TWIG – Interview with lead actress Sade Malone

Marian Quinn writes and directs Twig, a  modern-day adaptation of the Ancient Greek tragedy Antigone written by Sophocles circa 441 BC. The story sees rival Dublin gangs torn apart by violence and hatred. As one young woman,Twig attempts to break free from the cycle of violence, she is pulled further and further into the centre of it. We spoke with Sade Malone about playing Twig, returning to her Irish roots, and the importance of representation on screen.


When someone says they are adapting Antigone and relocating the story to modern-day Dublin, what makes you want to be part of the film?  

When the auditions came into the inbox, I instantly thought it was a really smart idea. When I read the full script, I thought it was so cool. It’s such a smart concept to pair the two together, and they work beautifully paired together. I felt an instant connection to the character. Some auditions are harder because you haven’t had the time to connect yet. Usually, you go for it and hope you’re in the right direction, but this just sat right from the start.

You say you connected with Twig straightaway. What was it about her that you connected with?  

We are different in many ways. I’m more like Issy [Twig’s sister]. This might sound a bit cheesy, but I like Twig’s heart-on-her-sleeve approach and her wanting to do the right thing. I like that she has tunnel vision. Some would call it stubbornness. I connected to where the film was set and Twig as an individual.

We have had such a shift in Ireland, and we are seeing more diversity, inclusion, and representation on the small screen and stage. However, this is the first film to have a predominantly Black cast.  As a Black actor, what does it feel like to be part of the start of the change?   

We would constantly pinch ourselves and say, isn’t this so cool? Isn’t this amazing? It says a lot that we were working with Annie Little, a Black hair stylist. That was really healing for a lot of us. I’ve worked with amazing hair stylists over my career, but having someone who has your hair type and gets it is a really big deal. For many reasons, it’s really exciting. When I was little growing up in Tallaght, if I had seen this film, I would have lost my mind. Recently, I did a production of Sive by John B Keane, and had I seen that too when I was younger, it would have been a really big deal. Representation is so important. It makes you feel like you can do it, too.

You were born in England and spent much of your childhood living in Dublin before returning to England and living in several different cities. Your Dublin accent is perfect in the film. Do you find it easy to step in and out of it?  

It’s where I feel really comfortable. It’s really funny when I get an audition that says to use my own voice; I don’t know what that means. If it says to do a Scouse or Manchester accent, I can do that. I can do Dublin or Belfast, but when they say use your own accent, I start to freak out because it goes back and forth more than I realised. If I’ve been doing a job, people, especially those who haven’t seen me in a long time, will notice the change in my accent. I don’t really notice it myself. The Dublin accent is where I feel relaxed, and I feel really comfortable.

When you move around as a young person, people often adopt a new accent or personality to fit the new city. Did that help you become an actor?  

You don’t really think about that when you’re younger because you’re in it, but if I’m to look at my younger self from the inside out, absolutely. When I speak to people, I naturally want to match their energy, and I think that’s an empathy thing as well. That comes with being an actor and wanting to always be on a level playing field with people. I do think it was beneficial. Growing up, I didn’t realise it, but yes, looking back, I see it. I’m proud of all those pockets where I’ve ended up, so representing them in any way is great.

There is a lovely chemistry between the central trio of Twig, Issy (Ghaliah Conroy), and Irene (Jade Jordan). Did you, Ghaliah, and Jade have much time beforehand to rehearse?  

We all naturally have really good chemistry. Ghaliah and I did a chemistry test on Zoom. It was my first time being behind the scenes when it came to auditions, and it was amazing. I got to see how brilliant everyone was. With Ghaliah, it just felt right. We all instantly hit it off.

Marian organised a day where we played drama games and did improvisation. I think that set the tone. We went to the pub afterwards, and the rest is history. Some people in the film didn’t even have a scene together, yet we’re still such a tight cohort.

Does your theatre work help you find chemistry and character on a rehearsal day like the one you shared with the cast?  

Theatre still feels quite new to me because I started off on screen as a kid and then did shows with my mum for years because she has a stage school. In terms of professional theatre and working with plays and text, I started that at drama school. I’ve done quite a bit of theatre, which still feels new. That day was about letting your inhibitions go, making you not afraid to be big on screen. We are telling a Greek tragedy, and it’s really epic; the stakes are really high. Some moments need to be quiet and internal, but sometimes you need to shout, scream, and be big, which is scary to do on screen sometimes.

Twig goes on a rollercoaster of emotions, and she also goes on quite a physical journey. Were you exhausted by the end of the shoot? 

It was such an amazing job, and it was really full-on. It was like a marathon. You couldn’t look back. You just had to keep going. I wasn’t using my phone as much, which sounds trivial, but I was just in her world. I wasn’t method. I don’t think I could be a character like and be method. I’d be really sad all the time. We filmed in blocks. In the first two weeks, we did a lot of dialogue and then moved into the more physical stuff. I could pace it out in my head. It was definitely a journey.

I had braids, which we discussed with the hairstylist, Annie. It was really cool for Twig to have them. I remember cutting them off at the end. I was literally getting her out of my hair, which was sad but also necessary and needed.

There are many themes in Antigone and in this adaptation, but an overarching theme is women cleaning up the messes created by men, which is just as relevant now as when it was first written.  

Completely. The women in the story are the heroes. Everyone has a journey they need to go on and make work, some bigger than others but it’s still their journey. The women rule the film.

Naoise Kelly, a fantastic young actor in the film, steals every scene. As a former child actor, could you relate to her? 

She was incredible to work with. I had to step up my game when she was in a scene. She’s got such natural ability on screen and she is such a sweet young person off-screen. She is going to go far. She is so talented; she didn’t need advice!

How did it feel to be the opening film at the Dublin Film Festival this year? 

It was incredible. All the cast was there, and we could see each other again. It was really special. It was amazing that the festival supported a film like this.

What would you like audiences to take away from the film? 

The thing for me is reflecting on representation, what that means to people, and how important that is. If one young girl like me could look at the film and it makes them feel like they can do it too, that’s special.

Words – Cara O’Doherty


TWIG is at Irish cinemas from June 21st