A young Portadown man who has landed his first feature film role with the movie Kneecap said he couldn’t have wished for a better way to make his debut.
Cathal Mercer plays the villainous Fra in the Irish language film, which tells the story of how Belfast rap band Kneecap got together.
The three band members – Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí – play themselves and the cast also includes Michael Fassbender, an Irish actor who has starred in films such as X-Men and 12 Years a Slave.
Set in west Belfast, it is the first ever Irish language film selected for the USA-based Sundance Film Festival, and will have its premiere on the opening night, January 18.
Twenty-eight-year-old Cathal heard about the part through his agent, Shelley Lowry Talent Management.
“I can’t say too much about my character at this point but what I can say is that he is one of the main antagonists of the film,” he explained.
“It’s loosely based on how the boys got together to form Kneecap. They are playing fictionalised versions of themselves.
“I was already a fan of their music when I heard about the film.”
Cathal, who has a degree in Drama with Advertising, has pursued his dream of acting since leaving St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh.
He first heard he had got the part at the start of the year, after making made an audition tape which was forwarded by his agent to the casting director.
“The agent got back to me a week later saying I had got the part. I was on my way down to Kerry for the weekend when I got the message and I was delighted to say the least,” said Cathal.
Cathal had several days’ filming with the rest of the cast at a number of locations in Belfast.
“The Kneecap boys were brilliant and there was never a dull moment on set,” he said. “Even working with Michael Fassbender was incredible. I’m a big fan of Marvel and X-Men and I couldn’t believe he was standing right in front of me. But it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
“Kneecap’s music is predominantly in the Irish language and the film script is a mix of Irish and English.”
Cathal, who did an A Level in Irish, said that while he has some knowledge he’s “not exactly fluent”.
“It was a good experience and hopefully I can build on it. It has been difficult, coming out of Covid and the actors’ strike in America as well.
“But I have to say, Shelley Lowry has been fantastic. What they have done for me has been incredible and I owe a lot to them as well. The work they put in for all their clients in incredible and I am so grateful for it.”
Cathal caught the acting bug when he was young. As a member of Portadown Phoenix Players from 2012 until 2017, he took part in their musical every summer.
He has also starred in productions in venues such as the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, and The Mac, Belfast.