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Sarah Bolger on 'My All American' and not learning much about football

Irish actress Sarah Bolger says she only got to know about American football a little bit while making the sports weepie "My All American."

Sarah Bolger can’t really talk about one of her most famous roles, as the older daughter in the 2002 immigrants-in-New York drama “In America.” After all, she made it when she was 10. But she’s stayed in the game and can now be see, as a 20-something, on the show “Into the Badlands” and the real-life sports weepie “My All American,” in which the Irish actress had to learn how to play a Southern American girl, and one who falls for a star football player (Finn Wittrock)…who is eventually diagnosed with bone cancer. Despite the grim subject matter, Bolger stays upbeat and prone to laugh at how little she learned about our other national sport.

How did you take to the American South?

The South to me wasn’t that different from anywhere else. Great barbecue, stupid humidity. But I was more concerned with creating an All-American girl. That’s not something I know. I had to create the way she walked, the way she talked. It was about learning her and being able to talk to the real Lisa, which was completely mind-blowing. I thought it would be so hard for her to talk about this. I kept being like, “I’m going to ask you a question, you don’t have to answer it.” And she would answer ever time. And she’d cry and I’d cry.

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It’s crazy to have to deal with that at that age.

It was her first love — the love of her life, potentially. I can’t even imagine her watching this. She’s remarried once or twice; she’s moved on and has kids. Then to see this moment relived — seems hard.

The film shows that, no matter how loyal and dedicated she is to Freddy, she has her own inner life and pursuits.

She not the air-fairy girlfriend, the right hand of the sports player. She’s a force. She doesn’t take crap, which is something she said. They were partners. There was no girlfriend, no “ooooh, I like you.” From the beginning they loved each other. It was instant kismet. They were kindred spirits.

I should ask you, since you’re not American, about American football, though I really know very little about it.

Excellent, so we’ll be friends.

Great.

I can say a bunch of nonsense things and you can say, “Yeah, that’s true.”

I think they have a goal?

They have a goalie, yeah. No, I do know a bit about American football now that I’ve lived it. I went to all the stadiums. We reenacted these games. I think it’s a really good game, actually. It’s really embedded into American culture, and especially in Texas. It’s a family event to go and watch the football game. I like that mentality. I like families coming together, having one goal.

And it’s exclusively an American obsession, not an international one.

I wonder why that is?

Possibly because it’s unbelievably dangerous.

It is. Although rugby, which is an Irish sport, we don’t have any of the garb that protects you. That is bone-on-bone.

Everyone should just play cricket. No one has ever gotten hurt playing cricket.

Just a splinter.

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Had you had much exposure to America’s insane love for football prior to this movie?

I lived in Pittsburgh for awhile, and they were an aggressive sports town. I was there for the Super Bowl, and they lost against Texas. I went and they lost there were couches set on fire. Who does that? Who decides, “You know what? I’m going to take my couch, I’m going to put it on the street and I’m going to set it on fire, because we lost?” Maybe it was the couch they watched the game on.

This is the longest I’ve ever talked about football. Let me ask you something real: You’ve managed to transition from child roles to adult roles. Sometimes young actors have trouble convincing people they can play adults.

Thankfully. Although here she starts off as a teenager and then gets older. But on “Into the Badlands” I play a 22 year old who’s super manipulative and fighting her way to the top of a caste system in a futuristic world. She’s a young Lady Macbeth. I’ve been able to play roles that are no longer children but striving to be women.

Saoirse Ronan has talked about how few Irish films there are. Even “Brooklyn” is half-set in America.

I feel like myself and her are in the same boat. Those roles are just so few and far between. I’d love to go home and be an Irish girl. That’s the dream. It just doesn’t happen much. Ireland has great storytellers but the movie industry is not as prevalent there as it is in Los Angeles. I would jump at the chance to do a movie in Ireland. I want to work over there and support work over there. One day.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
 
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