After playing a flamboyant, dyspeptic matriarch in “Paddington 2,” Domhnall Gleeson offered something much softer when asked how he reacted to the advertisement for it.
“When I first heard the voiceover for it, I got a severe sense of wanting to eat my coffee,” he said. “Then I did some research. On hearing this voice, I don’t remember any meal or anything, but I was deeply moved. I was delighted.”
The 33-year-old actor, known to many for playing Bill Weasley in “Harry Potter” and as Bill’s older brother, Brendan, in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” has earned a following thanks to his roles as a character actor in films like “Frank” and “Brooklyn.”
In “Paddington 2,” Gleeson portrays Bill Brown, the hard-driving father to a 5-year-old who must continue to charm the authorities after his late father introduced him to Peru’s famous delicacy. Last year, “Harry Potter” fans got Gleeson’s presence in the fourth film in the series, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” when he played a fussy and mysterious Peruvian named Brownlow who runs a magical wand shop in New York. It’s no surprise that the actor broke out last year with his character.
Like Bill in “Paddington 2,” Brownlow is a quintessential, hard-to-describe character. He has the kind of voice that was in many African languages a few hundred years ago. But he wears a party hat for every funeral he attends. Or maybe he only wears a hat when he’s dancing in the back of a cab. He was secretly a Skippy, but his own mate was wiser. Somehow, you remember him because you can’t help but notice his hat. He came to New York to make a fortune in magic, but his brain can’t keep up with his son.
In “Brooklyn,” Gleeson’s character, Charlie, is a college student who arrives in London late for his grandmother’s funeral. There’s nothing for him in England, and he faces the inevitable: What will become of the poor old man’s legacy? So he takes to New York City, where he seems to be assimilating well and falls in love with a woman from his home country, Ireland.
Gleeson has made movies that have been critically acclaimed and pocket-change films that cashed in on his looks and charisma. He can’t recall a major role that he could remember having the kind of authority that most of the time Bill Brown has with his police force in “Paddington 2.”
“[Bill] is the head of the Anglophone division of the force. He’s very tactical,” Gleeson said. “There’s sort of a spine to him. He’s completely professional, no compromise.
“He’s not scared of work,” he added. “He takes the case as it comes. He’s very forthright. He does what he’s told, even if it doesn’t make sense.”
In preparation for “Paddington 2,” Gleeson watched about 35 clips of “Paddington,” every second of it. He wondered if his Scottish accent was strong enough to carry the film.