As students, we tend to concern ourselves, particularly in our final year, with what we are going to do with our lives after we graduate. Speaking to me via Skype, Jack Gleeson, a theology and philosophy graduate, informed me that he was getting rather good at baking. Gleeson graduated in 2015 and since then has been pondering what it is he wants to do in life. For the moment though, he is living in London and reflecting on the skills he has learned during this brief pause in his career: “I’m a good baker. I baked some baguettes yesterday. And some brioche. It’s really out of boredom than out of interest”, he says.
For many people around the world, Gleeson’s face is that of King Joffrey’s from HBO’s hit TV series Game of Thrones. The show barely features in our discussions of his time in Trinity. This was, after all, an interview about Gleeson’s experience of Trinity, not about the boy-king Joffrey Baratheon.
It was the availability of theology as a course that prompted him to put the university as his first choice on the CAO. As for his interest in philosophy, he says: “I think I thought that no one really studies philosophy in school so that would mean I wouldn’t be any worse or better than anyone else, so I’d be on an even footing.” The fact that his two older sisters, as members of DU Players, had “loved” their time in Trinity, was an added influence.
With a passion for acting from a young age (we’ve all seen Gleeson as that kid in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins) Gleeson followed his sisters into DU Players. Thanks to them, he was already comfortable in the Players Theatre: “I’d already been there loads of times and had met their friends. So I already felt at home there which was really nice.” The annual Freshers’ Co-Op production is the perfect opportunity for first years to get involved, he says: “As a director I know that the show isn’t about the show itself, it’s about giving first years the opportunities to explore theatre and have fun and meet new people.”
I loved the security guards when I was living on campus … I tried to be nice to them and bring them coffee and pizza and stuff to try and curry favour with them. It went okay
Although DU Players took up a lot of Gleeson’s time in Trinity, he wasn’t averse to the academic side of college and was elected a Scholar in his second year. Gleeson “really liked studying” for the exams, and the prospect of living on campus for free also had a bit of a lure about it.
Having lived in his family home in Ranelagh for his first two years, Gleeson acknowledges that he felt he had a different experience to those who lived away from home. This was particularly noticeable in first year, when many of his friends lived in Halls. “They were in their own kind of world. It definitely felt they were living a different college experience from me. It felt more like the stereotypical college experience. You know, college parties and smoking weed and causing hi-jinx and stuff”, he says, adding “freshmen, the American version” in an awful American accent.
Yet he believes that living at home was the right thing for him: “When you’re 17 or 18, no matter how much life experience you have you’re not going to be that good at living on your own or cooking for yourself or fending for yourself.” This can sometimes become a hindrance, particularly around exam time where it’s nice to have a meal put in front of you. It is also around this time when our Skype call disconnects. Frantically, I log onto Facebook to see if my internet has gone down. After a nervous few minutes we reconnect, with Gleeson admitting that it was his fault. Their oven often short circuits the electricity, turning the internet goes off.
Recovering from our blip I ask him if he could recall his first Freshers’ Week. “I think, bizarrely, Freshers’ Week was one of the times where the Game of Thrones schedule kind of impeded. I think I was only in Freshers’ Week for one or two days, because I was filming.”
Although filming did not often get in the way of his time in Trinity, it did sometimes help to be well known: “I loved the security guards when I was living on campus … I tried to be nice to them and bring them coffee and pizza and stuff to try and curry favour with them. It went okay. I think it was more that I was famous rather than the coffee or the pizza that swung it for me.” He also found that Trinity did not always allow him to go unnoticed: “Sometimes I’d be walking to my flat in the GMB in fourth year and one of the tour guides would say ‘and Jack Gleeson studies here’. And I’m like what the hell?! I’m just going there with my bottle of milk, hungover or whatever.” Tourists sometimes stopped him, he says, but fellow students left him be as “most students understood that we were all in the same boat”.
Try not to worry so much about being liked or cool or being accepted because Trinity is such an inclusive environment with all the societies and little social spheres
Gleeson laughs when I ask him what advice would he would give to his first-year self: “My friend just gesticulated going ‘glug, glug, glug’ as in drinking loads of pints.” Again, something I think many of us can and will relate to. “All I can think of is ‘be yourself’ but that’s the lamest thing to say”, he continues, “It’s a pretty vulnerable point in your life. It’s a new chapter and you might not know anyone there. You’re trying to make a good impression. Try not to worry so much about being liked or cool or being accepted because Trinity is such an inclusive environment with all the societies and little social spheres”.
Emphasising his own nervousness and particularly his own self-consciousness as a fresher, he says: “I think there’s a teething period in the first few months for everyone where they’re just finding their feet and some people just land quicker than others. By the end of the four years, you’ll definitely feel at home.” Finishing the interview, still in slight awe of Gleeson, it feels incredibly comforting to know that even someone as well known and influential can feel just as intimidated by student life and all that is Trinity.