As an actor, there can't be too many things better than being nominated for a BAFTA – but being nominated for two BAFTAs in the same year is undoubtedly one of them.


Daryl McCormack, who has previously been seen on the small screen in the likes of Peaky Blinders and Apple TV+'s Bad Sisters, is up for both Best Actor and the EE Rising Star Award at the upcoming BAFTA Film Awards, thanks to his turn opposite Dame Emma Thompson in Sophie Hyde's comedy-drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

It's an impressive achievement – and one that he admits "took him by surprise".

"I knew of the Rising Star category prior to Christmas, so I've had some time to digest that," he explains over the phone during an interview with "And then after the longlists were announced, naturally your first instinct is to think that you won't be picked.

"I was really content with being nominated in the first place and to be able to go to the ceremony, so when the second nomination came through I honestly was flabbergasted and super grateful."

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In recent years, past winners of the public-voted EE Rising Star Award have included Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Lashana Lynch – certainly not bad company to be in. But there has also been the occasional minor criticism of the award, with some arguing that a number of the recipients have already been too established by the time of their wins to really be considered "rising". So what does McCormack think of the term?

"I mean, it's nice to be recognised as rising," he says. "To know that you're on people's radar in terms of what you're doing with your work and to be celebrated. I find that category really celebrates emerging talent and I've really looked to it over the years as being really formidable, talented actors coming through it. And I just feel honoured that BAFTA deems me eligible to be a part of it."

When this year's nominations were announced in January, one of the immediately notable things was just how well Irish talent had done: McCormack is joined in the list by the likes of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Kerry Condon, and Paul Mescal, while Colm Bairéad's exceptional Irish-language film The Quiet Girl is also up for two awards.

And the actor says it feels great to be part of a group of Irish stars being recognised on the night– especially as he's always looked up to the success of actors from his homeland.

"I was born and raised in Ireland and I'm proud to be from Ireland, and in terms of the talent to come out of Ireland I've always been inspired by them," he says. "In recent years there are people like Jessie Buckley, but way back when I first started watching films I really looked to Saoirse Ronan and Ruth Negga, and so to kind of feel a part of it this year and be celebrated amongst all the Irish actors is, like, full circle in some sense."

As for some of the other actors up for awards, McCormack picks out Albrecht Schuch's performance in All Quiet on the Western Front as one from the last year that he particularly enjoyed – and hopes he'll get the chance to meet the German actor on the night.

"I really loved his performance in that film," he says. "He brought this amazing levity to a soldier in that time, yet you could really feel the weight of the pressure and the darkness of war. I thought he did an amazing job and I think it's really great when BAFTA recognise those performances because they might not be recognised amongst the other awards ceremonies, so I think it just shows that they really do pay attention."

In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, McCormack plays the titular character – a sex worker who is hired by Thompson's retired, widowed school teacher Nancy Stokes in a bid to bring some much-needed excitement to her life.

The film takes the form of a number of intimate hotel room conversations spread out over various sessions, and over the course of these discussions, the pair strike up a rather unexpected bond – finding out more about themselves than they perhaps anticipated.

Daryl McCormack and Dame Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Daryl McCormack and Dame Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

McCormack and Thompson are the only people we see on screen for pretty much the entirety of the film's runtime, and the actor says starring in this kind of two-hander brought with it a certain degree of intensity and "shared responsibility".

However, the opportunity to work so closely with an actor as accomplished and experienced as Thompson was one he relished, and he says it was good to get the chance to step outside his comfort zone.

"It's quite a heavy workload," he explains. "The film does hinge on two performances and I definitely felt that pressure when I was beginning to make the film. But there was a particular dynamic and relationship that me and Emma found in the midst of making the film that really made it quite a joyful experience and something where I felt I grew beyond my own means. I had to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the whole experience in a way."

Before he took on the role, McCormack spoke to a number of sex workers so that he could "bear witness to their stories and their different experiences" – and this proved to be a fundamental part of his preparation process.

Given the enthusiastic reception, that research clearly proved to be worthwhile and the actor has enjoyed seeing the myriad different ways viewers have responded to the film.

"I'm really humbled to see how people have garnered different things from the film," he says. "Not just relating to intimacy, but relations with family, relation to body image, all sorts of things that I think have kind of hit home for different people. And just hearing people open up by talking about their own experiences with regard to intimacy has been great."

While it's his big-screen work that is being recognised at the upcoming BAFTAs, it's not been a bad year for McCormack on the small screen either. He was part of the impressive ensemble cast for Apple TV+'s brilliantly-received comedy-drama Bad Sisters alongside Eve Hewson, Anne-Marie Duff, Claes Bang, and series creator Sharon Horgan, while he also reprised his role as Isaiah Jesus for the final run of Peaky Blinders.

Daryl McCormack and Brian Gleeson in Bad Sisters
Daryl McCormack and Brian Gleeson in Bad Sisters. Apple TV+

He's not sure yet whether he'll be back for the second outing of the former, which is currently in the process of being written, but he had an "amazing time" in the debut season and would love the chance to work with Horgan again. Working on Peaky, meanwhile, was an experience he enjoyed immensely.

"I was so grateful to be able to be involved in such an iconic show before it finished," he says. "And to come back for a second season really made me feel like I could really own my part within it.

"It was really fun and really formative for me, growing in confidence to step onto a bigger show and to be able to hold my own within it, but they were so welcoming and amazing.

"And I love dressing up as a gangster playing boys being unruly and stuff. It's very simple, but it does kind of tap into your inner boy."

So what about the upcoming spin-off film – will he be a part of that?

"It's something I haven't actually heard about," he responds. "I've been asked multiple times but I've yet to hear any news with regards to that!"

Daryl McCormack as Isiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders season 6
Daryl McCormack as Isaiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders. BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Whether he's in that film or not, we can expect to see a lot more of McCormack on our screens in the coming years. He's currently working on a six-part BBC One thriller called The Woman in the Wall – which will also star Ruth Wilson – while he has a lead role alongside Richard E Grant in the film The Tutor, which will arrive later in 2023.

Given his two BAFTA nods it seems likely the exciting roles will just keep on coming – so how does he think the nominations will impact his career?

"I've yet to obviously see, but for me, I'm glad to see that someone like BAFTA is recognising both the film that I was in and then personally my performance as an actor within the film," he says.

"Obviously BAFTA are kind of the tentpole of standards, definitely within the UK and Britain, and my hope is that, yeah, people will recognise the work that I'm doing and hopefully call my agent!"

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The British Academy Film Awards 2023 air on BBC One at 7pm on Sunday 19th February.

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