Jamie Dornan stars in new dark tale of family coming to RTÉ

Jamie Dornan is among the stars of Death and Nightingales, a new three-part TV adaptation of Eugene McCabe’s novel set in Co Fermanagh in the late 19th century.

Beth Winters (Ann Skelly), Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) in Death and Nightingales. Photo: Teddy Cavendish.

Tell us about Death and Nightingales: JD: “It’s a dark drama centred on a relatively dysfunctional family called the Winters. Beth is the protagonist and on the eve of her 23rd birthday, things have culminated to get her to a point where she wants to make a huge decision.

"I play Liam Ward, who comes into her life a year before and turns it upside down. We don’t know a huge amount about him, he’s quite mysterious and you get a sense that there’s something lurking underneath that isn’t very nice, maybe a little bit sinister. He changes the dynamic of the whole story.

You seem to enjoy playing complex characters:

You want every character you play to be multi-faceted and complex. Allan (Cubitt, the writer-director) and I have history with me playing one of the most complex characters that I may ever have the chance to play.

"Any time you have the opportunity to play someone that there’s more to them than meets the eye, you have to jump at that — they don’t come along that often.

You worked with Allan Cubitt before on The Fall:

“I didn’t really have to think about working with him again. If he wants me to do anything for the rest of my career then I will do it because in many ways he gave me my career.

"He cast me in The Fall and he had to very much fight for it. That changed my professional life in a huge way, I’m eternally indebted to him.

You star alongside Irish actress Ann Skelly (Red Rock):

“She’s only 21 and she’s incredible, I feel very old around her! Oddly enough she’d been recommended to me for another project that I might do next year. When I knew they were casting this, I texted Allan to say that he should check out this girl Ann Skelly, I didn’t know a huge amount about her but from what I’ve seen she was brilliant.

"Cut to two weeks later, Allan texted me to say that she was doing it. She’s lived up to the hype and she’s so fun, which is important. She looks nunbelievable in every image and I think she’s going to be quite something.

"She’ll be amazing in this and I think she will be a big deal.

Billy Winters (Matthew Rhys), Beth Winters (Ann Skelly), Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) in Death and Nightingales. Photo: Helen Sloan.

What drew you to the script of Death and Nightingales?

“It has beautiful use of beautiful sounding language in it. I was worried about my American agent reading it as there’s so much slang from the north of the country that even I don’t know all of it, so I thought they are going to think it’s a whole other language.

“But it’s been lovely using that speech and you only should do something if the script resonates with you.

You filmed in Northern Ireland, was it good to return home?

I love working in Northern Ireland, anywhere in Ireland. The magic thing for me is the crew, as a lot of them worked on various series of The Fall. That’s a huge benefit when you are comfortable with people around you on set, you have a laugh with them and have something personal with each one of them and socialise together.

“Every job you do feels like a very odd family but when you have history together it’s great — they are a great bunch.

“I love people from this part of the world, they are the best people in the world. I’m quite rubbish about coming home unless I have to work, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been back here since finishing The Fall series three, so it’s been brilliant and seeing parts of the country that I didn’t know existed.

"The weather has been glorious the entire time and I love the light here.”

Death and Nightingales begins next Monday on RTE One.


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