Having spent his childhood growing up on TV playing the role of Crash in The Story of Tracy Beaker, Darragh Mortell is now busy writing and directing his own short films. Now twenty-eight, the actor turned filmmaker has recently released his latest film, Beauty in the Street which can be watched now on YouTube. We caught up with him about what he’s been up to since his time filming for CBBC, his career now as a filmmaker and what he’s got coming up.
Can you tell us about your new short film Beauty in the Street and what made you decide to write a musical?
Beauty in the Street simply came about from a comment made by my girlfriend as we were walking down my street one day. I was saying hi to everyone and had multiple narratives going on at once as we were moving. She likened it to the opening of Beauty and The Beast where everyone has an opinion on Belle. I started writing the lyrics on the tube to wherever I was going, probably nowhere.
Where did you shoot it?
I shot the film on my actual street and a lot of the businesses I’m friendly with feature in it. We shot the whole thing in a day and everyone I asked, turned up and either gave great performances or were generous enough to lend us a location. There was zero stress which is rare on a set. Internally I was combusting but the director has to set the mood so I just kept smiling.
You received an award at London Independent Film Festival for your short film Peep Dish, what was this like?
I had just got back to London from my sister’s wedding the day before in Wales to receive the award. I felt bad stealing her thunder but it was there to be stolen, so I stole it.
Do you have any more films in the pipeline?
I have a few things in the pipeline but I feel quality is better than quantity so I don’t make everything I write, just the ones that really excite me and feel will capture peoples’ imaginations. I have something I’m writing going out on BBC in January and developing a bigger project that will become apparent.
How long does it typically take to shoot a short film?
My last two short films took a day each to film which is insane but it costs more the longer they go on for, so that was just the way it was. I’m hoping I’ll get more than a day on my features.
Who would be your dream actor to appear in one of your films?
For some reason I’m going to say Bobby Cannavale, he was in my head. I see the child inside of him when he performs so I’d love the opportunity to direct him.
Would you like to write or direct feature length films in the future?
I will be writing and directing feature length films in the very near future. It’s a tricky business, if you want to do it properly you need to have patience as there are a lot of components that are involved, like a lot! Making shorts and being on sets for over a decade has been my film school so I guess I’m just naturally progressing.
How did you get into writing and directing and was this your long-term goal?
To be honest, growing up it was easy to “get into” acting as everybody wanted their kid to be famous so there is no shortage of drama clubs and whatnot. My parents sent me to Stagecoach because I had a lot of energy that apparently needed to be channeled somehow. I guess I organically started writing with improvising, then appreciating films for more than the performances in the foreground. I didn’t play rugby like all my friends so I had a lot of spare time to write and watch films.
You played Crash in The Story of Tracy Beaker and Jack in Dani’s House, both for CBBC, how was your time on set of the shows?
I grew up quick on the set of Tracy Beaker so I remember it as a place of fun but also a place in which I developed a work ethic. Dani’s House was the most fun job to date because it not only had the most creative cast and crew, but I got to play a million characters which suited me down to the ground. I can’t take myself seriously so putting on mask after mask was great.
Would you like to film a guest role in an episode of The Dumping Ground?
I’ve heard The Dumping Ground is great but I think my CBBC time is up. I have a beard now and it’s quite thick.
You’ve appeared in a few TV shows in the last couple of years, is this something you hope to continue doing?
I’ve been acting for fifteen years. It was great growing up on sets and making the transition to an adult actor but I’m a creator and always have been. I have scripts and short films starring my ‘action men’ going back to when I was twelve/thirteen – here is where my passion lies now. Not playing with action men but writing and directing my own material for any and all to enjoy. The satisfaction of people quoting a line you wrote back to you or laughing at something that was previously just a nugget of an idea is pretty powerful.
We understand you have appeared in commercials, what are they like to film?
Commercials are fine. Long days as you have to do take after take to get whatever product they’re selling in the perfect light but they pay well which is a massive bonus as an actor as paychecks are so inconsistent.
Having previously performed in pantomimes, would you like to do more?
Pantomimes are great if you don’t have anxiety. I’m afraid there’s no pantomime for the foreseeable future. Oh yes there is! But no there actually isn’t.
What are your plans for the future?
To try and make everyone a bit happier.
Follow Darragh on: