Robert Sheehan

“I was chatting to this girl who is a burlesque dancer…” Robert starts in his quippy Irish drawl. “That’s how all good stories start,” I return jocosely. “She was working at the gig and, of course, I was flirting away like a mad man. I’m a young, single, red-blooded male, what else would I be doing. Then Jonathan Ross came over and tried to sabotage me, saying ‘don’t talk to him, don’t you dare kiss him, he’s nothing but a bouffant-haired Irish weirdo.’” “You’re friends then?” I counter.  “Oh yeah, then he got all lovely and sentimental.” 

I am sitting down with Robert Sheehan before his 1883 photo shoot, discussing the events of the Empire Awards which took place several days earlier. An event which, to Sheehan’s delight, was un-televised, uncensored and undeniably decadent and booze fuelled. Characteristic of Robert, he used the opportunity to play around with the press. “On the red carpet, I kept saying random stuff into the camera to make it all completely unusable,”  he explains, the thrill of his trickery written all over his face. “They would ask if I had a girlfriend and I would reply, ‘I’m very much a polygamist, and what I like to do is round up four or five eighteen-year-old prostitutes in a hotel room and make them do cocaine off each-others backs.’ All nonsense like that.”

Robert’s quick-witted and playfully brazen persona is exactly what he brought to his character Nathan Young in the critically acclaimed Misfits. The British sci-fi comedy/drama – which was a hit with pundits and audiences alike – follows a group of young offenders who, through a freak weather storm, obtained magical powers. Due to his charismatically captivating on screen performance, Robert, who was part of the cast for seasons one and two, remains to this day one of the fans’ firm favourites. “To be honest, with that show, I was just taking jobs as they came. Bear in mind, at the time we had no idea how the show was going to turn out. I mean the script was brilliant, but at the same time, tonally, it is an easy thing to get wrong. We were very much in the hands of the amazing creative collaborators that were Howard Overman, Tom Green, and Christopher Ross.”

Despite his memorable performance, the twenty-five-year-old actor – who got his first taste of professional acting at fourteen in the 2003 drama Songs for a Raggy Boy – notes his stint as Stephen Cartwright in the BBC2 series Accused, as some of his best work to date. “What is so amazingly special about that series, and Jimmy McGovern’s writing in general, is its twist and turning and it’s character driving. It was largely what director David Blair did as well but I was very mentally proud of my piece within that series.” His creative admiration of David Blair is blatant, especially when Sheehan informs me that they will be working together again later this year. “The script, called The Messenger, is one of the best things I’ve read in my entire life. It is another profoundly brilliant character-driven piece about a guy who can speak to the dead.”

One thing that really comes across when talking to Robert is his sheer pride of his Irish roots. With this knowledge, his elation at the success of his infinitely popular Irish TV show, Love/Hate, makes perfect sense.  “I am immensely proud of this show. The effect that that has had on the Irish public is hysterical. The entire nation watches it. RTE – who made the show – were saying they hadn’t had viewership like that since the 1990 World Cup when Ireland was in.”

This year, however, the gifted actor – who has now become known for his trademark dark shaggy hair and light green eyes – is switching his focus back to the silver screen. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – which co-stars Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell-Bower and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers – follows young Clary Fray (Collins) on her quest to retrieve her mother back from demonic creatures. “I play the best friend to Lily Collins’ character whom I’m secretly harbouring feelings of love for. She starts to discover a magical ability she has suppressed within her and gets dragged into this parallel magical world that exists in tandem with New York. My character, Simon Lewis, gets pulled along for the ride.”

This role seems quite a departure for Sheehan, who has, in the past, tended to gravitate towards characters with adark side. Simon, on the other hand, comes across as quite the innocent.  “I think he is at an age where he has never been in love. Young at heart, quite naive about the world, and very much not the “hot shot” guy. He is quite an intellectual character as you can see by way they put glasses on me for the movie. [laughs] Hey, he likes books!” 

So does the fact that The Mortal Instruments is a six-part book series culminated with the knowledge of the current popularity of fantasy franchises, make Robert think about what this project could become? “We are all signed on for three [films], in theory. But first one has to be successful enough in order to encourage theproducers to make the second and third. There is no point in thinking about that sort of stuff because despite your confidence in a project, you just have absolutely no idea how the world is going to receive something. By involving yourself in a project, you surrender all objectivity, so you just have to leave it to the rest of the world to decide.” Well, looking at what Robert has done in the past, we for one have every confidence in him.

PHOTOGRAPHER Charl Marais

FASHION Joanna Valmai Wills

FASHION ASSISTANT Rudy Betty

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