Interview: Eoin Macken talks The Night Shift & the challenges of indie filmmaking

The first time I came across Eoin Macken was in 2013. Fresh off the back of the success of BBC fantasy drama Merlin, the Irish actor and filmmaker was deep in production of his latest project, an independent film he was directing in Cold.

Fast forward three years and here we are again but instead of chatting from London, he’s in Mexico; almost a week into a press trip for The Night Shift, the US medical drama in which he currently stars. Macken’s success with The Night Shift wasn’t too far off on the horizon when we had our first conversation but catching up with him now, it’s impressive to have taken stock of the projects he’s been involved in over the past few years.

He’s remained within the indie film world while not in front of the camera, directing and writing, not to mention penning his first novel Kingdom of Scars in 2014.

Quite the over-achiever, it’d seem.

“I actually don’t work half as hard as I could do,” he’s quick to tell me, laughing. “I’ve just spent five days in Mexico doing press and drinking tequila.”

Macken will be out in Australia for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo next month, spending time in both Adelaide and Brisbane – with Merlin and The Night Shift obviously garnering a large fan base for him, Macken’s upcoming role in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter also has him in the spotlight on the guest line up.

With the third season of The Night Shift wrapping up in August this year, he admits that the show has definitely found its rhythm now.

“The third season, for me, is when the show found itself,” he says. “I think [that] happens with quite a lot of shows. It can take a season or two. Some shows obviously hit the ground straight away, but a lot of shows take a while. Ours has a quirkiness to it and I think it kind of found its balance this year with everyone’s relationships and the pace of the whole thing. It feels more comfortable to watch.”

Image | NBC
Image | NBC

With the latest season seeing recurring and guest appearances by the likes of Jennifer BealsAnnaLynne McCordCarla Gallo and Lance Henriksen filter through, the show has flourished further and has been able to establish and explore some more complicated storylines with the main cast.

“With The Night Shift,” Macken adds. “It’s one of those shows where the characters need to have those complex backgrounds and relationships because then a lot of the banter and a lot of the stuff works. Because a lot of that has now been established, you know the patterns of what’s going to happen. You can’t quite do that sometimes, in a first season, because you’re trying to establish six or seven characters and you’ve also got so many guest stars. Now it feels like everyone knows what they’re doing and it’s allowed to breathe a bit more.”

Turning things back to the indie world, focus turns to Macken’s film Cold (now titled Leopard), which has finally seen release via Osiris Entertainment. Starring Macken, Tom Hopper (Black Sails, Merlin)  and Jack Reynor (GlasslandMacbeth), the film takes inspiration from Steinbeck‘s East of Eden; a partially crowdfunded project, Macken opens up about the challenges of getting such a project to light.

“It’s good,” he says of the film’s release. “We’re just starting to do a bunch of press on it now and over the next few weeks. They’re doing a bit of a slow burn release on it, so it’s great to finally get it out. It’s been a long, arduous journey, to put it mildly. It really shouldn’t be quite this difficult, but indie filmmaking is one of those things where a lot of the time, you don’t really have a choice. It’s taken out of your hands a lot of the time and it’s difficult to get stuff released when you want it to. It’s good that it’s out there and hopefully it gets out to the rest of the world pretty soon as well. I fucking hope so.”

“Some of them work and some of them don’t.” Macken says. “Doing Resident Evil was pretty special; I was very, very lucky to be a part of that. That was cool as hell. With everything else, the self-imposed projects, all of them are great and I’ve loved doing it but sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. It’s always draining and it takes a part of your soul every time, waiting to see if stuff is going to happen. That’s the only way you can make things though, otherwise you won’t get to make anything. You’ve just got to keep trucking away. Hopefully some shit sticks to the fan.”

One project that definitely has made its mark, is the documentary Macken and fellow actor Tim McDonnell made in support of the work international NGO Sightsavers have been doing in Mozambique. Working to treat and prevent avoidable blindness in some of the poorest and disadvantaged countries around the world, Sightsavers’ Million Miracles campaign aims to raise £30 million by next year. The documentary made by Macken and McDonnell followed their trip in 2014 and was released this week in conjunction with World Sight Day.

Photo | Rachel Heald
Photo | Rachel Heald

“Going to Mozambique was really important and really interesting. We’re really proud of the documentary; they’re a great charity and it was really humbling to be out there and doing that. Part of the reason for doing that was, you know, if the opportunity was there to go and explore and actually make the documentary for them and if in some way, me being an actor and being a part of that helps, then great. The main reason Tim and myself did it initially, we just made it for them – the documentary and the photos, as opposed to them having to hire somebody.”

“It was special but it was also really difficult,” he admits. “It was a really hard place to go. I’d like to feel like as a person, I like to appreciate things in life anyway, but at the same time the reality is that you never really know about these situations until you’re in them. You realise, ‘Fuck. We’re very lucky in certain parts of the world.’ It’s hard for a lot people. I don’t even know if you can fully grasp it because the thing is, you’re seeing it but you’re also then able to go back to your own life. It’s definitely humbling, for sure.”

Of the next few months ahead, Macken is getting back into writing mode as well as his upcoming Australian return. With book number two ready to be edited and wrapped up, he’s well aware of how blessed the last few years have been, and is stoked to be returning Down Under, a trip he admits he just couldn’t turn down.

“The last couple of years, I’ve been incredibly lucky.” Macken agrees, reflecting on the amount of travel he’s been able to clock. “I’ve been able to work in Morocco and Mozambique, South Africa and New Mexico; I’ve been able to go all over the place, it’s been quite fantastic.”

The Night Shift airs on FOXTEL’s Universal Channel. 

Eoin Macken will be appearing at Supanova this November 11th-13th in Brisbane and November 18th-20th in Adelaide. Find out more information and buy your event tickets HERE.