Mark O’Brien chats about Republic of Doyle, Directing & More

Actor Mark O’Brien is a recognizable face in the world of Canadian arts. Best known for playing Des Courtney on Republic of Doyle, he has dabbled in many cool projects with critical acclaim, both in Canada and internationally. We take a moment to chat with him about the sixth and final season of Republic of Doyle, his love for directing, and a couple of interesting projects he’s working on.


Republic of Doyle will bow out with one final chapter with Season 6. The show has been such an integral part of your life, especially having been involved so long. Wanted to get your thoughts on the shows run, its evolution over the years, and why this is the best time to conclude the journey.

This show 100% changed my life. It’s taught me the importance of working with people who you enjoy seeing everyday, and collaborating with. I strongly believe in the necessity of enjoying what you do for a living, and what you do everyday. This showed has changed greatly over the years, and I know I’ve certainly changed with it, that’s natural. And by expressing myself artistically so often and for so long as one character I’ve matured and grown as an artist in all sorts of ways. Hopefully, I haven’t gotten worse.

I feel like the entire cast and crew is ready to move on to the next thing. There’s a general vibe of positivity on the set right now. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and now it’s time for this part of life and career to end. It’s just time. I don’t think the phrase ‘nothing lasts forever’ is something that should always be viewed as a negative. I think moving on, discovering new things and experimenting is a wonderful thing. And right now, for me, it’s time for the next stage of my career, my life, etc.


Mark Head Shot stairwellYou will be stepping into your directorial shoes for the second episode of Republic of Doyle. With such a close relationship with the show, and hundreds of possible stories to tell, how does one – keeping in mind of course the continuity element from the last episode – find “the” story to tell, especially when you know these are episodes that will conclude the overall story.

Well each script is different from the last. They all connect as a whole, so it’s important to do your homework. But, in general I think you’re trying to just find exactly what each scene is about. What are we trying to communicate here? What does each character want? Need? Fear? To me, art is all about communication. The audience needs to understand what is wanted, needed and revealed. As long as I can communicate that, I’ve done my job. And along with that, if you can throw in some touches that make it original or thought provoking, or just plain funny then you’re keeping it fresh and interesting. I leave the what’s in the script and the overall plan to the writers. As a director, it’s my job to interpret that and make sure it’s honest and real, within the world of the show. But I also believe that each person’s interpretation is different and original, so I try and take how it affects me and put in on film.


Direction is an important part of your career. You have directed a number of works, a good chunk of them short films. Is direction an area where you’d like to head towards or is it a case of being an artist with multiple hats, having multiple skills?

Directing is very important to me and it’s something I’ll always want to do. It’s what I’ve been doing (in one form or another) since I was thirteen. I personally funded most things I’ve directed and don’t regret it for a second. Regardless if you’re directing for 100 people or 5 people, directing is directing and I’d rather spend it on that then wasting it on other crap.

I’ve always enjoyed doing more than one thing at a time. When I’m on set and I have a break, I normally run to my dressing room, and write. I’m normally in the middle of watching three or four movies at a time and reading two books at a time. I like that stimulation of different works. It gets my mind moving in all sorts of directions and opens me up to all sorts of possibilities. When I’m not reading or acting or writing or directing I’m difficult to be around. So, for me, directing is something I’ll always want to do because you have this great control of artistic possibility that is rarely afforded. But, to me, art is art and ideas are ideas. I just like being part of the whole thing.


Mark fire escape 2You pursued a BA in English sometime back. I want to get your take on how important education is in the current art environment, especially for future actors.

I think it’s different for everyone. For example, I never applied to an acting school or a film school. I felt, for me, that it would take away from the time that I could be doing it for real. I didn’t want to wait four years to make a film. I wanted to make one right away! Even if it was on a camcorder and was really terrible, which it often was.

I think you learn a lot by doing. I believe there’s a certain amount of truth to that 10,000 hour rule Gladwell spoke about. Having said that, I’m very happy I graduated University. I learned a lot about myself during that time and what I did and didn’t like. Ideas beget more ideas. I’m always stealing from things I’ve read or seen to some extent – a piece of that character, a touch of that structure, etc. That started for me, by studying English and Philosophy, which coincides greatly with film and television. It’s all story and theme.

For future actors – I think you need to do what you want to do. What is it you enjoy? What is that stimulates you? Makes you feel good? If it’s something in University, go for it! If not, don’t waste your time and money on something you’re not passionate about because someone else told you that you should.


You are of course still busy with Doyle, but what’s next? Any upcoming projects or secret experiments you would like to share?

I have three features in post-production right now – The Dark Stranger, The End of Days at Godfrey Global Inventory and Len & Company. I’ll be guest starring on Saving Hope this fall will be directing a short film after we wrap Doyle. I have several TV series’ I’m working on with different writers that I’m very excited about. I also have a film in development with Best Boy Productions that I’m writing with my buddy Shawn Doyle.


Republic of Doyle will return to CBC this fall.