Explain a bit about London Irish – what’s it all about?
In simplest terms it’s just about four mates having the craic. They find themselves in these mad situations and it doesn’t seem to faze them. It’s sort of normal. And each time they get themselves in these situations it’s like ‘oh no what have we done now!’ I don’t want to give too much away about the story but it’s just about the relationship between this gang and how they talk and interact with each other. They all need each other as well - they’re one unit really and they spark off each other, for good and for bad. But they couldn’t really be away from each other.
And you play Conor, can you tell me a little bit about him and what he’s all about?
Conor’s very hard to describe, but a wonderful person to play. He is absolutely in love with the world and just happy to be alive. What other people would consider as being a ‘mad’ situation is Conor’s normality really. He’s a very interesting character. He’s been mollycoddled and adored all his life by his parents and he can do no wrong.
The stereotype of Irish people is of them being feckless, party-loving booze-hounds – this doesn’t exactly blow that out of the water, does it?
They’re at the age where they still young and don’t have any real responsibilities in life. They’re early twenties, they’ve just come to a big city and they’re just up for a good time - it’s the life of a young person more than the fact that they’re Irish.
How closely would you say that it resembles the reality of your life?
Not so much. I came to London to go to drama school which is actually really hard work and there’s not that much time to have fun. Conor has a lot less responsibility than I did when I came to London. It’s just lovely to access that in yourself and to go on set and not care about absolutely anything and play a character that doesn’t care what happens to him.
Am I right in thinking that you used to live down the road from Kat who plays Niamh but now you live in London?
Yes I did. I moved out of Northern Ireland when I was 13/14 but we both are from Bangor in Northern Ireland which is like a little seaside town. We never came across each other until we did this and then it was like ‘where are you from’ ‘Bangor’ and I was like ‘I’m from Bangor’ so it was very unusual. One day Kat’s mum came to set and it was that thing of – you know how everything’s heightened in London Irish and its like Lisa plays on the fact that every Irish person knows each other but when Kat’s mum came down it kind of proved that there was absolutely some truth in it.
You filmed London Irish as a pilot originally. How confident were you that it was going to be picked up, did you think about that?
I had a weird feeling doing this one. It felt like something very special and I thought that if any pilot that I’ve done was going to be picked up it would be this one. The four of us are unknown in the world of acting really so we thought it’s going to be a real shot in the dark if Channel 4 did want to pick it up but I think that’s what makes it very special and very believable as well – it’s four mates and no one has seen us before and I think it makes the characters more believable and more truthful. I have to say I think the thing that’s got the show picked up is Lisa McGee’s writing. I got this script through and it’s the first comedy script I’ve ever read where just reading it I actually laughed out loud. It’s very much Northern Irish comedy and the importance of family and speed of delivery and sharpness of wit… It was the first script that I said to my agent ‘I have to audition for this, even if I don’t get it’
Was it fun to film?
It was an absolute scream! It’s a really hard schedule and you’re shooting loads of scenes in a day from all different episodes at the same time but actually it’s the most wonderful group of people that work on it so it’s a real labour of love. It’s something that the writer was on set with us all the time and gave us notes as it’s obviously based loosely on her experience of her friends in London and so it’s something that everyone feels really passionate about. We’ve got a brilliant young director. And we’ve got four actors who are unknown really but who just wanted to make this no matter what happened really, whether people like it, whether people really get it, whether we do another season, whether it ends here. I think it’s just one of those things that we’re all going to be really proud of for a long time. It’s sad that it’s all over but I suppose now we have to wait and see whether people like it just as much as we loved making it. It really has been…well it’s the best job I’ve ever had.