The Irish actor/comedian Chris O’Dowd is best known in this country for his turns in the movie Bridesmaids and the TV series Girls. In Britain’s sceptered isles, he is famous as the producer, writer, and star of Moone Boy, a whimsical TV series about an awkward boy and his imaginary friend (played by O’Dowd). Created with O’Dowd’s longtime friend and collaborator, Nick Murphy, the series won the 2013 International Emmy Award for Best Comedy and has lent itself to the popular middle-grade novels from Feiwel & Friends: Moone Boy: The Blunder Years and Moone Boy: The Fish Detective.
Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly moderates a lively discussion with O’Dowd and Murphy today, 12:15–1:15 p.m., room W475. We spoke with the creative duo to get a peek at what to expect.
Moone Boy sounds like it just might be slightly autobiographical. The question is, whose?
Nick and Chris: We mined both of our childhoods for stories, and also the childhoods of all the other kids who grew up with us. So it’s really a group effort of everyone we knew in the 1980s. But no one else got paid.
Did you have imaginary friends when you were kids? Do you still? What are their names and identifying characteristics?
Nick: Well, Chuckles here beside me is quite the rascal. He perches on my shoulder and tells me to eat cookies a lot. Which is weird because most of his body is made of cookies. But I don’t question the logic too much. Sometimes he tickles my ear with his trunk, which is a bit annoying. It was funny when I was nine. But we’re 38 now, so I wish he’d come up with some new jokes.
Chris: I befriended a brick. He was called Rick. He was a right bastard.
Describe each other in a tweet.
Nick: Chris is a force of nature. Like a mudslide. He’s like a charming, brilliant, hilarious mudslide.
Chris: Nick is like toffee: solid, sweet, and adored by elderly women.
If you hadn’t gone into the entertainment biz, what would you have become?
Chris: I always wanted to be a journalist, but writing fiction for children seemed a straighter route to the truth.
Did the TV series just naturally lend itself to becoming a book series?
Nick and Chris: We felt that it offered new areas which we could explore within the world of Moone Boy. The books allow us to really let our imaginations run wild and not be restrained by production budgets. For example, in the first novel we could easily describe a talking chocolate fish leaping around Martin’s bathroom, but doing that in the show would have been very difficult. And messy. If you’ve ever tried to dip a live fish into a jar of Nutella, then you know what we mean.
When you are writing the books, how does your collaboration work? Does one type while the other looks soulfully out a window, expressing bon mots? Do you take turns?
Nick: We write out 35,000 random words and put them in a giant bowl. Then we pluck them out one at a time and try to form sentences out of them.
When you were angsty preteens (because, let’s face it, everyone was once an angsty preteen), was there a book you read that made you realize you weren’t alone?
Nick: All of the Adrian Mole books. I also read a lot of comics at that age. I really identified with the Hulk, as I had a touch of anemia as a boy, which gave my skin a greenish tinge.
Chris: I wasn’t a big reader—that came later to me.
If you were sealed in a cave with only one book, which would it be?
Chris: The complete works of Shakespeare. Or anything by Dan Brown.
Nick: A woman-shaped book, so I’d have someone to spoon.
This article appeared in the May 14, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.