Category: Archive

Time cop

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“A lot of them have been quite supportive, really,” the 36-year-old Sandycove native recently told the Irish Echo last week.
“I think a lot of the fans of the British show are sort of incensed — they can’t believe that we’re sort of remaking something that’s perfect,” O’Mara said. “But we’re trying to bring this to a mainstream American audience, and the only way to do that is to reinvent it for network television here.”
In the series, O’Mara plays Sam Tyler, a modern-day New York police detective involved in a car crash and somehow transported back to 1973, where he is still working as a cop. The show, which airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC, co-stars Lisa Bonet, Michael Imperioli, Harvey Keitel and Gretchen Mol.
A Trinity College graduate who previously acted on the U.S. television series “In Justice” and “Men in Trees,” O’Mara said he worked hard to adopt an accent befitting the time and place in which the new series is set.
“[Executive producer] Josh Appelbaum and I sat down to talk about this a couple of months before we started production,” said O’Mara. “If Sam Tyler is a New York cop from 2008, no matter how cosmopolitan or well-traveled he is, he would still have this dialect, you know?”
The actor and producer consulted two dialect coaches, and came up with a style of speech to suit the character. The actor is careful not to use in “Mars” the “stereotypical” New York way of tawkin’ that makes some real-life city-dwellers cringe when they hear it in films or on TV.
“We wanted to just give it a subtle flavor,” O’Mara said. “It’s harder to do a subtle accent than it is to do an immediately recognizable ‘Italian’ or ‘Jewish’ or ‘Irish’ New York accent. So, I’ve tried to sort of blend a few things together and just give it a flavor.”
For the actor, the accent issue adds another layer to the process of creating his character. “When the script comes through, I can’t just worry about my lines,” he laughed. “I [also] have to worry about how I pronounce the words.”
O’Mara, a popular figure on the Dublin and London stages, and a veteran of such British TV shows as “Monarch of the Glen,” “High Stakes” and “Playing the Field,” said it’s a different world working in the U.S., as opposed to working in Ireland. “We have a lot more money to work with, for starters,” he observed.
Although the setting and cast of the revamped U.S. edition have been completely changed from the BBC series, O’Mara said the new “Mars” maintains the same basic premise as the original series — and strives to capture the same spirit.
“We’re trying to present it in the spirit and tone of how it was on the BBC, but there are differences,” he noted. “On American network television, we only have 42 minutes to tell our story, [as opposed to] a full hour like [on] the BBC. We have to tell the story in a very — a much more economical way, you know? And that’s a challenge in itself.”
Fans of the original series will begin to see how different the two shows are after the pilot, the actor predicted.
“The pilot is definitely the one episode that we had to stick close to the story of the BBC version because it sets up the story,” he said. “But once episodes 2, 3 and 4 come along, even though there are elements there from the original, it starts to go in a different direction.”
O’Mara and Appelbaum said during the teleconference with reporters that a tremendous amount of attention was paid to detail in an effort to make the show, which is shot largely in Queens and Brooklyn, look and feel as if it was really taking place in 1973 New York City.
“The bar has been set so incredibly high by these period dramas like ‘Mad Men,'” he said. “Audiences expect period details to be shown,” O’Mara said. “And also the acting. I mean, when you have Harvey Keitel in your cast, all the actors’ games are raised.”

Age: 36
Born and raised in the Sandycove section of south Dublin
Education: Graduated from Trinity College with a degree in drama.
Family: Married to U.S. actress Paige Turco and is the father of 4-year-old David.
Stage work: “The Jew of Malta,” “Bash” and “The Homecoming.”
Small Screen: “High Stakes,” “Playing the Field” and “Monarch of the Glen” in the U.K. and “Band of Brothers,” “In Justice” and “Men in Trees” in the U.S.
Current job: Starring as the time-traveling New York police detective Sam Tyler in “Life on Mars.”

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