Bronagh Waugh Talks Film ‘A Dark Place’ & Ireland, UK and American Differences

ATM: What are the light features when a person in a dark person?

BW: In terms of the movie, the story is about vulnerability. It is a story about someone who does not fit into a place and time. They go a different path and go off track trying to seek the truth. This is a universal thing that so many people can relate to. So often, this is with anywhere in the world, authority and power rule everything. This allows for corruption and for people to get taken advantage of. I love how Donny does not fit into this narrative and this community. He does not care. He still seeks the truth and pursues it. My character Donna is similar in a way. She is rebellious and does not give a fuck about what anyone thinks. She cares about what is right and wrong.

The time that it is set in is not into this. For me being Irish, I had quite strong feelings about the authorities. I feel there are some serious issues in America as well about the police. This was something that attracted to me in the story. This film resonates a lot with authority. This is about being the Mayor or the police. Also, it is about covering things up. This resonated with me because people are frightened of speaking the truth. They are frightened with questioning authority. I am a big believer in doing this but I know it gets you in trouble most of the time. I admire Donny’s character. The police were trying to get him off the stand. Donny keeps pursuing truth. It takes a lot of courage to this when faced with doing something. He is very simple with his right and wrong.

ATM: A person that takes the initiative to go against the grain is a leader. Red taping is another element of corruption. This can be in any society. A lot of times people see things and do not want to come out to say it. They are afraid they might be perceived in a certain way. People are going to look and call you this and that. There is going to be a least one person that agrees with you.

BW: Andrew and I loved this about the script. It was happening while we had a script during the 2016 elections in the States. It made me very aware of how communities can be silenced easily. This is still happening today in the States. Empire and money speak everything. In a time where there is not much money, these communities are ignored, oppressed, and silenced. I like with Donny it infers that he is a little bit different than others. There is a beauty. Donny shows all of the elements and positivity. Someone does not have the ability to lie. So many of us as we get older and become adults, we get used to not speaking up as much as we should. For me, my mouth has got me in trouble so many times. I am privileged. I am in a privileged to do this in my position. To do this in my community like the one, I do this in the film takes respect to this aspect.

ATM: There are a lot of topics that people are black and white. Most people see racism and problems in society as black and white. Even if they are of the marginalized, authority, dominant, or not. They see things as black and white. The prime element to fix this is people needing to see things from all angles. This is seeing it from the oppressor and oppressed side.

BW: Exactly.

ATM: Any change or anyone cannot move forward if this is not understood.

BW: Yes, this character sees things from a different perspective. I like what you are drawing on the perspective of black and white and the gray area. Donny is willing to look at the gray area. My character is very black and white. She is very street smart and dismissive. She is willing because of what has happened to her in life. Donny is prepared to look at it through the cracks. You are right like you said, no change will ever get brought upon. This is the same with corruption, race, color, poverty, money, and justice. Money makes the fucking world go around. Unfortunately, money talks. It makes me angry because there is a community like the one in the movie.

It was set in the outskirts in Pennsylvania. This is a fictional town, but the idea was that it was outside of the city of Pennsylvania. We went to visit these types of times. We were filming in Georgia, in a tiny town called Griffin. You see what has happened to small towns like this who do not have money anymore. What this does to people and affects real people that really matter. The salt of the world. The people who have power is where corruption plays in. Justice is fucked. The whole legal system is fucked for people in this position. Any of us can be in this position in a heartbeat.  

ATM: We all support these things. But when put in this position the viewpoint changes. Until you face it everything shifts. In America, when you are black and incarcerated, especially a black male your life is changed forever.

BW: And for the worst. You are already up against it. I watch a lot of documentaries. I watched the film 13th. The fucking judicial system in America is fucked. In terms of racism and race, especially for a black man. It is insane. It is a true form of modern slavery. It worries me so much. I am trying to look for small positives. These are the people who are making changes. With the sense of social media, we can get our news. We do not have to get feed everything to get things. There is change happening from the grassroots. Oh Jesus, when something is so far miscued it takes decades and decades to change. I feel for Americans for now. I am an Irish woman. Being an Irish woman, we have a lot of sympathy with the American community with what you all are going in politics now. We are a country who are used to being oppressed on a different scale. For us, Ireland is used to being oppressed, but we lucky because we are white. It is a different thing.

ATM: How is Ireland’s justice system ran and operated?

