Saoirse Ronan plays a role that hits close to home in "Brooklyn"

NEW YORK (WABC) -- American audiences first got to know her as a young teenager in the movies "Atonement" and the "The Lovely Bones".

Now actress Saoirse Ronan is earning critical acclaim for her work in the film "Brooklyn".

I talked to the star about playing a role so close to her heart.

Saoirse grew up in Ireland, but has close ties with our area. She was an Oscar nominee at the age of 13, and part of the Oscar conversation again this year with "Brooklyn". It's a movie that for several reasons hits close to home.

"We need Irish girls in Brooklyn. I wish I could stop feeling that I wanted to be an Irish girl in Ireland," said her character in the movie.

Art imitated life so closely for Saoirse Ronan in "Brooklyn", it got uncomfortable at times.

"The journey that she takes is one that I was going through so there was no real break from that," she said. "There was no switch-off because the reality and what was happening on set were essentially the same."

Ronan plays a young woman who moves from Ireland to Brooklyn more than a half-century ago, but the young star could definitely relate.

"I had just left home maybe 6-7-8 months before that and was very homesick still," she said.

She is one of the biggest stars to come out of Ireland in a long time, and there's no mistaking the lilt in her voice as she talks about the Irish immigrant experience.

"I felt a huge responsibility to represent everyone who had gone through this," said Saoirse.

So it may surprise you to learn that Saoirse Ronan was born in the Bronx, where she lived until the age of 3.

"I remember Christmas once in our apartment, and I was looking out the window at nighttime, and me Mam was holding me," she said.

After "Atonement" earned her an Oscar nomination, Saoirse came back to visit the city.

"I felt an immediate connection to it right away, and I think it was because of those memories I was telling you about," she said.

So it's only fitting that "Brooklyn" premiered at the New York Film Festival, which is where the actress saw it for the first time.

"I felt like I had gone full circle, and so yeah, it was very emotional to see it, and then the bloody spotlight opened up, and I'm like crying, and my face is red and blotchy and you have to stand-up and give everybody a bow," said Saoirse.

Saoirse will be living in Lower Manhattan next year while she appears in a revival of "The Crucible" on Broadway. After that, the young star wants to settle eventually in Brooklyn.

Her movie by that name goes into wide release starting Wednesday and I highly recommend it.

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