In the spring of 2018, Martin McDonagh’s film “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” was an awards season darling. Shortly after the Oscars, where the film was nominated across seven categories, McDonagh grabbed dinner in Los Angeles with Irish actress and longtime collaborator Kerry Condon, who had a supporting role in the film.
The director told Condon he wasn’t sure what his follow-up would be, but that he was thinking about returning to Ireland as a setting. “Immediately I was like, ‘that sounds like a great idea,’” says Condon, who met McDonagh in 2001 when she was cast in the starring role for the debut of his play “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”
Several years after that dinner in 2018, the pair returned to the isle of Inishmore to film “The Banshees of Insherin.” McDonagh had written the main female role with Condon in mind.
“Banshees” premiered this September to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival. Since its festival run and mid-October release, the film has garnered strong buzz heading into awards season — in Venice, the film won awards for best screenplay and leading actor — and Condon’s name is often floated on short lists for best supporting actress.
The character-driven portrait of a friendship breakup stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, set in 1923 against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War. The conflict arrives early: Farrell’s Pádraic discovers that his best friend Colm has dropped him with no warning. Condon stars in the dark comedy as Pádraic’s unmarried sister and roommate.
Condon recalls feeling the weight of the film’s emotional landscape while sitting in the audience for the film’s Venice premiere. She describes a heartbreaking scene where Pádraic’s hopes of a reconciliation with Colm are dashed; Pádraic continually refuses to accept that the relationship is over, and his plight reminded Condon of the desperation that often goes hand-in-hand with heartbreak.
“When a romance ends, you know where you’re kind of like clinging — oh, it’s terrible. It’s so embarrassing. It’s cringe when Pádraic just doesn’t get the hint,” says Condon.
Condon credits life experience for her ability to bring nuance to her character’s internal struggle, rooted in an offer to leave her brother behind and head to the Ireland mainland. She adds that portraying the character ended up being a more challenging role than she initially thought from the outset. “When I was 18, I couldn’t have brought all those layers to Siobhán. I had to experience a lot of things in life, because [Siobhan’s] a bit jaded and sad — but yet hopeful and young,” says Condon.
Before shooting, the cast rehearsed for two weeks at the Galway theater company, where McDonagh staged his earliest plays. The cast of “Banshees” included many theater actors who have worked with McDonagh throughout the years, including Gleeson. Filming took place on two Irish islands, Inishmore and Achill Island. On Inishmore, Condon spent several weeks with Farrell, her primary scene partner, reveling in the island’s beautiful sunsets and the company of their animal costars. (A donkey plays a particularly heartbreaking role in the film.) Achill Island was a more secluded experience for Condon, reflecting her character’s emotional landscape in the film.
“Banshees” will keep Condon busy for the next several months, but the L.A.-based actress isn’t waiting around. In addition to recently finishing production on action film “In the Land of Saints and Sinners” opposite Liam Neeson, she’s already at work on her next project — which she’s unable to disclose.
“It’s something I’ve never done before,” she says.