Peter Halpin is no stranger to the world of acting. He’s been at it since he was 14 years old, featuring as Malachy McCourt in the film adaptation of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. Raised in Ireland, Halpin has been in New York for over a year, raising his profile through his work, rubbing elbows with the influencers of the New York performance scene, and making a name for himself in the Big Apple.
Peter and I meet in an Irish pub on a dreary, rainy day, reminiscent of a soft afternoon back in Dublin. With sandy hair and bright blue eyes, Peter his effortlessly charming. During our conversation, he comments to me, “One of the great things about Irish people is that we can meet up with each other anywhere in the world and it’s like we’ve been friends for years after five minutes.”
We speak about his background, his origins in acting, and much more during our afternoon together at Wolfe Tone’s Irish Pub by Madison Square Park. When I ask him about his beginnings in the world of performance, his eyes glow, and he tells me his fateful casting in Angela’s Ashes.
“Booking that film confirmed for me that I wanted to be an actor,” Halpin says out of his experience of being cast as Malachy McCourt in the film, among hundreds that tried out for the part. “I booked an agent in Dublin, but my parents wanted me to finish my schooling. Eventually, I managed to land a role with the Druid Theater Company (based in Galway).”
Halpin also cites the establishment of Irish actors and actresses as a support system that brought him to the level he has managed grow his career to. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really famous Irish performers like Gabriel Byrne, Gary Lydon and Frank O’Sullivan. They gave me a great support system and really nurtured my growth as a young actor.”
When asked about his preference of film medium, Halpin sits back in his chair, and ruminates for a moment before providing a poignant response.
“The nuances of screen are sometimes lost on stage if the person 300 rows back can’t see it. With a shot on screen, the slightest movement is picked up. Touring with Druid opened my eyes on adapting to the size of your audience. You may be in a small theater with 100 seats, and you’ll give a much different performance. You need to make sure every single member of the audience gets what you’re doing. Theater is a place to explore. The variables of an audience are so different. You can’t let the crowd dictate your performance. The theater is a place for play.”
Peter and I eventually transition the conversation to what brought him to the Big Apple. “As an actor, I was always drawn to New York City over London. I really seem to click with the American mindset. It’s creatively explosive here — everyone is striving to achieve their dreams.”
Halpin also cites his Irish roots as a major influence on his work in performance art. “Ireland is a land of storytellers. There’s a great Irish network here in New York and Irish and Irish-Americans alike have been a great support system. We’re people with a can-do attitude and that comes through every day.”
Peter Halpin has a wide array of work coming up for the general public. He’s recently starred in a short film Narcan, where he plays a paramedic navigating the mean streets of New York City, and recently performed in The Last of the Caucasians, in which he played an Irish naval officer in New York. Additionally, Peter has a number of film and theater projects forthcoming, including a work called House of Charity, where he plays a chef at a homeless shelter, and is in the lead role in a feature film in Ireland in the fall of 2016.
Before Peter and I part into the New York City rain, I reiterate my first question, asking him why he does what he does, and his answer not only speaks to the experience of the performer, but to anyone trying to make it in New York City.
“Playing it safe doesn’t make it. You have to take risks and make choices. When you raise the stakes, your choices become so much more important.”