Belfast acting dynasty is born as brothers star in movie epic and TV drama
Two west Belfast brothers are poised for stardom after landing separate roles in a major new movie and television drama.
Nine-year-old Thomas Henry, from New Barnsley, is to star alongside Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland in the forthcoming blockbuster, The Eagle of The Ninth.
Thomas, who has never acted before, secured the role of Seal Boy due largely to his ability to speak Irish.
His older brother Gary, 18, also a fluent Irish speaker, will be seen on our television screens next Sunday, in a Channel 4 drama about Mo Mowlam.
Gary plays the part of a young boy with learning difficulties, whom the late politician befriended during her time as Northern Ireland Secretary of State.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, the boy’s mother Anne-Marie told of the family’s pride in both boys’ achievements.
“Gary was always into playing the guitar and singing but he got into acting when he started doing work as an extra in a few films,” she said.
“He got himself an agent and went for some auditions and then he got the role of Kevin in Mo.
“I went along to see the preview last week and was so proud when I saw him up there on the big screen. I thought it was brilliant and Gary did a great job.
“The people behind this new movie The Eagle of the Ninth contacted Gary’s agent some months ago to see if he knew a young boy who could speak Irish. Gary suggested Thomas and when he read the lines, the director Kevin Macdonald said he was perfect for the part.
“It all happened so quickly. Next thing, we were over in Scotland where the movie was being filmed.
“I was a bit nervous about meeting so many well-known people but they were all really lovely and down-to-earth. They couldn’t have been nicer.”
The Eagle of the Ninth, based on a 1954 novel of the same name, is set in the second century AD and tells the story of a Roman centurion’s search for the truth about the disappearance of his father’s legion in the north of Britain.
Award-winning director Kevin MacDonald had previously held auditions in Scotland for a Gaelic speaking boy but the search failed to turn up any contenders. Macdonald then decided to extend his hunt to Belfast.
Thomas’ character Seal Boy will feature heavily in the movie and it is expected that it could catapult him to stardom, in the same way that former child actor and Eagle of the Ninth co-star Jamie Bell found fame after Billy Elliott.
Anne-Marie said: “Thomas had never done anything like this in his life but he has always looked up to his older brother and wants to be like him.
“Now he says he wants to be an actor when he leaves school as well.
“He’s back at the Bunscoil, taking it all in his stride and not really saying anything about it to us. He’s very grounded and one of the cast gave him a good piece of advice when he was leaving, ‘always be an actor, don’t be a star’.
“Me, my husband Gary and our daughter Michaela are so proud of the two of them and can’t quite believe that this has happened. We are really very blessed.”
Mo is screened next Sunday on Channel 4 at 9pm, while The Eagle of the Ninth is expected to be released this autumn.