Seán McDonagh vor einem Gemüseladen, lehnt an einem Pfeiler und schaut in die Kamera
Seán McDonagh has been a permanent member of the ensemble at the Schauspiel Köln theatre since 2013. Photo: Marina Weigl

Seán McDonagh: “It was a bit of a culture shock but pretty funny too”

Actor Seán McDonagh has been living in Cologne for ten years. A job at the Schauspiel Köln theatre brought him to the city he now calls home.

What is this place? That’s what Seán McDonagh must have thought the first time he came to Cologne. “It was a bit of a culture shock”, he says, “but pretty funny too.” No wonder – Cologne was in Karneval fever at the time, the city’s annual merry-making season. He went to view a flat on Ash Wednesday (the last day of the festivities) and there was still a stage on the square outside, kids running around and people having a beer outside the shop. Born in Hamburg, this was Seán’s first encounter with the way people do things in the Rhineland. And it was something he hadn’t come across in Dresden, Berlin or Zurich either, where work took him after he finished his training.

A new home in Cologne

Seán McDonagh has been a permanent member of the Schauspiel Köln ensemble since 2013. The city is now very much his home and also the place where he met his wife and started a family.

Seán McDonagh sitzt auf einer Tischtennisplatte und schaut in die Kamera
Seán McDonagh grew up in Hamburg and studied at the city’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater Photo: Marina Weigl

It was more a coincidence that the Irishman, who grew up in Hamburg, decided to become an actor. He’d enjoyed making films at his local youth club but he hadn’t considered film as a potential career. After school, Seán signed up to study English at university – not much of a stretch for him as a native English speaker. But acting didn’t really lose its hold on him and he began studying at Hamburg’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater in 2003, graduating in 2007. He played his first roles (on stage, not film though) while still a student, performing at Kampnagel, Thalia Theater, Zeisehallen and Deutsches Schauspielhaus, before his first permanent position at Staatsschauspiel Dresden

From film to theatre and back again

Theatre has become Séan’s home. “I love it when a role pushes me to my limits”, he says. Like when he played Jamie Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night”, directed by Luc Perceval. Or Woyzeck in the play of the same name, directed by Therese Willstedt.

But Séan’s face isn’t familiar to theatre-goers only – he’s been in a number of TV series and feature films. His main asset is his flexibility – he’s just as convincing a goodie as he is a baddie and he can play a variety of ethnic roles. Sean says he’s fascinated by the concentration and precision required when working with cameras, adding, “I find that really appealing at the moment.”

Seán’s Irish friends love Cologne

It didn’t take long for Seán to feel at home in Cologne. It’s a fun place, he says, with a zest for life and not too serious. It’s easy to get chatting to people. In fact, this approach to life is much more his thing than the North German, Prussian-style disposition he was surrounded by growing up. Perhaps it’s the very particular Catholic spirit in Cologne that he finds appealing. “All my Irish friends that visit me love the city”, he tells us. He himself still feels a strong connection to the area where he first lived in Cologne. In fact, after a short spell in another neighbourhood, he and his family are now back in Neu-Ehrenfeld.

Porträt von Seán McDonagh
For Seán, Cologne is a fun place, with a zest for life and not too serious. A place where it’s easy to get chatting to people. Photo: Marina Weigl

Seán McDonagh’s favourite eating and drinking spots

Like a lot of people from Cologne, Seán enjoys going out. “We usually go out for drinks at Offenbach, next to the theatre”, he explains. Foodwise, he’s a fan of the Turkish places on Keupstrasse in the Köln-Mülheim district, where Kurds, Turks, Alevis, Sunnis, left-wingers and conservatives live and work side by side. To get his fix of pasta, he’s been known to venture out to Bar Celentano (on Hansaring), which serves amazing traditional Italian fare. According to Séan, “In the early hours of the morning, it has to be Greesberger” – a rustic pub near Eigelstein gate. For something a bit quieter, he likes Schmitz but, he adds, “The best place to chill will always be the couch in my dressing room at the theatre.”

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