‘I took my role as Virgin Mary very seriously’


Born and raised in Cork, south-west Ireland, theatre, film and television actor Sarah Greene was just six years old when she first stepped on stage, performing in local musical theater and pantomimes. She later attended Cada Performing Arts school in Cork and then Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, graduating in 2006.

Greene’s interpretation of Helen in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2013 earned her Olivier and Tony Award nominations, while her film credits include Bad Sisters, Normal People, Vikings and Dublin Murders. She is now 39 and lives with her partner and son in London and Belfast. Greene currently stars in Sexy Beast on Paramount+.

When I was five years old, I was cast as the Virgin Mary in the Christmas play at the kindergarten. With my blue cape and stern expression, I took the role incredibly seriously. I had the character of a devoted mother. I still have that Tiny Tears doll at my home in Cork, although she is missing a lot of hair. When I wasn’t performing, I enjoyed giving her locks a chop. Especially the edge.

The following year it was decided that the school would give another child a chance with Mary. The teachers thought it would be a good idea to pull the name of the next girl to play the role out of a hat. When they did, it was Sarah Greene again. I was Mary two years in a row, much to the disdain of some of the other girls’ mothers. It was a real drama, a real controversy.

Even though I was young, I had already realized it that acting was my ambition. About this time my parents had gotten me tickets in the dress circle to see Cinderella at the Cork Opera House, and as I watched it all I could think about was how I longed to be on stage with the actors. You wouldn’t have guessed to meet me then; I was very quiet and super shy, far from outgoing. I found interactions with people I didn’t know painful. I have memories of my mother asking me to go to the grocery store by myself and absolutely hating it. Acting increased my self-confidence. What I enjoyed most was putting on masks and being able to express myself through other characters.

At the age of six I took part in a talent show. My solo performance was Miss Hannigan in Annie and I really threw myself into it, walking across the stage with an empty bottle of vodka in my hands and wearing my mother’s high heels. Everyone was terrified that I would trip and break my ankles, but I loved pretending I was a drunk woman singing Little Girls. I came in second and it was all the encouragement I needed to know that this was the life for me. I felt my best on stage.

I have always been a people pleaser. When I look at this photo, I see a little girl who wants to be someone’s best friend

My childhood was very outdoorsy: running through the fields and woods surrounding the old farmhouse where I grew up. When my parents originally bought it, they had no intention of becoming farmers, but they inherited many pot-bellied pigs, cats and dogs from the previous one. owner – also chickens. We didn’t even eat their eggs because we considered them our pets. It was all very healthy.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father worked in telecommunications, and still does. Even though acting was an unknown profession to them, they were incredibly supportive, especially since there were a few teachers who complained about me missing so much school – even though I wasn’t behind.

Of a at a very young age I was ridden, and my parents encouraged me every step of the way because they were so relieved that I had found something I was passionate about. I made sure they always came along – they came with me to awards shows and when I performed in New York and filmed in France. They’ve also been there for the less glamorous jobs. I remember my father coming to see me when I was doing a not-so-good play in Dublin. At the end he was the only one to give a standing ovation. Afterwards I said, “Oh no! Dad, you didn’t have to stand.’ He said, “I have always stood for you, and I will always stand for you.”

I had worked in Irish theater for years and made a number of films along the way, but it wasn’t until The Cripple of Inishmaan that film and TV really opened their doors to me. The Tony nomination put me on the map. I was dealing with phenomenal talent, so I wasn’t worried about having to go on stage to give a speech, but it was a brilliant and surreal evening – and something that completely changed the course of my career.

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It wasn’t always easy. The first time I remember being rejected from a production and feeling hurt was when I was ten. I had auditioned for the Cork Operatic Society’s production of The Sound of Music and had to sing Happy Birthday – which is actually a very difficult song to sing. . I didn’t understand and was heartbroken. Destroyed. My parents said, “If this is the job you want to do, you’re going to have to get used to it.” There are still times when I really regret not getting a role, but since then I’ve come to realize that often it has nothing to do with your talent – ​​it’s what you look like, your height or something fundamental that is completely beyond your reach. your hands.

When it comes to surviving the entertainment industry as a woman today, it certainly feels like the landscape is changing for the better. I have been lucky to be constantly surrounded by inspiring women throughout my career: when I was doing panto and plays as a child, I performed with many female actors from different generations, who taught me so many skills and opened me up socially.

I became a mother a few years ago and it certainly exposed me to new emotions. Before I had my son, however, I had already explored mother roles: first as Rosie in the 2018 film of the same name; and then as Lorraine in Normal People. I was on set on the first day of filming Normal People, and from the opening scene I realized that Paul [Mescal] and Daisy [Edgar-Jones] were electric and that we were in the presence of something big. Rightly so, they have become superstars since then, but I don’t think I would want their fame. I like being able to sit in a restaurant, eat something, and have no one look at me. I want to be able to have a conversation and not feel like I’m being overheard. The older I get, the more I just want to do my job: come home, see my son and try to get him to bed.

I won’t tolerate nonsense anymore. I am very capable of speaking my mind when I think something is wrong, which I didn’t do as much when I was younger because I was afraid of rocking the boat and losing the job.

Not that I have much reason to speak out at the moment – ​​I’m in the middle of filming the new series of Bad Sisters, so I’m surrounded by incredibly powerful, smart, supportive women on set every day. From our lord and savior Sharon Horgan, the genius that she is, to the directors and producers, the entire show is female-led, which I find really sexy and exciting.

While I could care less what people think of me, I am a bit of a people pleaser, and always have been. When I look at this photo, I see a little girl who wants to be someone’s best friend. I’d like to go back and give her a hug and tell her that her life will be cool and that even though it sometimes feels like she’s the shyest kid in the room, she’s not so quiet anymore.

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