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31st May 2018

The boy who left Belfast: From Derry Girls to Cursed Child, meet Broadway’s new man of the moment

Kate Demolder

“Fuck, this tastes like piss,” is the second thing I hear come out of Anthony Boyle’s mouth.

He’s just ordered a rogue lemonade and is now clasping the plastic cup with shame and regret.

The first was, “You have stuff?,” when gesturing to my iced tea as we sit in a cafe-cum-bakery just off Ninth Avenue, Manhattan.

23-year-old Boyle is dressed all in black, matching Paddy cap in tow. He exudes the confidence of someone who’s gotten used to having every move critiqued and is unapologetically himself, something that is obvious enough from the moment he takes my hand.

Never one foolish enough to break into arrogance, the glint in his eye shows that there’s wildness in the polished actor yet.

Assuring me that he has time to sit and chat, the young buck from west Belfast was only delighted to guide the conversation so he can tell someone from the motherland that he actually knows the city well enough to be able to guide others on where to go.

“Some couple asked me directions just there and I was actually able to give it to them. Chuffed.”

Boyle and his theatre company landed in New York City in January 2018 to kick off Broadway’s take on the phenomenon that is Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. Tickets are rarer than gold dust and previous Broadway records have been obliterated in its wake as legions of fans crowd the stage door every night.

The story continues where J. K. Rowling’s books left off, 19 years after the final Battle of Hogwarts as the world’s best-known trio wave goodbye to their children at platform 9 ¾.

Eight shows a week, Boyle is Scorpius Malfoy – the show’s resident limelight-stealer and son of Harry’s “arch-enemy”, Draco. He is fitted with a white-blonde wig an hour before hitting the stage each night.

“You know what, I actually feel dead vulnerable with the wig on. It changes your face so much. I look like Little fuckin’ Bo Peep.

“Which is a good thing, no one recognises you. The rest of the actors in the play come out the stage door and everyone’s like ‘wow’, but then I do and everyone’s like, ‘who the fuck is that Irish guy?’”

In real life, Anthony Boyle is a drama graduate who’s been acting since the age of 16. With a number of productions under his belt (some he’s proud of, others not so much), he’s currently residing in New York, a place where he’s planning on staying put for the foreseeable.

When asked does craic happen in the Big Apple, he replies, “Ah. It’s different. It’s not craic, it’s like ‘fun’. But I do love New York, I don’t want people to think I hate it”.

Prior to attending Hogwarts full-time, although he’s now hesitant to admit to it, Boyle actually had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

“It was my first week at drama school. I had, like, four lines. I couldn’t do a Northern [English] accent, so I’m the only Cockney in Westeros. Like, straight out of Mary Poppins,” he laughs bashfully.

One would assume that anyone experiencing the meteoric rise to fame Boyle has (he’s won an Olivier award, been nominated for a Tony and mentioned as one of Time Magazine’s next generation leaders for 2018 just months ago) would have experienced irreparable damage to their ego.

But Boyle lives in the frame of mind that self-importance is of no importance, commending a number of celebrities he’s met who, he believes, feel the same.

“My brother, Mícheál,” he answers when asked what keeps him grounded.

“We’re like best mates, really tight. He doesn’t give a shit about all this stuff. He’s older, he’s 28. He’s a ledge, like really chill.

“He came over and lived with me in London for a bit and he would just make me spaghetti bolognese every night. He’s an absolute dream.”

However, it seems that not only his brother is fighting the good fight, as he told me that when he brought his 13-year-old sister to see his stint in the West End, she told him that the best part of the whole trip was definitely the M&M factory.

“She said she liked the way you could pick all the colours.”

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

The Cursed Child is sensational.

Boyle comes alive as Scorpius Malfoy, the 14-year-old outsider who finds friendship in Harry’s disconcerting son, Albus Severus. The two share a rapport like no other. When one weaves, the other bobs. However, it truly is Malfoy that boasts the cynosure of all eyes.

Boyle, who’s been praised for his infectious likeability, impeccable timing and ability to associate the Malfoy name with vulnerability in months gone by, appears unfazed by the world into which he’s been immersed.

With accolades currently framing every inch of the 23-year-old’s life, one would assume that Boyle’s rise to fame came without tribulation. Quite the contrary, he tells me.

“I’ve always been a bit odd.”

Growing up in west Belfast, where boxers grow thick on the ground and there’s little to no room for failure, Boyle tells me what it was like growing up creative in a sea of severity.

“No one from Belfast leaves Belfast,” he assures me. “Everyone’s a boxer, and I was writing poetry.”

Although don’t think for a second that he didn’t find his niche. Never afraid to go against the status quo, and ultimately forgiving in nature, Boyle believes that he was a well-respected “outsider on the inside.”

It’s been a long road to Slytherin, it would appear.

Quite obviously keen to talk about something other than himself, he proudly shares how he’s travelled the vast majority of Ireland as his father spent time playing GAA. Although, it seems that a passion for our national sport skips a generation.

“I was the least athletic child in the world. My dad brought me to Gaelic training and I’d be on the sideline making daisy chains. I was this fuckin’ little weird kid,” he says.

“I used to, like, watch the other boys play football outside my window, and I would do, like, their voices. And then if a bully entered the group, I’d see how the politics of the group changed.”

However, that has all changed. The world at his feet and a Tony nomination under his belt, Boyle seems to have picked up legions of hardcore fans along the way.

“I got human hair [sent to me] before. Like a clump, quite a substantial clump. Of white human hair.”

“White, as in like Malfoy white?” I ask.

“No. Like old people white. Like your granny.”

