Adam Fergus is an actor from Ireland. He plays Owen Moore in Jennifer DeLia’s Why Not Choose Love: A Mary Pickford Manifesto. We interviewed him at the film’s debut in The Theatre at Ace Hotel (the original United Artists theatre) on June 12th, marking the inaugural launch event to the Hollywood Women's Film Institute’s 2019 International Film Festival.
Hello Adam Fergus. It is a pleasure to meet you and thank you so much for your time.
Listen. It is a pleasure, an absolute pleasure.
How does it feel to be involved in a role that is this iconic?
It was really enjoyable. I had cursory knowledge of Mary Pickford beforehand and I’ve known Jennifer DeLia (director) since this project came alive in her brain back in Toronto in 2010 or 2011. That is where she discovered Mary and discovered how important she was to Canada. It went from there. I’ve known Jenn has had this movie in her mind the last eight years.
When she asked me to play Owen Moore, who is Irish, it meant a lot to me to play an iconic man. He came over on the boat after the famine in the late 1800s with his family, including two of his brothers. He and one of his brothers became silent movie stars and worked under D.W. Griffith. He then met Mary.
They fell in love?
They fell in love but he sort of took advantage of her. He’s a dark character in the movie. It was an interesting thing for me to play a character as dark as Owen Moore.
Have you not done that before?
Yes, a couple of times but more at a supernatural level. I did a show called Supernatural. But this is darker in a psychological sense and it manifested itself physically. He was abusive towards his wife both physically and mentally and he was an alcoholic. I’ve never had to deal with any of these things in my lifetime. It is always fun, well fun is probably the wrong word to use. It is good to try different things and go to different places with your mind to see if you can pull it off.
After watching it (your performance) onscreen, you get the payoff.
How does it manifest to do something so remote from your world and be able to encapsulate that in your character?
This day and age with the internet and television we can look to get a sense of it. But, there are times in your life when you felt angry but it has been justified. So, you don’t play a bad person, you play someone who believes what they are doing is justifiable because they see themselves in an incorrect light. For example, within the marriage, they might say, “I’m the famous one!” There are those scales we are balancing in relationships and they might get tipped too far the wrong way. So, Owen believes he was justified in being aggressive and being physical with her. Also, in those days it was legal to rape your wife. It was legal! The man could do whatever he wanted to his wife because the woman was supposed to be taking care of him.
That was definitely the case in Ireland, right up until the late 70s.
Excuse me, but didn’t Ireland recently legalize abortion?
In 1993 we had our first referendum on abortion and we changed a very archaic law that was in our constitution. It is a very religious based constitution that needed to be approved by the cardinals. There was no separation of state and church. That was the first movement towards legalizing it.
Last week there was referendum on divorce, but you are correct about abortion recently being legalized in Ireland last year of 2018.
How does it feel coming from a nation that is liberating itself, despite Brexit and all that? Now, you are in this American context where women’s issues are rising to the surface.
I am so proud because the Ireland I grew up in seemed like such a repressed country because of our Catholicism. We now have a gay prime minister who is of Indian origin. Leo Varadkar is an amazing man and has done so many good things for the country already. He is a symbol of where we are moving as a country. It is easier to move a country that is a population of four or five million. Well, it might be easier. I don’t know. It seems we are making progress.
Not only that, we have legalized gay marriage. I think that as a populace that was oppressed for so many years coming into the twentieth century by the British, our sense of freedom is so fresh in our psyche that we want to pay it forward for every other minority that exists.
People always ask me about racism in Ireland. We had a very famous musician Phil Lynott. He was the first famous Irish black man. He was the first icon of black men in Ireland and was also an icon of music. He helped race relations going forward I suppose. Nowadays, we are just a forward thinking electorate.
What is interesting are Irish musicians who have been very influential, like Paddy Casey in the early 90s.
You know Paddy Casey, that’s so cool!
I love Paddy Casey and listening to his music there is so much soul in it. And of course, I am a huge U2 fan and I can hear the influence of soul musicians and not The Stones or Bowie. It interesting to see an amalgamation of culture in Irish music. Do you feel this way?
I do, and you know Paddy Casey was homeless for a while. He and Glenn Hunter (soccer player) are very big in the movement combating homelessness in Ireland. It is a similar crisis to what is here in Los Angeles. These great musicians are using their resources for philanthropy.
Bono is unfairly criticized in Ireland because he is such a philanthropist and because he is such a politician. He has done so much for AIDS in Africa and for a multitude of different charities. We must be proud of someone like that.
And as for your question about music: I love music but I don’t think I have the knowledge you might have about it.
Well, let us get back to the film. What is one thing you want people to take away from the role that you had? Given the context of the issues we are living through now.
I hope the way I played him can allow people to see just a glimmer of life in that man. In the world we are living now, people are so quick to judge or point a finger. For the most part, it is accurate. I don’t know Owen Moore. I did my research and read a book about him, but I don’t know if he was as bad a man as he was perceived. So, context is really important. I hope that people take a little bit of levity from my performance and a little bit of humor. I hope they take my performance into consideration when going forward with their judgement of other people going through a similar situation.
It is a tough subject to talk about because, predominantly, people who are facing the sword now deserve the sword. There is going to be that gray area in between as the pendulum swings over and back. There will be people caught up in the crossfire. That would be the one thing that I would love people to take from performance if it is there.