John Bell Talks About Filming ‘A Shine of Rainbows’

ShineOfRainbows.jpgA Shine of Rainbows star John Bell is following up his performance in the award-winning drama with roles in two upcoming films: Battleship, which has completed filming, and The Hobbit. With Fox releasing A Shine of Rainbows on DVD March 15, he young actor took time during The Hobbit filming to respond to KIDS FIRST! about his experiences.

KIDS FIRST!: In A Shine of Rainbows, you convey such loneliness in your character, especially in the early scenes. How did you get into the sense of your character, to be able to convey him as a believable person? What was the hardest part about playing Tomas?
John Bell: I am an only child and there are always times in life when you wish you had a brother or sister with you to share experiences. I took that feeling of loneliness and used that as my motivation for the underlying feeling of the character. The toughest part of playing Thomas was probably the fact that I was away from my Mum and Dad for a lot of the filming, and this also helped when I needed to convey loneliness and loss in my character.

KF: I’ve heard you talk about how the great experience you had working with Connie Nielsen, who plays your mother. What made that so special?
Bell: As I said previously, missing my Mum was a tough part of the filming schedule, and Connie became my second Mum on and off the set. She was able to know instinctively when I needed anything, from simple things like more water to drink to emotional support such as a cuddle or time away to get my head together.

KF: Were you at all intimidated by Aidan Quinn? Not only is he quite a well-known actor, but his interaction with you onscreen is quite unfriendly.
Bell: When I first met Aidan, he was wonderful to me — very open and friendly. When we came to film our scenes together, he would always take me aside and say to me, “Now remember, I am going to be really mean to you today when the cameras roll but always remember it’s only acting.” He was fabulous to work with and I learned so much from him.

KF: You are in just about every scene. Did you have any tricks that helped you study and prepare for them? And you also had to stay in another accent — do you play around with other accents for fun?
Bell: No tricks, just hard work. Every night I would go over the following day’s scenes at the house I stayed in and get my head together with the lines and the emotional journey for each of the scenes. I had a fantastic dialect coach when I was on set who helped me every day with the accent, and working with Brendan showed me how much fun playing about with your voice can be. Since then, I am always fooling around with my voice, and when I audition now, I very rarely audition for parts that look for my own accent.

KF: Is there a part of Tomas that you think is like you?
Bell: Thomas’s character is a very sensitive one and has a real sense of right and wrong. I have always been the one who, if I feel something is wrong, will stand up and be counted. When Thomas grows in confidence throughout the film and challenges the other characters, I think this is the side of Thomas that is most like me.

KF: Splashing around in mud puddles — was that as much fun as it looked?
Bell: Although it looked like fun, it was actually really uncomfortable. I had little black canvas shoes on for some of those scenes, and after a few takes my feet were absolutely soaked and cold. Although the weather was very sunny, it was also very windy, and the cold air made jumping in puddles very cold indeed.

KF: People think of acting as all glamour, but sometimes you have to do some unpleasant things. How did you feel about holding the crab, in that scene where you first meet two other Corrie Island kids?
Bell: I am pretty OK about stuff like that. When I was much smaller, I used to love to go to bug shows and hold tarantulas and cockroaches and stuff like that.

KF: What was the hardest part for you of being in A Shine of Rainbows?
Bell: As this was my first movie being away from home, and [being] away from my Mum and Dad for long periods of time was the toughest. I had my Granny with me for most of the filming, which was great, but sometimes the only person you want is your Mum, and if she wasn’t there it was tough.

KF: What was the most fun for you about being in A Shine of Rainbows?
Bell: The whole experience was fantastic. To pick one particular thing is almost impossible. I met loads of fantastic people and made loads of friends, [and] working with the director Vic Sarin was a fantastic experience and we keep in touch regularly. There was also a fantastic mobile coffee seller who would follow the crew around in his van and park up wherever we were shooting, and he made the best hot chocolate I have ever had.

KF: For your upcoming films, Battleship and The Hobbit, how different are your characters from Tomás? What about them did you most enjoy playing (for Battleship) or are most looking forward to playing (The Hobbit)?
Bell: In Battleship, I played a boy called Angus. He is one of three friends and very confident and cheeky, so he is very different from the lonely orphan Thomas. I loved the fact I could be the smart-alec in the scenes and say things that Thomas’s character would never dream of saying. In The Hobbit, the character I am playing has a family and is very brave again, and, although it is not explored in The Hobbit movies, his character is destined to grow up and be a leader of men, so he is confident and strong and brave.

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