- Photography by Mr Matteo Montanari
- Styling by Mr Tony Cook, Junior Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
Mr Robert Sheehan peers into the bottom of his cup, brow furrowed in disappointment. "Would you look at that!" he says, displaying the remnants of his soya latte. "My coffee's gone! It was just froth."
It's a hot and sticky day in central London - hardly rollneck and double-breasted blazer weather, despite what the photographs above would have you think - and we've ducked into London's Institute for Contemporary Arts in search of shade. In cut-off denim shorts and yellow moccasins and with his dark hair tied back, the 25-year-old actor is virtually unrecognisable from the shoot that took place just a short time ago. Out of the sun and away from the camera lens, he's finally able to relax.
Forget keeping your feet on the
ground - you can't sing the humble
song all your life. It's counterintuitive
to being an actor
"I'm quite tempted to have a beer, you know," he goes on. "Shall we? I've seen yours and got a bit jealous." He doesn't take long to talk himself into it - it's a sunny day, after all, and well gone noon - and before long we're trotting dutifully back to the bar. "It might even be a good idea, actually," he adds. "I was planning on going back after this to have a siesta."
"Oh I looove a siesta," purrs the barmaid in a thick Spanish accent, overhearing us. "Really?" Mr Sheehan perks up. "Would you like to have a siesta with me? We could cuddle. It'd be nice." Did he really just say that? The rogue. It's a typical example of the audacious Irish charm that won him so many fans in his star-making turn in the BAFTA-winning Misfits (if you haven't seen it, "Nathan's Best Moments: Season 1" on YouTube should serve as a quick-fire introduction). But as I'm soon to discover, there's much more to the young actor than that.
Mr Sheehan's poor PR agent doesn't quite know what to think as we pass him on the way back. "Have you finished the interview?" he asks, with a hint of anxiety. "Oh, we're just having a craic," comes the reply. Craic - pronounced "crack", and Irish for banter, roughly speaking - seems a fairly accurate summary of the interview so far; half an hour in, my question sheet remains untouched. Not that we've been sitting in silence: topics of discussion have included Ms Paloma Faith, who Mr Sheehan interviewed recently for Hunger, Rankin's glossy biannual; the benefits of Sudocrem; the west coast of Ireland ("I will not dispel any Father Ted assumptions! If anything, I will enforce them!"); how to dress for parties, and much more. Despite this meandering, tangential approach, though, conversation always seems to drift inexorably back to one thing: acting.
Mr Sheehan as Nathan Young in the first series of the comedy drama, a role for which he was nominated for a BAFTA, in 2009
From left: Mr Rupert Grint, Ms Kimberley Nixon and Mr Sheehan in the 2009 British film about three teenagers on a (very) wild weekend
The Playboy of the Western World
Mr Sheehan as Christopher Mahon and Ms Ruth Negga as Pegeen Mike in Mr John Millington Synge's play at the Old Vic in London, 2011
From left: Mr Sheehan with Mr Ben Barnes in the 2011 British-Irish film about some aspiring rock stars attending the same school as U2
the mortal instruments: city of bones
From left: Ms Jemima West, Mr Sheehan, Ms Lily Collins, Mr Kevin Zegers and Mr Jamie Campbell Bower in the upcoming fantasy-adventure film
When it comes to his chosen trade, Mr Sheehan has a knowledge that's matched only by his enthusiasm. He recounts highlights of his acting career passionately and at length, from an early performance in The Cripple of Inishmaan - "we rehearsed it in a community hall in a small village called Shanahoe" - to his more recent role in the gritty, critically acclaimed crime drama Love/Hate, which has become one of the most successful Irish TV shows ever made. He's passionate about Irish theatre, too, singing the praises of his friend, Mr Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, who he recently saw in Dublin performing Mr Mark O'Rowe's one-man show, Howie the Rookie. But it's his latest film - the one that we are ostensibly here to discuss - that has the potential to thrust Mr Sheehan into a much larger, brighter spotlight: the three-part fantasy drama, The Mortal Instruments. Hailed as the next Twilight, it certainly has the credentials; the book series on which the films are based has collectively spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list, and what's more, it's aimed squarely and unabashedly at the prime "young-adult" market. "To be honest, your readers - they're not the target demographic. This film ain't gonna be for them," he laughs. But he's still keen to talk it up. "I was really pleased with the tone of it; it doesn't take itself too seriously. I haven't seen Twilight, but those characters certainly seem very serious about something. And that's fine, but The Mortal Instruments is not that. It's teenagers being irreverent about stuff that they don't understand."
The first instalment, City of Bones, is released in August, and Mr Sheehan is already signed up for the remaining two parts. If the hype proves justified and this series does for its stars what the Twilight series did for Mr Robert Pattinson and co, will smaller, home-grown projects such as Love/Hate have to take a backseat? Mr Sheehan hopes not. "The landscape has shifted," he explains. Television always used to be ranked below film, and it used to be the case that you'd aim to work your way from one to the other. But things have changed. Everyone responds to a brilliant TV script as much as to a brilliant film script now. So while I might have to leave some of that stuff behind, you know, the movie business is not the be-all and end-all."
And does he worry about keeping his feet on the ground? "I say, forget keeping your feet on the ground," he grins. "Go, man! You can't sing the humble song all your life. It's counterintuitive to being an actor. Of course nobody wants to be seen as a prick," he concludes. "And it's not like I'm ungrateful. But I'd rather be seen as a prick temporarily than a bad actor permanently."
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is released on 21 August in the UK and the US and 22 August in Australia and Hong Kong