Last year, Lewis MacDougall had his first starring role, when he played lead character Conor O’Malley in the award-winning film A Monster Calls – the screen adaptation of Patrick Ness’ novel of the same name. Lewis has since worked on two upcoming feature films – The Belly of the Whale as Joey, and Boundaries as Henry opposite Vera Farmiga as Laura, and he made his film debut in 2015 in the cast of Pan, in which he played Nibs. We spoke to Lewis about his time filming for A Monster Calls as Conor O’Malley, working with Liam Neeson and his upcoming films – The Belly of the Whale and Boundaries.
What was it like filming A Monster Calls as lead character Conor O’Malley and how was it seeing your role and Liam Neeson’s (The Monster) finally come together on screen?
Filming A Monster Calls was a long, hard but also very enjoyable process. We filmed for one month in Manchester and some time in Barcelona where I had a great time and got to go around the city on the weekends. In terms of working with Liam, he wasn’t actually on set for the filming, but I did do Motion Capture with him for two weeks before filming started. When I got to see the film for the first time, it was amazing to see all of the special effects of The Monster with Liam’s voice and the work I did come together as one.
The role of Conor was your first major lead character, what was it like booking the role and did you feel there was a responsibility that came with it?
When I was told that I had gotten the part, I was obviously very excited but I was definitely nervous too because I was still relatively new to acting and this was a big role for someone my age to undertake. Also, because so many people loved the book, I didn’t want to let those people down.
With Patrick Ness writing the screenplay, and the novel the film is based on, did he have any input on the casting?
Yes, Patrick was not only the writer but also an executive producer, so he had a big say in casting for the film. He was also on set a lot of the time during filming.
Your portrayal of Conor has seen you be nominated for and win awards, how does this feel?
I feel very honoured to have been nominated for awards and to win one. I think it’s important to know that I wouldn’t have got these if it hadn’t been for everyone else involved in making the film as it’s a team effort and not just me.
How did you find the experience being a guest on The One Show with Liam Neeson to promote A Monster Calls?
I was obviously a bit nervous as it was the first time I had ever appeared on live TV before and I didn’t want to make any mistakes, but Liam and the hosts, Matt (Baker) and Alex (Jones), were all very nice and made it easy and enjoyable for me.
We understand YouTubers Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes spoke about the film in their vlog, what was this like and are you a fan of YouTube?
I love YouTube. I watch it all the time and, to be honest, I’m probably addicted. When I heard that Zoella and Alfie Deyes had talked about the film in their vlog, I couldn’t believe it and the next day I was showing all my friends.
You have recently filmed for upcoming feature film The Belly of the Whale, is there anything you can you tell us about it?
I filmed The Belly of the Whale in November of last year in Dublin, Ireland. I play Joey, a misfit teen who finds himself in some misfortune, he forms an unexpected alliance with Ronald, played by Pat Short, and they devise a plan to rob an arcade.
What can you say about your character in Boundaries, another upcoming film you’ve worked on?
I play Henry who, along with his mother Laura played by Vera Farmiga, is forced to drive his estranged grandfather Jack across country and along the way they get up to a lot of trouble.
Before working with Vera Farmiga in Boundaries as her son, had you watched her in any TV shows or films?
Yes, I’d seen her performance in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and when I heard I was going to be working with her, I started watching Bates Motel, which I loved. She’s a great actress and a super nice person to be around, I really enjoyed working with her.
In 2015, you could be seen in Pan as Nibs, what do you remember from filming this as your first professional role?
Pan was extremely fun to film because there were a lot of other kids my age on set. Me and Levi Miller, who played Peter, would often explore London together on the weekend and we had a great time. One aspect of Pan that was really enjoyable was the stunts, I had to train and practise for them and I just enjoyed being in a harness and pretending like I could fly.
What’s it like being away from home while filming and do you ever get fans stop you in the street for a photo?
No, I don’t actually, but whenever I’ve met any of my fans at premieres and things like that they’ve been lovely and I can’t wait for the first time I meet one of them on the street. At times, it can be hard being away from home for long periods, especially not being able to see my friends. Whenever I do a film, I always get a tutor who makes sure I keep up with schoolwork and don’t fall behind.
When did you get into acting and how did you start?
I got into acting when I joined my local drama group, The Drama Studio, at about eight or nine years old. One day that I went along, they were holding an open casting for my first film, Pan, which I was reluctant to do as I had never auditioned before, but I did and I ended up getting the role of Nibs. Through doing Pan, I then got my agent and it all went from there.
Are there any TV shows you would most like to appear in?
I’ve always been a fan of Still Game, which for those of you who don’t know, is a very famous and much beloved Scottish comedy, so I’d love to have some sort of guest role in that one day.
Earlier this year, you presented an award at FilmG, what was this like to do?
I had a great time presenting an award at FilmG. I got to meet so many talented young filmmakers who are making films in the Gaelic language, which I sadly don’t speak, but I would like to one day.
Do you have any plans for the future that you can tell us about?
I don’t exactly know what my plans are for the future but I think I’d like to continue acting, but I just take every day as it comes and we’ll see what happens.
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