An 11-year-old boy from an Irish village, whose previous biggest role was as Bashful in a local production of Snow White, has been named one of the breakthrough stars of the year after receiving a surprise nomination for the British Comedy Awards.
David Rawle, from Leitrim, was chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to play the lead role in Moone Boy, an autobiographical sitcom broadcast on Sky, written by Chris O'Dowd, the Bridesmaids and IT Crowd star, based on his childhood experiences in a small Irish town.
This year's nominations represent a change in fortunes for BSkyB – which has been accused of using its resources to poach the best comedy talent from the BBC – after committing to spend £600m on home-grown programming.
BSkyB dominates the Best New Comedy category with Moone Boy competing against Hunderby, a period drama spoof on Sky Atlantic and Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life, the return of Coogan's comic broadcaster.
Rawle, a pupil at Carrigallen National School who was selected from an open-casting session, plays Martin Moone, an artistic 11-year-old whose chaotic daily life is a constant negotiation between school bullies, his sister's pranks and the pressures of being an altar boy.
Rawle has been nominated for Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist at the British Comedy Awards, which will be screened by Channel 4 next Wednesday. The six-part Moone Boy, which features O'Dowd as Martin's imaginary 30-something friend and a cameo appearance from Steve Coogan, has also been nominated for Best New Comedy Programme.
Rawle was unfazed by working in such distinguished company. "It sounded really cool," he said. "I just wanted to go for the fun of it. I was really shocked and excited when they called me for a second audition."
"Sky let us go out into the countryside to do open-casting sessions," O'Dowd said. "We found this kid half an hour down the road from where I'm from, and he was perfect. He hasn't been in front of a camera before. He's just so natural and instinctive."