BW: It is interesting. I think anywhere in the Western world there is a similar form of corruption. Ireland is unique because we are still ruled by the Catholic Church. There is the form of a whole extra of corruption with this. I am sure you have heard of the extra stuff with the child abuse. Abortion was illegal until last year. The Church still has a very strong hold over politics and people in Ireland. This adds an extra layer of difficulties. This is especially for women. Women struggle more because of stupid abortion rights. Even if you have been raped in Ireland, then you cannot have an abortion. You are medically allowed. You have to fly to England to get this. It is a form of oppression on women. There are changing being made that is a positive sign in our country. The Republic of Ireland has changed your laws, making abortion legal. If you are gay, then it is not illegal to marry.

But when I am from which is Northern Ireland, it is still illegal to be married and gay. These are two topics I campaign heavy on because my parents are gay. Abortion is something close to my heart. There is still a long way to go. I do not think we have an 8th of a problem like America has in terms of race. I am frightened and worried about the racism that comes out of America. What I witnessed while shooting in Georgia really shocked me. My assistant worked with a black woman in the film we became good friends. I was surprised listening to the stories of what it is like day to day as black women to live and work in Atlanta in Film. I am shielded with this in the UK. We are diverse in London. I am not used to this absolute divided with race. I was naïve and not realize it was still like this in America. I am just here to listen. I am a white woman in a privileged position. It is my job to listen and see how we can protect our sisters.

ATM: In America, there is a proposed bill that will criminalize all abortions. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest. This would make a possible for charging a woman for homicide if she decides to go through with the procedure.

BW: This is under the Trump administration. This is new. This would reserve. . .

ATM: Roe vs. Wade.

BW: Yes. It is fucking horrific. This is yet again trying to oppress women and keep them under control. All these things are powerful ways. It does not have to do with women. What about a woman’s life? What about the mother’s life? I think things are going backward in America. I really fucking do.

ATM: More international people seem to realize this than Americans. Barely any American of the black race will openly say this. There is more discussion about America with people who are not America and they have a clearer perspective. I have talked to more international professionals in high places about the issues regarding my race than people of my own race in my own country.

BW: And probably mostly white people.

ATM: Yes.

BW: I totally relate to what you are saying. My assistant and I would have lunch together. I would ask questions about certain things and she was like this is the way it is. I was like this not okay. We went to lunch one day to Subway. There was a woman working behind the cash register. When we went to put our order up, I was like I am paying for my two friends and I. This was Andrew and my assistant. She assumed I was not talking about my assistant. We sat back down beside us. She woman says, “Excuse me, miss. You have not paid yet. I was like, yes, she has. I paid for her. It was my turn for lunch. She says, I just did you and your friend. I went, no I told you the three of us. I went to the teller and paid for all the lunches. All she did was embarrass us and it was unnecessary. I asked her why she would assume this. There was no one else in the line. My assistant was like this happens all the time. I told her this was not okay. You are my friend and we are having a business lunch together. This is bullshit.

ATM: I understand you support equality, but you see how before you did not realize it.

BW: I am living it because I am white. It is not until you are in a city that you have never lived before with one of your friends who is living it every day. I witnessed a moment and a window of this. The thing that fucking sucks is when living it for a second it is like this is not okay. However, this woman is living this every single day.

ATM: This is the issue that people should understand. Most black people wake up thinking white people can understand it. When you are black you are stereotyped to think black people are racist. I am not saying that are not, but not all. Regardless if white people are or not.  

BW: Yes. Being Irish, we were stereotyped to think English people were racist against Irish people. There would be signs up in England saying, “No blacks, No Irish, No dog.” We have programmed the exact same way to think about English people. I can relate to this 100%. This is not saying all English people are bad, but we are just taught to be wary of them. They can get you in prison and murder you. They would have signs, in this order in England such as Blacks first, Irish, then dogs. For me, as an Irish kid that it was heard, well the black community had it worse. Also, fuck me if you were black and Irish. You were fucked. I have a friend Tim who black and Irish. He said, “Oh my god, I have it all.” He is dealing with it on every level.

ATM: But some people do not see it. Most people black need to understand if a person is not living in this kind of world, then it is likely they will not understand. They are living in a different world and will not understand it.

BW: And this is also for everything. You can make this wider for more than race. We do a lot of campaigning for diversity over here for our industry. Many of my black friends say I grew up watching anything on television with black people. Disabilities are the most underrepresented. We can be broad with this and say unless you have lived something it is difficult for you to understand or see. And bringing it back to what we do, you as a writer and me as an actress, this is why we tell the stories we tell. Unless you tell stories with people and share experiences, we will never make a change. This is how we make a change. You help someone see something from a different perspective. We learned that shouting into a void or your own bubble is never going to change anything. But mixing for people from different walks of life, races, abilities, this helps open your eyes to learning. This would globalize things for a larger basis.

ATM: A lot of it is being oblivious. You were oblivious until you knew. There are a lot of people who are oblivious because they are stuck in their own bubble or void. This is sad.

