Netflix rolls into Dublin for Bodkin premiere

Mike Finnerty 15 May 2024
Siobhan Cullen, Will Forte and Robyn Cara at the Bodkin Dublin Screening Wednesday May 8, Lighthouse Cinema, Photo by Michael Chester for Netflix

Netflix rolled into Dublin last week to premiere the new Irish-set dark comedy Bodkin.

The show, which focuses on podcasters attempting to solve a cold case in a small Irish town, was filmed in various locations around Ireland, spanning from West Cork and Ardmore Studios to Howth and Leopardstown.

Smithfield’s Lighthouse Cinema hosted the premiere on Wednesday, May 8, with cast and crew from the show in attendance.

The show was produced by Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company responsible for the recent Netflix hit Leave The World Behind.

Bodkin depicts a wide-eyed American podcaster, played by Will Forte, teaming up with a gruff Irish journalist, played by Siobhán Cullen, and pokes fun at the true crime podcast industry that has propped up over the last decade.

Show creator Jez Scharf said, “like a lot of British people when they first come to Ireland I was very humbled by how little I knew about Irish history, culture and society despite it being the UK’s closest neighbour.”

After being inspired by the investigative podcast S-Town, Scharf set about to create a small-town mystery with traces of dark humour.

An off-kilter mystery in a small town may draw comparisons to Twin Peaks, but Scharf said he was directly influenced by Irish literature when creating the show.

“I wrote it 6 years ago and it seemed like a funny way of approaching quite a serious subject,” and cited the works of Kevin Barry, Nicole Flattery and Colm Barrett as influences on his work.

“These writers have such a great sense of black comedy and it manages to capture the absurdity of life. I felt like Prometheus trying to capture that spark.”

The show boasts a who’s who of Irish talent such as Pat Shortt, Fionnula Flanagan and Pauline McLynn. 

Flanagan said she was “delighted” that the Irish film and TV industry is receiving the backing of a major international service like Netflix and is confident the success of the show will lead to more work for Irish creatives be they in front of the camera or behind the scenes.

Rosie and Viva director Paddy Breathnach worked on the show, and while he is best known for his film work he said there was less autonomy while working on a major Netflix television series there is more of a collaborative spirit.

“There is a wider group of people you’re involved with when you’re making TV so there is a coherence and cohesion, you don’t always get that with film, we are singing from the same hymn sheet,” he says.

“You have to surrender yourself a bit to the process; in film you can strut a bit more, but with TV it’s a lot more linear,” he mused.

Breathnach said in the case of Bodkin he was building off the work done by previous directors and cinemotographers and described as a “toybox” of sorts.

“The episode I directed has a lot of explosions, crowd work, action, nighttime shots, so we got to play with a lot of cool toys we otherwise wouldn’t have access to, he said. 

“Relative to a low-budget feature film, this project had a lot more resources and time. It’s more oomph!”

Former Saturday Night Live star Will Forte is the international name associated with the project, and he plays American podcaster Gilbert Power on the show.

Forte’s collaborators sang the praises of the Emmy nominee, with Scharf admitting that the script called for a “Will Forte type” before deciding to cast the comedy star.

Producer Alex Metcalf, who has worked on major shows such as Sharp Objects and Mindhunter, said that while Forte improvised and sometimes took the dialogue in a different direction, he had an understanding of what the project was about.

“We described Gilbert as having golden retriever energy, and that’s exactly what Will Forte is,” added Scharf.

Forte himself walked the red carpet in Smithfield, and professed his adoration for Ireland.

Having already worked in Ireland for the 2019 horror comedy Extra Ordinary, Forte said he “leapt at the chance” to spend more time filming in Ireland.

Forte’s character in the show is the typical gee-eyed, aw-shucks American who is amazed by the wonder of Ireland, to which Cullen’s Irish character rolls her eyes and assures him Ireland isn’t all rainbows and Guinness.

One gets the sense that Forte isn’t necessarily acting in Bodkin, his grá for Ireland is apparent in the way he speaks. 

“I was thanking my lucky stars I got the chance to work in a place I love so much, I had the chance to introduce my wife to Ireland,” he said.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but I have a real connection to this country. I never do this back home, but whenever I have downtime on a project here I hop in a car and go road tripping, there is something in me that wants to explore Ireland.”

Forte has become a cult figure among comedy fans thanks to his work on the likes of Saturday Night Live or his show Last Man On Earth, but his biggest cult achievement remains MacGruber.

The film, which was released in 2010, was a notable box office failure and received mixed reviews; however in the grand cult tradition of comedy it has taken on a life of its own and even received a shoutout from Christopher Nolan as one of his favourite comedies.

When told that the film has a cult following on this side of the Atlantic, Forte exclaimed “all right! That’s great to hear! I had no idea it travelled that far!”

“It’s been really fun seeing people discover this film after all this time,” he said.

Forte recalled the experience after the film flopped being a “difficult” one, but said he was “surprised” that the film has endeared for so long.

“It was tough seeing something you spent so much time on not do well, it’s hard not to let the box office failure seep into your brain,” he admitted.

“After the movie came out, me and the creators got on the phone and said ‘you know, this is something to be proud of, let’s try keep this thing alive.”

With Forte now the star of a glitzy Netflix show likely to be seen by millions around the world, Forte may well have the last laugh.

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