When Elijah Rowen (25) and Jack McEvoy (24) first laid eyes on each other at the Gaiety School of Acting they were sure the competition had arrived. “He’s like the ‘you’ of the year below us,” friends told Elijah, who bristled, feeling “there was definitely only room for one me”.
Jack felt of Elijah that “he was the competition, no doubt about it”. With their chiselled leading-man looks, both were aware that they represented a screen type and it might have been natural if a frisson of competitiveness had lingered, but Jack says that “after an initial stand-off period, we hugged it out” and a firm friendship was born. They became each other’s wingman, supporter and sounding board, helping with audition tapes and the sometimes lonely moments of trying to get noticed in a hyper-competitive industry full of bright young things.
Their supportive efforts paid off last year when both landed plum starring roles in Vikings, the Emmy-winning blockbuster epic, which has run over six seasons and is filmed mainly at Ashford Studios in Wicklow. Neither had known that the other had auditioned, but when they heard the news, they were thrilled for each other. “I just said to him ‘you made it too, man’,” says Jack. “It just seemed crazy that we’d gone from these little amateur productions in Dublin to this whole other life.”
Success came just a little earlier to Jack, who grew up the son of a guard and a nurse, in Gorey, Co Wexford. He was signed by an agent directly out of acting school, and quickly won a role in the BBC production Ripper Street. Elijah, who grew up in Ballinteer in Dublin, took a slightly longer route. He was on the books of Assets models for a while, but felt that a career on the runway might mitigate against being taken seriously as an actor.
“I had no representation out of college, and even a year later, I had none. I would make tapes with my brother, who also wants to be an actor. It was really a case of sending of those tapes and trying to get noticed. It took a fair bit of tenacity,” he says.
Elijah is snowboarding in Austria, but when he returns he and Jack are moving to London, where they will be nearer the hub of agents and casting directors who make the big decisions in their industry. They’ve also been thrown headlong into a world of celebrity parties.
“We don’t know who a lot of people from the reality-TV world are, so we don’t let any of those people phase us,” Jack says. “I’m sure women might find us a little intimidating and I’ve heard people saying they expect [us] to be arrogant or whatever. But when people talk to us they realise we like messing around, having the laugh. Young Irish guys like to embarrass each other when they’re out at night. But we like to raise each other’s value.”
“He’s a very selfish wingman,” Elijah deadpans when I put these comments to him. “He wants everything for himself.”
But it seems it is all working out. On the back of Vikings, Elijah has a starring role in Curfew, the forthcoming Sky drama, which also stars Sean Bean and Billy Zane. Later this year, Jack will star in The Rhythm Section alongside Blake Lively and Jude Law.
“It’s been incredible,” says Jack. “For sure it’s a moment in our lives, being young, moving to London, getting these roles. It going to be a great year.”
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