NEW YORK – Moone Boy, the sweet, hilarious and utterly charming story of 12-year-old Martin Moone’s coming of age in a small town in the west of Ireland in the late 1980s, arrived on Hulu this week. It was co-written by Chris O’Dowd (Family Tree, Girls), who also stars as Martin’s (David Rawle) imaginary friend Sean Murphy. O’Dowd spoke with Slate about the show.
Q. How much of Moone Boy is autobiographical? I can’t help noticing that you’re from the same town and would’ve been 12 at about the same time as young Martin.
A. Everything that’s very funny happened, and I wrote all the filler.
In truth, I think that all of the stories have some kind of basis in reality. Obviously, the kid is very much based on me as a kid – the same three sisters, my parents did the same thing at that time. That’s all very similar. But I didn’t have an imaginary friend, because there was no room in our house.
Q. It’s an incredibly feminist story – Martin’s mother is a strong supporter of Mary Robinson’s presidential campaign; his sisters have very strong personalities.
A. My house was a feminist stronghold, and in a way, I’m not writing about Ireland, I’m writing about personal experience. I was always surrounded by strong women. Also, I am conscious of the fact that women are so badly served in comedy most of the time, so I wanted to make sure that the show we wrote had strong female characters.
Q. It’s also set in a time when Ireland is changing. It seems like Martin’s life will be very different from his dad’s. Did you consciously choose a time of transition in Ireland’s history?
A. I was definitely conscious of that, but as much as it’s different for Ireland, I think it was an age of huge transition for all kids, because it’s pre-mobile phones, pre-Internet, and all that stuff. We decided that we wanted to do a show with a kid at the center before we decided that we wanted to do a period show. I realized that if we were going to do a show about kids, I wouldn’t know how to write them now, with their iPads and their Twitter. I suppose I sound like a very old man, but that kind of upbringing feels very alien to me. My upbringing was pretty rural.
Q. Do you worry that American viewers won’t get some of the references? It feels like you made a show for Irish viewers, knowing that people in other countries might miss some things - rather than making a generic international show.
A. I thought it was very important to make a very specific show. All the great stuff is specific. There are moments when I’m conscious of the fact that a British audience, or in particular an American audience, won’t get a reference or a joke that we’re writing, and I just make myself not care. Audiences are forgiving.