nola, I too have hit periods of discontentment in my own life. Questioning my past, present and future and perhaps indulging in too much unfavorable self-critique. During these times of self-examination, it can be difficult to see the world as a caring, accepting place. Detachment from yourself can make the world appear a distant place — brooding over life’s injustices. I am fortunate to have had a relatively normal, happy upbringing — I can’t say the same for Nola. Although I have lived quite a sheltered existence in comparison to Nola; I feel I can still relate to and sympathize with her personal struggles on a human level. We have started out in different places, lived diverse experiences — yet we seem to be asking ourselves the same questions. My cautious curiosity of the world generally comes at a times when I am experiencing an “internal inquisition.” Ha Ha . . . saying that, I’m actually quite a positive person and my moments of frustration are generally inconsistent and temporary . . . thank God!
FO:: In what specific way was Nola an inspiration to you in your portrayal of her psychological and emotional struggles on the street and sometimes reluctant carnal dealings with random “cloning” men?
CC:: I think living on the street forces Nola to live in the present moment a lot. It’s day to day survival for her, very basic fundamental needs — food, water, shelter. Apart from her interactions with men Nola spends most of her time alone. Her daily existence revolves around her need for basic human necessities, which probably leaves her little time to deeply contemplate the past. In some ways I think this ability to live in the present moment has kept her “sane.” I have no doubt that revisits her past and scrutinizes her dealings with men — but she doesn’t waste time dwelling on it. She thinks about it, then moves on. We see from her speech in the car that she has carefully analyzed her upbringing and formulated a “mission statement” of some sort, expressing her reasoning as to why she chose a life on the street. She struggles to survive in an unstable environment along with all the difficulties that come with being homeless, however it is this “homelessness” that has in some way protected her mental state. I tried to approach each scene with Joe (The Clones) with this in mind. She has been hurt and abused by men. Emotionally damaging? Yes, of course. Yet she continually moves forward with an unfounded strength and confidence in her ability to fend for herself. Although extremely suspicious and distrusting of her male counterparts, she still exudes a sense of dignity and integrity–something I tried to keep alive in her. She deals with these random guys in the same way that she survives day to day being homeless — live in the moment, everything is temporary and continue on.
FO:: Could you provide one descriptive word that describes your “Nola and the Clones” director Graham Jones as well as your equally capable co-star Joseph Lydon?
CC:: Graham- Visionary Joseph- Devotee
FO:: Personally, I would love to see a follow up in the raw exploits of Nola and her desperate survival mode on the street and with her disconnection to opportunistic lost men. Would you consider revisiting Nola and bring her back in a sequel?
CC:: Sequels are a funny thing. 9 times out of 10 I don’t think they work. Obviously it would be nice to see Nola a few years on . . . what she’s up to. But I think the sequel of “Nola and the Clones” is in the mind of the viewer. I like that it’s open for interpretation. I personally would be rooting for her, hoping that she could turn her life around, but I don’t know. I think as far as she’s concerned she doesn’t want to be a part of the “real world.” I’m sure Graham shares my feelings regarding a sequel. A man of many talents, he doesn’t hang around. By the time we had finished shooting “Nola and the Clones,” Graham was steadily moving on to his next project. He’s a mighty man! So no . . . you probably won’t see “Nola: RETURN of the Clones” ; )
FO:: Caoimhe, can you describe the rush of excitement and anticipation while performing on stage in comparison to the indie movie-making process?
