What’s the reaction been like to the third series so far?
Tara-Lynne: It's been amazing. I think people have waited a long time for it so I'm glad that it's living up to their expectations. Lisa’s writing has got better and better, and we’ve all got more and more into our characters.
The third season was delayed because of the pandemic. Was that frustrating?
Tara-Lynne: I just wanted to see the scripts, but I can't hold my own water so they weren't going let me see the scripts because I’d tell everyone. I didn't see them until the very end, but I enjoyed the excitement of not knowing.
And what did you think of the scripts once you were allowed to see them?
Tara-Lynne: It's so great, because you read them and you laugh out loud. Because there are so many scenes that us adults aren't in, I actually enjoy watching the show, because I get to see those. I don't normally like watching myself, but with this I’m not really watching myself, I’m watching what the girls are doing. So reading the script, I’m already laughing because I can’t wait to watch what the actors do with those lines.
What did you think of Liam Neeson’s cameo?
Tara-Lynne: It was just amazing, wasn’t it? You know, I forgot to even tell my other half that Liam Neeson was in it. We were watching it together and he was saying, “You actually kept the secret”. But I didn’t, I just forgot to tell him.
But all the guest stars are brilliant. There’s been lots of local talent getting parts and of course you don’t see who they are in the script so that’s been lovely.
Lisa has written more scenes for the grown-ups this time around. Have you enjoyed that?
Tara-Lynne: Oh, I really have. I’ve known Ian McElhinney who plays Granda Joe and Kathy Kiera Clarke who plays Aunt Sarah for years and years because we all did theatre in Belfast. And poor Tommy Tiernan was thrown into the middle of us all. The four of had such a good time this season. It was really, really just joyful.
There’s an episode where there’s no children, and there’s younger version of ourselves, which has been so brilliant to do. The script is unbelievable. And the girl who plays the young Ma Mary is amazing. It's frightening when you see yourself reflected back.
What do you think of the way Lisa has ended the series?
Tara-Lynne: Well, it's just so timely: we're in an era where we're talking about the Good Friday Agreement again, and she's handled it so beautifully.
You know, I was a teenager at the time and it was life-changing for us, so to watch it on the screen and see it depicted both through the family but also the kids, it’s perfect. Remembering that we’re at peace now, and this helped, and this worked. It’s just so delicate, how she handles it. It’s beautiful.
More broadly speaking, how do you feel about the way that Lisa has put Northern Ireland on the map?
Tara-Lynne: For a start, just to hear our own accents on screen has been amazing. For too long, we were told that nobody can understand us, but Channel 4 and Hat Trick weren't afraid or shy of the accent. They said, “Be authentic”, and that's wonderful. And also that means that actors in the north and the south of Ireland are getting to see themselves on screen, and that means everything.
It's like, “If you can't see it, you can't be it”. Even for writers to see someone from our shores, and a woman, of a certain age, with kids, being a successful writer like Lisa: it shows that you can have it all. She’s a real testament to, you know, “You can have your cake and eat it.”
Were you surprised by the global success of Derry Girls?
Tara-Lynne: Unbelievably, and it surprised Lisa as well. I read it and I know it, I know those people, and I know those phrases. I know what it is. But I had no idea that someone in Mexico would see something in that resembles them or their family. It’s got followers all over the world.
What is the appeal, do you think?
Tara-Lynne: I think if anybody knew how that worked, then every TV show would be a global hit.
It’s just a little bit of magic. I think it's the family setting which just shows you that families all over the world are all equally complex.
Have you been surprised by any international fans?
Tara-Lynne: Well, the girl that plays the bearded lady in The Greatest Showman did a Tik Tok where she mimed to a whole scene as Michelle. I very nearly died! That was pretty outstanding.
As a very experienced actor, did this job feel different from others in your career?
Tara-Lynne: I really felt an ownership over it. When the main cast first met, there was something very special that happened and I think I will always remember that. To be part of such an amazing ensemble cast doesn't come along that often. And I include Kevin McAleer (Uncle Colin) and Ardal O’Hanlon (Cousin Eamonn) and people like that.
It just felt like working in a family environment and that brings out the best in your work. Who knows when the next job like that will come along? Because they don't come along that often.
Have you enjoyed watching the careers of the girls – including Dylan! – taking off?
