Neal McDonough is known to those of you who are ‘Desperate Housewives’ fans as the revenge seeking Dave Williams from this past year. The character ended the season in the loony bin after exhibiting a roller coaster of good guy/bad guy personalities that highlighted his depth of acting abilities. The Waiting Room Magazine was lucky enough to have a chat with Neal on his Irish family and the long road to fame.
Neal, let’s start with the Irish connection. Give us the story. My mother, Kitty, was born in Carrick on Suir, Co Tipperary and brought up in Clonmel. Her mother, Nell, was raised on a farm in Kilrossanty, Co Waterford that still thrives. My father, Frank, is from Clifden, Connemara, Co Galway where my sister now runs the regional newspaper, the Connemara View.
My parents met in Boston as they had both emigrated as so many did. The Irish community in the early fifties was vibrant and there were many Irish who met in Boston who might never had if they had stayed in Ireland. I’m the youngest of six, one sister and four brothers, all born in Dorchester, one of the numerous conclaves of Irishness in Boston.
Our home was filled constantly with Irish accents from all counties and mimicking the various brogues was probably the first indicator of my desire to perform. One of my first stage credits was in Jim Sheridan’s Away Alone. (Neal won the Best Actor in a Dramalogue in LA in 1991 for this role – Ed) I auditioned with a Cork accent and they were all surprised to find out later that I was a Yank.
How much time have you spent in Ireland? Not enough. In fact, I was just about to come over to visit my sister in Clifden when the Desperate Housewives role came up last July. Sister Ellie was very disappointed not to be able to show my wife, Ruvé, and our kids, Morgan and Catherine, around Connemara but she was thrilled with my new acting job. I have visited home many times, but more so when I was based in London filming Band of Brothers. I hope to get back very soon.
I understand that you chose to go into acting early on. How did you get started? My mother encouraged me as far back as I can remember to be myself and that instilled a lot of confidence in me to put myself out there. I acted in high school on Cape Cod where my family moved to when I was young and went on to drama school at Syracuse University and the London Academy of Dramatic Arts and Sciences. I started my career in 1988 and I am so glad that she got to see me in guest starring roles in numerous television shows before she passed away in 1993. I know that she is still sitting on my shoulder cheering for me.
It took 20 years for you to become known worldwide through Desperate Housewives. Has it been a tough road? I have been lucky enough to work regularly over that time. The roles that I have played have had a huge range of character in television, on stage and in and films including Lieutentant Hawk in Star Trek: First Contact, Lou Gehrig in The Babe Ruth Story, and Private Reich in Ravenous.
The real breakthrough came when Steven Spielberg cast me as Buck Compton in the World War II miniseries Band of Brothers which first aired in 2001.
That role was the turning point for me on another level altogether. I met the love of my life, Ruvé Robertson, on St. Patrick’s Day while filming in London. We have been together ever since and have been blissfully married for five years.
You are based in Los Angeles. What is family life like there? Los Angeles gets a bad rap for being a selfish unfriendly city. It doesn’t have to be that way. Ruvé and I are enjoying bringing up Morgan (4) and Catherine (2) in a great section of the city where children of friends from the industry and neighborhood kids are always playing in our backyard. The more the merrier! It’s all about family and we are so exciting to be expecting our third child.
You have been playing bad guys a lot lately. Do you enjoy that? It’s pretty funny reading lines like “his ice blue eyes” in reviews when I am playing an evil character. I am really a pussycat – most of the time! I have played all types of individuals at this point. The bad guys seem to get the most attention. I try to bring the integrity of the written character to life. That’s my job whether he is nice or not.
Who have you worked with
that most impressed you?
Working with Al Pacino in 88 Minutes was spectacular. I was absolutely starstruck when we first met. Still am. He’s a real legend. All the wonderful gals of Wisteria Lane are gorgeous and lovely people, plus a joy to work with for the past year! The list of impressive people in the industry that I have had the pleasure to work with is pretty long. How much space do you have?
So will your fans see you back on
All I can say is that my character did not get killed off
– as some might have expected. I don’t write the scripts, so you’ll have to wait