CC:: This question is difficult to answer. Acting on stage and screen acting are very different processes. I will compare them as best as I can. There is always a wave of adrenaline that kicks in before you step on stage. I don’t like to say the word “nerves” — it’s more like a charged excitement. A play can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours sometimes. For every second that you are on that stage you must be fully present. You can never lose concentration, no matter how comfortable you feel. All the while, trying to make it look like you’re not concentrating. Generally you will have a lot more rehearsal time for theater because once you step foot on that stage — there’s no going back. There’s no “cut” or “let’s do that again.” You must carry the show to the curtain call with the help of the other actors (if there are any). You can’t really afford to make mistakes. For the duration of the performance you are engulfed in another world and simultaneously trying to create a world that encaptures a live audience. The main difference between acting onstage and onscreen is the presence of an audience. In filmmaking, a live audience is non existent. In theater, having an audience present gives the space an indescribable energy. You can feel their silent reactions, it’s a great buzz. Or when they laugh at with you, or perhaps at you — it’s all good ; ). In filmmaking the audience will only see the finished product when it hits the big screen — or in the case of our movie, from the comfort of your own home. Each scene you shoot is like a rehearsal that is being recorded. Not dissimilar to theater rehearsals — sometimes it requires a couple of takes to get the scene just right. It’s amazing when you get a scene in one take — you know that you’ve just captured a golden moment. It is these “golden moments,” little slices of magic that make acting on screen so rewarding. You just know inside that you’ve captured something special and then to hear your director say “we’ve got it,” seals the deal. Different processes acting on stage and on camera — both as equally rewarding in their own unique way.
FO:: Please complete this sentence: Acting on stage and in film is as rewarding as _________________ (fill in the blank)
CC:: . . . breathing ; ) . (Alternative answer: finding a crumpled €5 note in the back pocket of your jeans on a day when you’re down to your last Euro . . . #rich)
FO:: Caoimhe, do you have a particular actress or actor that you admire or try to emulate in your performances whether it is on stage or in the movies?
CC:: There are so many actors who I truly admire. I think as an actor you always being inspired by other people’s performances — both onscreen and onstage. You learn so much from just watching and of course, you are always emulating what you see in some way. Not so much the actor themselves but what they bring to the role, their characterization. I started writing a list of actors who inspire me but I think I will be here all day if I try to finish it Ha Ha. Therefore I have chosen one name, my good friend Susan Lynch. Susan sprung to mind because she recently won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Actress, for her performance as Hester Swane in the Abbey Theatre’s production of “By the Bog of Cats.” She is a phenomenal actress who embodies grace and strength. I really admire her as an actor and she is an awesome human being too ; )
FO:: In my opinion trying to move on to another film characterization after your terrific turn as the young wounded woman selling sex while destitute in the unpredictable streets is a tough act to follow. So what would you like your next film role to be in terms of someone who is either heroic or disturbingly flawed?
CC:: A tough act to follow indeed. Nola was such an amazing character to play–a real challenge. I always like trying new things and exploring different kinds of characters. I don’t really have a preference; heroic or disturbingly flawed — once the writing is good and the story has texture. You want to engage an audience on some level, to do this you need 1.) A superb script 2.) Well rounded characters 3.) A talented director with a clear vision. I love to play characters who are completely dissimilar to me. Perhaps they speak with a different accent, come from another era, have polar opposite personalities or have had extraordinary life experiences. The more layers a character has, the more you have to work with — in terms of giving them depth and substance. Drawing parallels is always fun too. Yes, you are bringing the character to life but the character is bringing hidden parts of yourself to light.
FO::Lastly, what would you advise young girls and women out there to do in reference to avoiding the disheartening plight that your character Nola got trapped into due to the rough aftermath of a dysfunctional domestic life?
CC:: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out can be a battle sometimes — especially if you are living in a toxic environment, it’s hard to see any way out. At times, it can be the people closest to you that are causing you the most suffering. If you don’t have a close family member or friend who you can talk to you shouldn’t feel discouraged. There are so many amazing organizations out there now, who offer free and confidential services to women. The first one that comes to mind is Ruhama — a Dublin based voluntary organization that supports women who have been affected by prostitution. For young girls who are trapped in a dysfunctional situation at home or are experiencing domestic abuse there are organizations whose sole purpose is to support vulnerable children (up to 18 years). Barnardo’s is an organization who work directly with children and the their families. They have over 40 centers and campaign for the rights of all children in Ireland. It’s never too late to ask for help and the sooner young girls have access to support services the better. Having access to professional guidance and support will enable them to protect their future. Be brave, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
FO:: Caoimhe, much obliged to you for generously providing your thoughts on “Nola and the Clones” and here is wishing you future success in your continued career on stage, in television or the movies.
CC:: Thank you Frank. Firstly, for your wonderful film review of “Nola and the Clones”; secondly, for presenting me with these thought-provoking questions. I hope I have provided you with a little more insight into my Nola-making process. Thank you for your blessings . . . who knows what the future will hold! Take care.