A CORK actor who made his name in hit comedy The Young Offenders has won a prestigious BAFTA award, it was announced today.
Chris Walley, who plays Jock Murphy in the film and TV series, was named as BAFTA Breakthrough in the UK awards, run by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
It rounded off a great week for the Glanmire man, who also won a nomination as best Emerging Talent in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, for his role on London's West End as Davey in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
The BAFTA will be handed out next week and Walley told the Evening Echo: “I grew up watching the awards, and from seeing what BAFTA can do for young artists and their careers, it’s an amazing award. It comes with a network of support.
"There is a mentoring system, you get to meet filmmakers, creatives, and various people in the industry. And you get to go to all of the BAFTA film screenings throughout the year.”
The nomination for his stage work is remarkable, as it stems from Walley’s first professional theatre gig. Previous winners of best Emerging Talent have included Tom Hardy, Eddie Redmayne and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Walley was studying for his degree at the prestigious RADA theatre college when he landed the part in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, alongside a cast that includes fellow Irish actor Aidan Turner of Poldark fame, and he chose to leave college early to pursue his West End dream.
"It felt really special to be in the West End and to be part of an all Irish company playing Irish characters," said Walley. "The whole cast got on so well together. We worked together for the whole summer, we were like a family. It was brilliant.
“I have been a huge fan of Martin McDonagh my whole life. To get into one of his plays, and to get such a fantastic part in the play, it really was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to get to meet Martin and get to know him a little.
“The director, Michael Grandage, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living theatre directors and working with him was another dream. I learned so much from him and from the cast. They were all really great. It was a fantastic opportunity in terms of exposure but even greater in terms of learning so it was definitely worth the risk of leaving college early.
"Luckily, I still got to graduate so I have my BA and cert, so my mum was happy!” As for the Young Offenders, filming on season two has yet to commence, but Walley is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with his character, Jock.
"We did a little bit of filming but full filming hasn’t started yet," he said. "Even those few days were great, it was lovely to get back to The Young Offenders family. We are all so close and we have fun every day. I can’t wait until we start to fully film.” Being back on set means the return of the Jock hairdo. "It’s always fun to get the haircut, it feels like the character comes back with it," said Walley, "but it is funny when I am in London and people just stare at the hair. It’s the only time I really get recognised.
"I am so sorry to all the parents whose young lads are copying the cut!"
Walley is based in London at the moment but says coming home is always something he looks forward to.
“I flew home recently and flying over Cork, seeing familiar sights, was so good. It's brilliant to get home to the sense of community you only find in Cork and to come home to the Cork air, it is so different to London air. It’s always amazing being home.’ BAFTA will host at special event on November 7, honouring this year’s Breakthrough actors, including Walley. The Evening Standard Theatre Awards take place on November 18.