Our Interview With Calm With Horses star Niamh Algar

Niamh Algar starring in Calm With Horses

The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival will be rolling out the red carpet next week for the Virgin Media Gala, where Ireland’s own Calm With Horses will take centre stage. The gritty drama stars Barry Keoghan, Cosmo Jarvis – along with fast rising Mullingar born actress Niamh Algar.



After starring in Shane Meadow’s The Virtues, being cast in Ridley Scott’s debut TV project Raised by Wolves, and being named on the prestigious BAFTA Breakthrough Brits list for 2019, Algar looks destined for big things. Ahead of her appearance at #VMDIFF20, we caught up with her for the latest issue of PLAY Magazine; here’s what she had to say!


What can you tell us about the Calm With Horses?


The film is a bit of a drama/thriller which follows a character called Arm, who’s a heavy for a family called the Devers. The family run the town through a fist of fear, and Arm gets himself involved in plans to kill a man. I play Ursula, who has a child together with Arm. You might call her the voice of reason, or the focus of stability, in Arm’s life; she loves him, but she hates the man he’s now becoming.


You’ve been working internationally a lot of late; what drew you to this particular Irish film?


The story! I was aware of Colm Barrett’s book of short stories, Young Skins, and someone had sent me a few of the stories - including Calm with Horses. The casting director on The Virtues, Shaheen Baig, was also doing this, so she called me in for an audition. I read the scenes and I knew exactly who this character was. I also watched Nick’s short films, and knew they’d given it to a director that was going to do something special with it.


How did you relate to the character?


Well, I grew up in Mullingar, and I understand the idea of a small town where everyone knows what their neighbours are up to. You can get lost in a city, and reinvent yourself, but in a small town that doesn’t happen. Ursula feels trapped in this town, and wants to get out and have a life of her own.


You now live in London – and a little bird told us that the man interviewed for the PLAY cover, Lorcan Finnegan, played a part in the move?


Lorcan doesn’t really understand what he did for me. His first feature film, Without Name, was my first film too. I didn’t have an agent at the time – and he was baffled. So when we went to London, Lorcan introduced me to people from his agency, Independent. He didn’t have to do that, it’s just the sort of guy he is.


You were recently included in BAFTA’s list of breakthrough artists; how did that feel?


It’s really amazing to be involved this year. They introduce you to directors and actors you’d like to sit down and have a chat with; they set up events throughout the year. But most of all, it’s lovely to know that the work that you’re doing is held in high regard. It’s good to see the projects I’m doing and the effort I’m putting in is recognised.


OK – but who was on your dream list to chat to?!


I’d love to sit down with Lynne Ramsey; her films are amazing. Charlize Theron, too; I watched Monster when I was a kid – probably when I was way too young, to be honest! – and thought her performance was absolutely remarkable. I think I submitted a list of about 20 people, haha!


Your Calm With Horses co-star, Barry Keoghan, is making major waves of his own. Did you get to trade notes?


Oh, we did – I even met up with Barry last week, as it happens! I’ve known him since 2013, when we were part of a weekly actors’ studio at The Factory in Dublin. When we shot Calm With Horses, we were staying in the same hotel for four or five weeks – and when there’s only two pubs in the whole town, you find yourself in the same places all the time! He’s absolutely flying it.


How are you looking forward to the festival?


I love DIFF. I think this is the third time I’ve been in a film screened there, and I love how the city is taken over by the festival. Another friend of mine, Claire Dunne, has a film closing the festival, which will be great too. You know, when you’re there with the people you made the film with – who were there from the day you first walked in and auditioned – it’s a really lovely time to celebrate. Everyone was a part of it, and this is the night where you’re handing it over to the audience. Let’s hope it goes down well!


Fancy another awesome interview with one of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival’s biggest homegrown stars? Check out our chat with Vivarium director Lorcan Finnegan in PLAY Magazine right here!