Tara-Lynne: I'm so proud of them all. Not only are they all working but they're also doing different accents and really showing their versatility, because at the end of the day, they are phenomenal actors.
They inspire me, even though I'm twice their age. Their courage is amazing. Their drive is amazing, their confidence.
The opportunities are all out there for them and they are grabbing them. I don’t know if, at that age, I could have dreamed of that happening.
Tell me a bit about filming your last scenes, knowing this was the final ever season?
Tara-Lynne: That was tougher than I thought. Tommy and Ian finished two days before Kathy and I did, and they got upset when they called a ‘wrap’ on that scene. Kathy and I had to shoot a scene directly after that and I couldn't be near the boys because I had another scene to do and I couldn’t get upset.
It was so genuine. Tommy and I hugged, but Ian and I didn't even look at each other because we just knew. It was too hard. I’ve known Kathy for most of my life but it’s been so special playing sisters and when we had our final scene, we were the worst.
But even the crew were crying, which was really beautiful. I’ve never worked on something where the crew was also sad to say goodbye.
Lisa has said she’s not ruling out a one-off special or something if a great idea comes to her in a few years time. What do you think of that?
Tara-Lynne: Well she needs to hurry up because I’ll be on a zimmer frame by then! I’d prefer her to write it over the weekend.
No, I would do anything for Lisa because at the end of the day, she gave me this great opportunity and it has changed my life. It hasn’t changed my work life but it’s changed my personal life.
In what way?
Tara-Lynne: It’s helped my confidence, and it’s helped financially obviously. It’s made me braver. I’ve started writing now and I have a play on the BBC iPlayer called Rough Girls as part of their Lights Up series. I wouldn’t have done that had I not been around for the girls. That fearlessness, you can feed off that. So if Lisa wants to write me a part I’ll be there, even if I am on a zimmer frame.
Did you take home any souvenirs from set? Ma Mary has quite the wardrobe.
Tara-Lynne: I didn’t. Cathy Prior has been an absolute genius. No matter what Cathy gave me to wear, I said yes, and it’s very rare that that happens.
This season she got me a jumper designed with bacon and fried eggs on it, and I had thought about taking it but then I thought, “No, Cathy's done all that work, it’s her design”, and what was I going to do with it anyway? Wear it around the house?
It’s not perhaps been the most glamorous role of your life …
Tara-Lynne: The more disgusting the jumpers, the better. I thought when I went on a date in episode two I’d finally get to wear a nice dress, but it was this awful black jumper with gold beads in it and it was just so disgusting, it was brilliant.
Where do you think Ma Mary will be in ten years: do you think she’ll have done her degree?
Tara-Lynne: I do think she will have done the degree with the backing of her family. I think Baby Anna will be Erin’s age and causing as many problems but I can see her working in in the university and not always be in the house looking after everyone.
I do hope she gets a bit of a break ..
Tara-Lynne: Ah, but that’s Irish mammies for you. They want to do everything, then they want to moan about it.
This season is set around the GCSE and A-level periods for the girls. What was that time like for you?
Tara-Lynne: They were my best years. That's why I’m loving the soundtrack of this season: because I can tell you where I was at the sound of every song. Where I was, who was kissing who. Those are magical times. As soon as you leave school, your friendship groups change, which is an exciting time but it’s also sad because it is an end to something. That’s why I’m loving watching this series because I loved that time and I had an absolute blast. Everything’s about you in that time. It’s the last time in your life that you think the world revolves around you.
And yet it appeals to all age groups, not just those of us who remember the 1990s.
Tara-Lynne: It’s bizarre, isn’t it? But also there’s that idea in the group of girls and one boy, we can’t leave Dylan out, those dynamics are always there. There’s the loud one, the worried one. Everyone I know, from teenagers to 50-year-olds, discuss which one they are. It’s so bizarre. I don't know how that works. But it seems to.It kind of doesn’t matter what year it’s set. Those teenage years are always the same, the struggle of finding out who you are.
What else have you got coming up?
Tara-Lynne: I’ve got one thing coming up which I’m not allowed to say yet. I know all the young ones are in Hollywood but I’m in Hollywood, County Down, so if anyone needs me, come and find me! I’m mainly looking forward to watching the end of Derry Girls and enjoying that. We have a plan to all watch it together, I’m thinking of popping to London to see the guys.