SINCE graduating from Gaiety School of Acting in 2019, Aisling Kearns’ career has gone from strength to strength.
Her professional acting debut was in West Cork writer Louise O’Neill’s play Asking For It, she starred in the hit crime drama Darklands, and now she plays Kate, Aidan Gillen’s daughter, in his latest film, Barber.
Kearns says she was attracted to the role because it had depth. The film sees Gillen play Val Barber, a private detective working on a case while dealing with personal issues, including his daughter’s health concerns. Kate suffered a traumatic brain injury following an accident and is fighting to rebuild her life.
“My agent got in touch and asked me if I was interested in auditioning for it,” explains Aisling.
“I said yes straight away because Kate is a female character that isn’t a romantic interest; it is still common for females to be cast purely as the love interest, so to get the chance to do more than that, it was great.
“The role is about her journey from suffering a brain injury and learning to come out the other side.”
Kearns says that working with Dublin-born Gillen, whose track record includes The Wire, Love/Hate, and Game Of Thrones, was also a big selling point.
“Knowing that I would get to work with Aidan was exciting; he has so much experience, and I knew I would learn a lot from him, and I was right.
“Everyone has their processes, but it’s not just about learning from Aidan’s acting process. I learned from how he interacted with the director, Fintan Connolly, and the rest of the crew.
“I like that Aidan was open to working together to find the scene rather than me following him. He has so much experience that he could easily lead the scene and expect me, as a young actor, to follow him, but he is a real collaborator.”
The film also stars Cork actor and singer Camille O’Sullivan. Although Kearns and O’Sullivan do not appear in any scenes together, Kearns says O’Sullivan was very encouraging.
“I met Camille at the Barber premiere, and she had some lovely words for me. She was so friendly. I was so nervous about the whole thing.
“It was my first time being in a film on the big screen, but for someone with as much experience as Camille, who is such a phenomenal actor, to give me such kind words meant a lot to me.”
The film was shot during the lockdown, and unlike most films made during Covid restrictions, Barber acknowledges the pandemic. Kearns says it made things easier for the cast and crew.
“We filmed according to normal life with distancing and masks. It made things much easier than pretending it didn’t exist and having all the hardship of trying to film something and make it look like the pandemic wasn’t happening.”
Kearns researched brain injuries to perfect her role as Kate and got help from movement couch Sue Mythen to portray the physical side of her character’s injuries.
“I researched types of brain injuries and levels of them. I worked with Sue Mythen, a movement director I worked with on Asking For It; she was brilliant.
“Kate was in a rehabilitation centre for six months, so this was a severe injury. She has a shake in her left hand and struggles to stop that from happening. I worked with Sue on the movement of that, but before we even got into the physical, we talked about the type of brain injury and how that would affect her emotionally. She helped me find the mindset I had to be in.
“When you get the mindset, it is much easier to maintain the physical aspect and be consistent throughout filming.”
Asking For It premiered in The Everyman Theatre before going on tour. Kearns says that despite her nerves, she enjoyed the experience and was happy for O’Neill that she could open her show in her home county.
“I was so excited to play in Cork. It was my first time on a stage as a professional in a lead role, and it was this huge play that everyone was talking about.
“I remember walking on stage for a technical rehearsal and thinking, oh my god, this is happening. Despite the nerves, opening the play in Louise’s home was great, and the audiences were so supportive.”
“The play was intense, and it was a difficult role to play, but it was an incredible experience. Sue, who worked with me on Barber, helped me with my character’s physicality in Asking For It. Something happens to her that changes her, so there is quite a difference in physicality between the first act and the second act. Sue talked to me a lot about stepping in and out of characters. I wouldn’t want to hold on to any of the physical traces of what my character went through in Asking For It or in Barber.”
When Kearns is not filming, she creates content for her TikTok account, which has over 215,000 followers and over four million likes.
“I started in the pandemic to keep the creative juices flowing, and now I do it for enjoyment when I have time. I don’t put myself under pressure to produce content all the time, but when I’m not working, I love to create.
“I don’t just do it for the sake of putting content out there; I prefer to take my time and put something good out there.”
Barber is in cinemas, April 14, Cert: 15a