Irish audiences may recognise Boyle from his brief stint in Channel 4’s Derry Girls. The Belfast-native played heartthrob DJ David Donnelly, protagonist Erin’s love interest.

 Clip via Hat Trick

“It was sick. My friend, the director, messaged me and said ‘yo, I’ve got this script Derry Girls and it’s fuckin’ gas’. So I read it and was like, ‘Yeah, fuck it’.

“They were filming in Belfast so I was in the gaff. Nothing too strenuous, like. I just fell in love with each of those girls, they’re an absolute laugh. They’re just piss funny.”

And yes, Potter fans, he can indeed speak Parseltongue. And a bit of Welsh too. He also knows the Irish for window and bin. So there’s nothing he can’t do.

Except, maybe kick a 45.

Has New York changed him? Having been in the city a mere five months, and planning to stay for “a lot longer”, the biggest change Boyle’s seen to himself is swapping cow’s milk for soy. He’s also “smashing green juices left, right and centre”.

However, he still explodes at the sight of Buckfast, near punches the air at the mention of Filthy McNasty’s and grins from ear to ear at the mention of the word ‘gas’.

Boyle then begins to divulge about his first kiss.

It’s telling of his character’s demeanour when he says that he wasn’t nervous for the life-defining moment. But, due to the colloquially fickle nature of Irish slang, Boyle does admit to being unnerved upon being asked to “shift” someone for the first time.

“I was terrified. It could’ve meant anything.”

He then let me in on who was his first kiss, a name he’s all-too-aware that he’s mentioned in interviews before, and how she broke his heart by dumping him for a boxer. But he’s totally over it, don’t dare think otherwise.

We then begin chatting about the ever-growing, yet never spoken about, phenomenon of Irish exits.

“Is that what they’re called? I do that every time! I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I’m so bad for that,” he says as he shows me texts from friends confirming that fact.

Boyle, who’s spent long evenings bonding with Bill Nighy over Van Morrison, and may possibly be the first person to ever describe J.K. Rowling as “lush”, seems to be taking everything as it comes, even when it comes to on-stage blunders.

“I love mistakes. I think the mistakes are the most interesting. I think when you see really good musicians or actors perform live, it should feel like a bit of a rehearsal. It shouldn’t feel like a presentation of the art, I think it’s most special when the person is making it as they go.

“An old teacher of mine when I was younger used to say ‘Start on the wrong foot’, like [you should] give yourself a problem, and I liked that.”

His mien remains insouciant when discussing the fact that women have undeniably shaped his career in ways that could not have been predicted.

“Not reflective of the industry I’m in, but most of the roles I’ve played have had a female lead. Not that I’ve a bad relationship with me da or anything, but I find it much easier to open up to women.

“With the work that I do, I have to be vulnerable and open, and that comes much easier with women for me.”

We then indulged in some quick-fire questions which allowed me to see what exactly makes one of Ireland’s most promising exports tick.

Gryffindor or Slytherin? “Slytherin.”

Belfast or the Big Apple? “Ahhh. My heart is in Belfast, but my soul and my feet are here.”

Thompson’s or FilthyMcNasty’s? “Fucking class. Thompson’s. Oh shit, no! Ehhh Filthy’s. No, Thompson’s when I was younger and Filthy’s because it’s better craic.”

Maggie May’s or Lavery’s? “Lavery’s.”

Irish or Americans? “Irish, hands down.”

What’s the best crisp to put in a crisp sandwich? “Tayto cheese and onion.”

What one thing would you bring to a desert island? “Right now I would say the Arctic Monkeys’ new album, ’cause I’m fuckin’ obsessed with them. Or probably like the complete works of Shakespeare or something equally as wanky.”

What do you miss most about home? “The craic. There’s a lovely Irish saying that is “getting out is half the craic,” and I think New York life is so fast-paced compared to Belfast life which is a lot more chill. You know like “oh fuck, the bus broke down. Ah whatever, we’ll walk.”

“Oh, and a fry with my grandad. I love a good fry with my grandad.”

Should pineapple be on pizza? “Yes.”

Westlife or Boyzone? “Man, these are the questions. Who sings ‘When You’re Looking Like That’? Yeah, Westlife.”

Favourite dance move? “I’m quite cool on a dance floor. Quite shifty like an old man at a wedding. Quite like a Jarvis Cocker.”

How do you like your tea? “Two sugars and a bit of milk.”

Favourite curse word? He pauses for a noticeable amount of time to go through the arsenal of profanities growing up in Ireland bestows you with, before fervently answering with “fuck.”

“It can mean loads of different things and it comes very naturally. Like when people in Belfast say it, it feels like it comes from the earth or something.”

So, what’s next for Anthony?

43rd Street’s man-of-the-moment admits that after Harry Potter he’ll just “go where the work is,” also admitting that he believes London is where he’ll end up next. His mates are there, it’s closer to home, and it’s a place far less busy than the Theatre District of midtown Manhattan.

“I want to go where the good people are and where the good scripts are and the good actors and directors.”

Although young, it’s clear that Boyle boasts far more than meets the eye. The temerity of his answering could hardly be second-guessed, even when posed with questions of pre-pubescent shifting and the allure of tonic wine.

Growing up in the spotlight is hardly ever easy, but the young actor seems to brush it off like hayfever in summertime. For now, he remains hopeful for the day that West Belfast gains its rightful place at the epicentre of the Earth, his dad will forgive him for all those years of daisy-chain making, and that human hair no longer makes its way through his letterbox.

And maybe, just maybe, the chance to bag another helping of his brother’s killer Bolognese.

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