Amy Huberman playing for laughs with new series Finding Joy

Amy Huberman playing for laughs with new series Finding Joy

Amy Huberman admits she’s had nervy moments writing her first TV comedy, says Esther McCarthy. And yes, she does test lines on Brian

SHE’S had her fair share of nail-biting moments at the Aviva Stadium over the years, but as she dangled hundreds of feet above the pitch to film a scene for her new comedy, Amy Huberman felt surprisingly at ease.

Huberman abseils down the Aviva in the first episode of Finding Joy, in which she plays a young woman getting over a break up, who is thrust into the role of have-a-go presenter.

The crew offered her a recce in advance but, fearful she’d hate it, she waited until the cameras were rolling. “I said you know what? I’m not going to do it today because if I hate it I’ll be thinking about it for the next two weeks. So I’ll just do it on the day because I’ll be distracted,” she said.

A still from Finding Joy
A still from Finding Joy

“I’d done a skydive before though I have to say I’ll never do it again. But this was really fun. I’ve been in the Aviva for so many rugby matches. I was slagging Brian afterwards, going: ‘Which one of us feels more scared in the Aviva on any given work day?!’” she laughed.

“It was kind of fun and also from a logistical point of view it took so much time to come down from the gantry that was the quickest way to get to lunch,” she joked, adding that she applied the mindset: “I don’t have 40 minutes and I also need to do a wee so if the quickest way down is to abseil this is going to work for everyone.”

A still from Finding Joy
A still from Finding Joy

WRITE STUFF

Huberman’s deadpan wit has made her a big favourite on social media, and now she is bringing that sense of humour to Finding Joy, the first TV project she has written. She is nervous as well as excited as the show debuts, and why wouldn’t she be — as well as writing she co-created the series and plays the lead role.

“I was so obsessed with tone in it, even at the writing stage. I wrote what I wanted to write but then it’s entirely different when you get on set. You’re constantly minding the tone like it’s a Fabergé Egg. It needed to have light and shade, different spices added to it. I guess it has more of a comedy drama than a sitcom feel.

“What I wrangled with the most was making sure I had Joy right, the story I wanted to tell from her and the character I wanted her to be,” she added. “I guess as the female lead of the show I was quite protective of that and I had a really clear image of who I wanted her to be.

We talked initially about her being quite polished but that never sat with me. I thought she had to be the every person, I didn’t want her to have this aspirational lifestyle. I wanted her to be a fish out of water and I wanted her to reflect a universal truth in all of us kind of winging it.

“Once I had her the only way I could write was to have the freedom in my head that I was going to write for myself, and stuff that I was going to find funny.”

Coincidentally, her husband Brian O’Driscoll’s new show, Shoulder to Shoulder, about the history of Irish rugby, also debuts this week on BT Sport. O’Driscoll has also set up a production company with presenter Craig Doyle, so there have been more conversations about production design and camera angles in the household than usual.

Amy with husband Brian O'Driscoll
Amy with husband Brian O'Driscoll

“It’s the closest our worlds have come together in those terms,” Huberman said, adding that she would often get O’Driscoll to run lines with her when she’s preparing for a role.

“Because he’s such a taskmaster and because he spent his entire career going: ‘You’re in it to win it’, if I’m doing lines, he’ll be like: ‘Go back, you didn’t say that verbatim’ and I’ll be like: ‘Oh my God!’ He’d be good to run lines.

“He’s really supportive and I guess he’s probably nervous as well. Me, I can shoulder it, but you know when you want somebody else to do well you’re probably more protective of somebody else than you are of yourself.”

CHALLENGING PROCESS

Comedy is a challenging medium to get right — Huberman describes it as “like an algebra equation”.

“I loved the process but I learnt a lot from it. It feels really exposing. It’s like two different worlds where you’ve locked yourself away in a cave, essentially to write, and then it becomes really collaborative. It’s great but you’re baring your soul a little bit.”

She said she felt supported by the production company Treasure Entertainment, who she knew well after working with them on projects including Handsome Devil and The Stag.

But after the first day of filming, she said, she resolved to enjoy the process. “On day one I thought my head was going to implode. I don’t really think I could believe it was happening until we were on set. And then I think that realisation flooded my senses so much.

“After that, after day one I thought: ‘You know what? If I’m not going to be able to enjoy this then I don’t know why I’m doing it and I have to really allow myself, to let myself enjoy it’. I was so exhausted at the end of the five-week shoot but I felt so creatively satisfied.

I thought about it so much because I cared about it so much. This meant a lot to me. I felt in my career this was the biggest leap that I had done. It was going to be very visible and I wanted it to work.

Being involved at pre and post-production stages, she said, has given her a whole new perspective in the TV and filmmaking process.

“As an actor you wrap on the last day and you’re like: ‘Bye’, so I’ve really enjoyed that. With this there are no surprises for me because I’ve been in the edit, and in a way there’s a comfort to that. You’re retelling, you’re nearly relaying down what the actor has done. It’s such an art that I was never privvy to.”

She would “100 per cent” love to be involved in writing in the future, she added. “I don’t want to jinx myself. But you know what? I’ve loved it. It’s competitive out there. We’ve worked our asses off. And I’ll put that in context - I know I’m really lucky that I love what I do.

“But that’s not to say that we haven’t really worked to get it beyond all the different points you need to. It’s such a long process. I’ve learned a lot but I’ve been with the best people to do that, who have allowed a creative freedom. I would really love to do more. I’ve been so lucky with acting, but there’s a different creative satisfaction that I wouldn’t have experienced with other stuff. I’ve felt in and out of my comfort zone with it the whole way.”

Finding Joy debuts on RTÉ One tomorrow at 9.30pm.

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