Ardal O’Hanlon on how he struggled to handle fame following early Father Ted success
He learned his lesson.
Having been thrust into the spotlight for his runaway success as Father Dougal McGuire in the hit sitcom Father Ted, Ardal O’Hanlon was forced to navigate the tricky landscapes of media interviews from an early point in his career.
Now, 20 years after the last episode of the show was filmed, O’Hanlon is considerably longer in the tooth and has learned from the naivety he showed in some early interviews.
O’Hanlon told Dion Fanning on Ireland Unfiltered that he wasn’t comfortable with the spotlight and fame that came with success, fame that he overestimated his ability to deal with.
"But I didn’t handle it particularly well,” O’Hanlon said with a small shake of his head.
"I just didn’t know about it really. I suppose saying stupid things in interviews would be a big one. Three or four times I was incredibly embarrassed by stuff that appeared in the newspapers.
“There was one,” O’Hanlon started, before breaking off into laughter and shaking his head ruefully.
“There was one, I was doing an interview with a Scottish newspaper about a part in a film I had in a Scottish folk story called The Great Friar’s Bobby… I was giving an interview promoting that film.
“I was asked about my wife – I’ve been with my wife since we were teenagers and we still get on fantastically well and everything, it’s great – but I would always make jokes about her in interviews. Always. I’d always make up jobs for her and things like that, I would say she’s a gymnast or something like that [laughs]. Just to see would it turn up in the interview.”
“But I remember saying, ‘God yeah we’ve been together since we were teenagers’, O’Hanlon said in a faux sombre voice.
“So it’s all about tone you see, ‘Oh I tried to leave her so many times but she just-’, so it was something like that I said and I thought the journalist was in cahoots with me over it.”
He went on to explain that the story appeared a month later in The Evening Herald repackaged with the headline ‘Ardal O’Hanlon Tries To Leave His Wife’.
His poor wife was in the butchers in Rathmines in Dublin and had the butcher saying to her, “Ah Jesus, I believe he’s trying to leave you!”
But this wasn’t the only time it happened. In another interview he was asked about drugs and made the mistake of making a throwaway comment he made to a women’s magazine which was again repackaged in a different newspaper.
He told the interviewer in jest that he put cocaine on his toast every morning.
This resulted in another newspaper leading the front page with the headline “Father Ted Star’s Drug Shame”.
O’Hanlon said it caused him to wake up and wonder how on earth it all happened, because he didn’t see himself as any kind of celebrity, but he was being treated like one in newspapers.
The Showing Off Must Go On is at Cork Opera House on 30 October, Vicar St, Dublin on 9 November and University Concert Hall, Limerick on 29 November. Tickets available here.
Ardal will also be at the Vodafone Comedy Carnival, Galway in Town Hall Theatre with The Showing Off Must Go On on 26 October.