Main content

Chris O’Dowd: Nine things we learned when he spoke to Louis Theroux

In the final episode of the first series of Grounded with Louis Theroux podcast, Louis chats to actor and writer Chris O’Dowd. The two friends discuss family life in lockdown, being bitten by imaginary dogs, growing up in a small town in Ireland and both getting their noses broken as kids. Here are nine things we learned…

Chris and Louis

1. Chris and his wife, Dawn O’Porter, almost had to spend the lockdown in different countries

The couple live in the USA with their two young sons, but Dawn was on her way back from England just before the lockdown and at one point it looked like she might be stuck. “That was quite a scary moment of, like, we’ve no idea what lays ahead, and suddenly I’m just going to be doing this with the lads, which would be interesting but not ideal,” Chris says. “So that was definitely a ‘get on a plane as soon as you can’ kind of moment, which was weird.” Other than that, I mean, we’ve been lucky in that it hasn’t affected us terribly in terms of health or anything like that.”

We were in that first wave of creative diarrhoea that seemed to encase the entire world… it was a thing that we didn’t need, that everybody hated.
Chris on the infamous Imagine video

2. Chris sang in Gal Gadot’s Imagine video, and thinks the backlash was “fairly justified”

The viral video featured Hollywood celebrities singing John Lennon’s famous song, in an effort to cheer people up at the start of the pandemic. But it wasn’t well received online. Chris says he and Dawn recorded their clip in five minutes without thinking about it. “I presumed it was a charity thing,” he says. “But yeah… we were in that first wave of creative diarrhoea that seemed to encase the entire world… it was a thing that we didn’t need, that everybody hated. It was kind of bizarre to be even momentarily part of that maelstrom.”

3. Chris has been struggling to find time for work during the lockdown

Chris says that his children have been “having the time of their lives” because “they’re getting so much attention”. But trying to find enough time to get work done has been tricky. “I’ve got a writing job, Dawn’s got a writing job, and suddenly we’re doing the parenting – like, the home schooling. This is what everybody can relate to around the country, is just, ‘God, I wouldn’t mind just a bit of headspace.’”

4. Chris used to arrive at auditions pretending he’d just been bitten by a dog

He says he thought it would make him stand out in people’s minds. “I don’t know what I was hoping, other than like somebody would go, ‘Hey, you know who’d be good for that? The guy who was bitten by a dog!’” he laughs. But the tactic backfired when Chris accidentally told the dog story to the same people twice. “They were like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so weird… because the last time you were here you were bitten by a dog!’” Chris recalls. “So, I had to try and style it out, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with them lately.’”

5. Mia Farrow’s mum helped inspire Chris to get into acting

Chris grew up in Boyle, a small town in the north west of Ireland. He says one of his earliest memories was of a parade for the returning Hollywood actress Maureen O’Sullivan. She had been born in Boyle and gone on to star as Jane in the Tarzan movies. “I suppose, in some way, part of me thought, ‘Wow, well she must be important, what does she do?’” Chris recalls. He’s since become friends via Twitter with O’Sullivan’s daughter, the actress Mia Farrow, because of the Boyle connection. “I think she finds it reassuring that people from her mum’s home place remember her,” Chris says.

6. He enjoys writing, but wouldn't want to give up performing

Chris began his career as a stage actor, and only started to write after he’d established a TV career. He says that after working with good screenwriters, “I think I picked up a few things and then just started writing a bit, and then just really enjoyed it.” But he wouldn’t want to do it full time as he would miss performing. “Particularly being on stage is such a rush. It taps into an entirely different part of your brain than people enjoying a script. So hopefully, all going well, I’ll continue to do both.”

7. In real life, his sisters were “much more pleasant” growing up than the characters in Moone Boy

The comedy series Chris wrote and starred in, about a boy and his imaginary friend, is set in his home town and has “a lot of similarities” with his own childhood. But Chris says the three older sisters in Moone Boy aren’t really like his own, “we kind of messed it up just to make it a bit more dramatic and fun, I suppose.” In reality, he says, his sisters are “the most incredible women.”

I said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s the best you’ve got?’ And so, he hit me again, and that was the one that broke my nose.
Chris O'Dowd

8. Both Louis and Chris broke their noses as children

It happened to Chris during his first week at secondary school. “I was a big kid… I was, like, six foot when I was 11 or 12,” says Chris. So, when an older boy started hassling one of his friends, he took a stand. “He hit me, and I remember deciding to go, ‘I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t feel anything.’ So, I said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s the best you’ve got?’ And so, he hit me again, and that was the one that broke my nose.” Louis describes how he was thrown to the ground by another child in “a wrestling incident” and hit his face, but says, “it wasn’t ‘til years later that I realised he’d actually broken my nose, and that’s why I have a crooked nose.”

9. Louis says having routines has helped him through the lockdown

Louis says he has found life in lockdown emotional at times. “I’m not going around weeping, but on occasion I suddenly think, ‘Wow, this whole thing that’s going on, it’s really awful. It’s horrendous.’ The enormity of the tragedy sort of blindsides you.” He says that having structure and things to do has really helped. “It sounds trivial, but the little routines that I’ve had have been so important, like exercising. Also, doing these podcasts and being a little bit productive.”