Saoirse Ronan on Her NYFCC Best Actress Win

The New York Film Critics Circle earlier today named Saoirse Ronan best actress of 2015 for her role as a young Irish immigrant in the 1950s, navigating life on her own in the borough that gives Brooklyn its title.

While digesting the news back in Dublin, Ronan took time to speak with The Hollywood Reporterabout what the award means to her. The 21-year-old emerging star revealed her strong personal connection to New York City as she also prepares to make her Broadway debut early next year in an all-star revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, beginning performances Feb. 29.

Congratulations on your award today.

Ronan: Thank you so, so much. I only heard a couple of hours ago; I was in the car on the way home and I almost crashed into a bus. But yeah, it’s really an absolute honor, I have to say. I’m back in Dublin and I genuinely did almost crash into a bus. I heard actually when I was still in the building, but then I talked to my agent afterwards and we were both very, very happy. And then I almost killed both myself and my mother! It didn’t happen — yet — but that’s how excited I was.

So what does it mean to you to be named best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle?

It means everything, especially the fact that it’s the New York critics recognizing me and the film and work that I’ve done — it couldn’t mean more. This is a city that means so much to me and it’s a huge part of the film. I’ve been saying to my Mam on the way home that this is the first time apart from Irish awards that I’ve gotten a best actress prize, so it means an awful lot, it really does.

As you say, Brooklyn is as much a New York story as it is an Irish story. As a young Irish woman who is making your way internationally now, was it a very personal film for you?

Yeah, it always has been and it just becomes more and more personal as the journey goes on. Initially, when I had read the script, the personal connection was the fact that my parents had made the same journey out of Ireland back in the ’80s and I was born over there in the Bronx. So New York is a huge, huge part of who the three of us are, really, and very much made my Mam and Dad who they are. My Dad became an actor over there; they had me over there. They got married in City Hall where my character gets married in the film. So there’s a kind of parallel between my own life in the story and my mother’s. It’s uncanny how similar it was.

That’s why, more than anything, to be recognized by people from New York means so much. I mean even when we had our premiere at the New York Film Festival, it was so important to us that people liked it because it really felt like we were bringing it home. So for any of us to be recognized, whether it’s me or the film or John [director John Crowley] or whoever, it means a great deal to us. Regardless of the film, I have such a strong connection to the city itself.

So is your mother a big fan of the movie?

Mam, are you a big fan of the film? [Inaudible response from Ronan’s mother.] Yeah, she says she loves it. She says that to my face anyway, [Laughs.] I don’t know what she’s saying behind my back. No, she’s seen it a good few times now. She was there at Sundance, which was one of the most special experiences ever, and she’s been there every step of the way. She got me through it. I mean, just being able to call up my Mam every night while I was making the film and be encouraged by her really helped. Because with this job more than anything else I’ve ever done — and this isn’t just me being fake-humble or anything — with this job I really was convinced I was going to screw it all up. So to have her encouraging me every day after the shoot meant an awful lot.

One of the next steps for you while you’re juggling all this awards attention is heading back to New York again for your Broadway debut, alongside a stellar cast that includes Ben Whishaw, Sophie Okonedo and Ciaran Hinds in The Crucible. That’s got to be a big deal for you, right?

It’s terrifying! Going over the play every day now, the more you read Arthur Miller, the more you realize how genius his writing was. And the cast that they have is amazing; I mean Ben Whishaw alone playing John Proctor, it’s going to be incredible. But again, it’s kind of like with Brooklyn but even more so — it’s really pushing me out of my comfort zone, because it’s something that I have no experience with at all.

Will this be your first time doing stage work, or have you done theater in Ireland?

No, I’ve never done stage work; this is my first-ever play. So you’re kind of throwing yourself in at the deep end by doing Arthur Miller on Broadway! But again, because I love New York so much I wouldn’t have wanted to start that whole journey in theater in any other city. I’m excited about it, even just a while ago I was making dinner and I got a kind of excitement about moving back over there soon.

You’re balancing both — the promotion work that I have to do for Brooklyn and the preparations for the play. It’s busy but it’s all good!