BW: You have to step out of your comfort zone. This is why education is so important and traveling to broaden your horizon. Otherwise, we just live in our little bubble. This is with any community we live in. This is the same with neighborhoods. In Ireland, we had a 300-year-old war. This is about Protestants and Catholics were killing each other. You were not allowed to cross the street because you would get shot. You had to be one religion. This means these kids never saw anything beyond their neighborhood. It is the same in America.

ATM: Some people think all of America is their living quadrant or street block of where they live. You try to warn and tell them about America and what is happening. But they stay in their bubble. A lot of education is not true. This interview is not written in any other source on the internet or it is not even in Google yet. It talks about information that is not even on Google or might have been erased. This is not in all history book.

BW: Exactly. You know what I think will change this? It has been very effective in Ireland to do community projects. Community leaders, who are people respected within the community passing the laws. It tends to be more men, but it needs to be more women. There are certain leaders when they put their guns down and educate the younger member of the community – this is when a change has happened. Because they are respected and understand the community they are from. In Ireland, this is how we got peace. It was different community leaders joining forces and do it from the ground up. They were not doing it in schools or the local government. It was the community leader who did this. We need more money put into these schemes. And some people the kids can respect and learn from. Other than some dick head politician who is rich and knows nothing about their lives.

It is so refreshing having a conversation like this. Gabrielle, you are so fantastic. You are really engaged, smart, and intelligent. It is interesting. There are not even a lot of British journalists who ask these kinds of questions or talk about these things. It is exciting.

ATM: America handles mental health in a lot of dishonoring ways. To black people, the rates and treatment is low. This is slowly changing and become more noticed. But mental health is handled very differently.  

BW: For the experience of here in the UK, mental health is becoming a huge issue. They are trying to invest a lot more money into. In Northern Ireland, this is where I am from, we have the highest suicide rate in males. This is anywhere in Western Europe. This is a post-conflict thing. We had a war for 300 years. We had troubles, so there was a lot of terrorism and a lot of violence. This is had a huge knock-on effect on people’s mental health, especially our young men. I lost three friends’ late year alone to suicide in Northern Ireland. They are vesting more in it.

They realize how big a deal it is. I am also trying about depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. The film does with a more Asperger’s on the scale. This is better addressed in this country. There is more support for this. I have friends who have similar situations, but they were not diagnosed in the 1980s. Now 30 years later, it is something much more likely to be picked in elementary school. We are getting more support. This is vital. It is the biggest killer with young men. I am not sure how it is in America. Is it like younger men or in general?

ATM: It is about the same, but it is worse for men and black men. Why? Men are seen to be emotional-less. They are stereotyped as the gender that is emotional closed off. They must be strong. So, when they are confronted with certain emotional issues they do not know how to function. This is not all, but some.   

BW: What you are saying is 100% with Irish men. This probably British men. Especially, where I am from. Men are conditioned not to show emotion. This is a broad brushstroke. I am also not saying all men. In the community I grew up in, “Do not talk about your emotions. Do not show it.” My husband is dyslexic. He was never diagnosed with this when little. It was like, “Oh, he cannot read. He cannot spell.” My husband is very smart. Most people with dyslexia are very smart and creative. When it is misdiagnosed and missed you are given the support you are needed.

These people just keep their emotions shut. They do not think about their feelings, anxiety, mental health, learning difficulties, and depression. They keep their mouth shuts and misses out on education. This leads to drugs and depression. My husband is sitting with me now. In my husband’s circle, more than 6 or 7 of his friends have lost their lives to suicide and drugs. It is so prevalent here. We need to break this stigma. I am such a feminist, but I am a huge advocate saying we need to support our young men. They are crying out for help.

And, for it to be okay not to be okay. A friend of mine who is a gay man put on Twitter recently, I campaign with him for equal marriage in Northern Ireland. He is a tough guy. He got married to his husband a few months ago. He came out recently saying, he is finally seeking help for mental health. He comes from a poor community where this would be frown upon. Like “You are even more of a freak.” He is already getting beaten up for being gay. Now you are going to get beaten up for more. This is good he is seeking help. In any city, men are taught not to do this. We just need to open the dialogue. 

Just you and I sitting here, we are two women from different cities, different countries, opposite ends of the world – we are sitting here discussing stuff and our experiences of how it is in our communities. This is how the change will happen. It is a woman like you who are writers and writing about these kinds of issues and sharing it with people across the globe and other communities. The fact that the job you do can be viral in the sense it can be global, this is incredible. You do not even know if some woman in Sierra Leone is reading. Or some woman in Tanji or Barbados is reading. I think there is huge power in this. We need to put power in the pen instead of the sword.