A Chat with Sing Street’s Ian Kenny

The twenty-something Sing Street actor talks lifelong friendships, the relentlessness of social media and what it was like to work with John Carney.

In a similar spirit to his previous films, Begin Again and Once, John Carney’s Sing Street follows a group of school children in Ireland, kicking up the dirt at Synge Street Christian Brothers school for boys, and forming a band fed by a love for 80s hits.

Ian Kenny’s performance as Barry Bray the (perhaps misunderstood) bully is so convincing that it’s difficult to square such a light-hearted demeanour with the person behind the patchy-haired, sneering lad that we see thrusting his middle finger up at the Sing Street band in the back alleys of Dublin. However, explaining that if you knew him in daily life you’d know he ‘truly couldn’t be further’ from his bully counterpart, Ian allows me to step into the world behind the Bray…

Tell me about your time with the other cast members – what did you get up to on set?

“They’re some of the fondest memories I have.”

We filmed this a long, long time ago now so apologies, I can hardly remember! It was really just a set of children of which I was the eldest, hanging out and acting, making a movie that’s gone on to be a critical hit. I made lifelong friends with the cast – I’m in touch with all of them regularly but I see Mark (Eamon) a lot, he lives nearest. Mark never stops drinking my tea and eating the food in my house. 

As the ‘bully’ of the film, your character sees somewhat of a resolution towards the end. Were those later scenes the most enjoyable to film, or did you prefer getting into the bully persona more?

 This might sound a little strange but the massive fantasy scene for ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ was probably the most fun to film, learning the choreography and then shooting it. I love a good musical. The bullying and being crazy was amazing too, if you knew me in real life you’d know I truly couldn’t be further from hard or aggressive.

Do you have a favourite song from the film, and do you ever listen to the soundtrack in your own time?

 I absolutely love ‘Up’ and ‘To Find You’. I’m not just saying this but I listen to pretty much all the songs daily with my Spotify on shuffle.

Is there a character that you warmed or related to more so than the others (you’re allowed to say Barry!)?

 “I absolutely loved Raphina, there’s something in her related to the fictional or grandiose version of ourselves we all portray in real life on social media etc that she captured so well.”

I felt very lucky at the time to be watching Lucy Boynton (Raphina) work knowing serious success is likely on the horizon for her. I can think of no one more deserving.

 

How did you find working with John Carney?

 “I never felt afraid of trying something new or weird in a scene with him at the helm.”

John is a storyteller to the core, he literally never stops coming up with ideas and was encouraging beyond belief. He has an unrivalled ability to match film and music I think, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve needed his advice on several things and he always delivers and looks out for me.

I’ve read that you don’t play any instruments. Is this something that you would like to do or has the film inspired you in any way to learn?

 Hahaha correct, I don’t. I have tried and failed several times and I’ve accepted that it’s not something I’m going to be good at, particularly considering I’m always with Mark McKenna who is a prodigy. His musical talent is absolutely mind-blowing and his band The Girl Talk are going to be huge.

 “I love singing despite being pretty dreadful at it, but unless La La Land 2 hires me, musical instruments are best kept away from me for now.”

Did you enjoy being thrown back into the 80s, and if you had to pick between then and the present day, which would you choose?

 I’d pick then, I’m not a huge fan of relentless social media and the 24/7 recording of our daily lives and I’m an old soul anyway so…

“If I could live in the 20s I would. Simpler times and the suits were cheaper.”

I wasn’t born then so it was so much fun to see the costumes and have all the older crew members laugh at us in memory of their hay day.

Slightly off-topic, but I’m curious… did you get to meet any of Eamon’s rabbits whilst on set?

I didn’t, but Mark is one of my best friends now and he never leaves my house so I essentially kept him from the set instead of a rabbit. He’s more expensive to feed, trust me.

Talk to me about the haircut – it was quite something!

 It was quite the haircut, patches ‘n’ all. I did not know that was going to happen but it added to the believability and ended up looking great so I was happy to have it. It did attract a lot of staring though which isn’t ideal, and growing it back took ages!

Finally, you tell me you’re currently a marketing student, so what does the future look like to you?

Whatever way the acting goes I’ll certainly be pursuing it and have no intentions of being a marketer but, as I’m sure you’ve heard several actors say, it’s a merciless business and I can confirm the validity of that. Acting only stems from my utter adoration of film so regardless of what I do it’ll be to do with films.

 “Films outlive us and have given me so much joy in my young life that I just want to contribute to more and more of them I whatever fashion I can.”

Hell, maybe I’ll do a film degree after this one! Or tomorrow, I could get cast in something huge. There’s absolutely no way of knowing which can be frustrating but I can’t picture myself doing much else.

 

La La Land 2, perhaps?

 

Find Ian on Twitter and Instagram