7 Questions with… Run’s Domhnall Gleeson: ‘I couldn't pass up the chance of working with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones’

Run's Domhnall Gleeson answers seven burning questions about the show, including why he returned to TV, what working with Merritt Wever was like and why the script blew him away...

By Sophia Moir Published: 6 April 2020 - 11.46am
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You’ll probably recognise Domhnall Gleeson from major film franchises including Harry Potter and Star Wars, but the Irish actor makes a rare TV appearance in the new comedy series, Run.

Created by Vicky Jones and executive produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the team behind Fleabag), Run stars Gleeson in the lead male role of Billy Johnson alongside Merritt Wever (Unbelievable, Nurse Jackie) as Ruby Richardson.

The pair play a former couple who made a vow that if either of them texted "run" and received the same in reply, they would drop everything to travel across the USA together. 

Speaking ahead of the UK launch of the show on Sky Comedy with NOW TV, Gleeson answers seven burning questions - including why he returned to TV for the role, what it was like to work with Merritt Wever and why he was ‘blown away’ by the script… 

1. How did you come to be involved in Run and what drew you to it?

I’d just done a project that was very heavy and had taken an emotional toll. I was exceptionally proud of it but felt like doing something a little more light-hearted. I mentioned that to my agent who said ‘actually, we’ve just gotten this script for TV’.

I hadn’t really thought about doing TV because I love movies, love the way they work and love the story being over in 90 minutes - I’m aware I’m in the minority on that! 

But I said ‘OK, I’ll read the script anyway’. It was Run, and it was just incredible. I was already a massive fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones, so I went to meet them about it and liked what they had to say about how the rest of the show would unfold.

It was about love and it had endless possibilities. The chance to work with those brilliant people on something so funny, fresh and exciting was too good to pass up.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones Getty
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones

2. Were you excited to play opposite Merritt Wever?

Very much. I was delighted when she came on board. I knew people who’d worked with her and knew she was capable of extraordinary things. From her work that I’ve seen, she’s never been anything less than great in stuff. I knew she’d be brilliant to do scenes with. 

We work in different ways sometimes but all that matters is what happens when the cameras are rolling and what the audience ends up seeing.

I always felt on very solid ground with Merritt. In one-on-one scenes, you have to respond to each other in the moment. Merritt is absolutely superb at that and incredible to play opposite. I was lucky to have her to rely on. 

Run Domhnall Gleeson Merritt Wever HBO
Run

3. Was it a treat to keep your own Irish accent and do some quite robust swearing?

I quite liked it but generally I prefer to do accents, as perverse as that sounds. An accent is a nice way into a character, I always think. An accent doesn’t change anybody, but it does change the perception of them and the way the world treats them. I really enjoy the process of trying on accents for size. 

Drilling the lines in an accent can be a valuable way of learning them and getting to know that personality. But it was a treat not to have to think about it for change. It’s one less thing to get in the way. As for the swearing… Well, that’s not entirely different to how it was on-set, to be honest! On or off-camera, it was pretty much the same!

4. Who is your character, Billy Johnson?

He’s a successful life guru but he tells a lot of lies, both to himself and other people. I’ve played a couple of bad guys, but I never thought of Billy that way. I understand there are parts of his character which are awful, but I think he’s trying to get better. That’s no excuse for people in real life but in drama it is! 

He may be capable of change and if he is, Ruby [Richardson, Merritt Wever’s character] is the person he should be with. Although I don’t think Ruby’s perfect either. There are also aspects of her personality which are more anti-hero than hero. They’re a good pairing that way. They both have an edge, but the story doesn’t knock those edges off, it accentuates them, which I thought was a really smart idea. 

Run Domhnall Gleeson HBO
Run

5. Is there a certain romance about the idea of rekindling old flames?

For sure. The love of your life that you don’t see any more, then are suddenly reunited with - that’s always been a big theme in drama and storytelling.

It’s a very potent thing, especially when it’s your first love as well. That adds a whole extra layer. It’s a beautiful and interesting thing to talk about, no matter what age you are.

Those realisations and conversations about shared experiences between Billy and Ruby are really lovely and they tell you a lot in the midst of this chaotic story. It explores their relationship in a really cool way. 

6. What were your favourite moments to film, and did you enjoy all the train travel?

I enjoyed when we were in the midst of the relationship. When no matter what was being said or done, the scene was really about our relationship and its shifting dynamic. I also liked it when we got out and about and met new people, like Archie Panjabi’s character [Billy’s former PA Fiona] or Phoebe’s character [Laurel]. 

I took a train across America when I was younger, at a time of great flux and discovery in my life. When I read the script, I was totally blown away by the similarities to my own experience and the questions I was asking myself at that time. It wasn’t quite nostalgic, but it definitely put me in a certain place, which was interesting. 

Domhnall Gleeson Merritt Wever Run on train HBO
Run

7. Do you personally ever want to make a run for it? 

Well I can’t run anywhere at the moment with the lockdown going on! But I understand the appeal of hopping on a train across America. I think everybody gets overwhelmed at times, worries about the choices they’ve made and feels they’ve made a prison for themselves. I think that will resonate with a lot of people. I understand where Billy and Ruby are coming from, although I’m not sure I’d ever have the balls to do what they do.

Watch the Run trailer

Run premieres Wednesday, April 15 on Sky Comedy with NOW TV.