IRELAND has a new star on British television.
Jessica Regan has been shortlisted for two acting awards at the British Soap Awards, which will be announced in Manchester next Saturday.
Both nominations are for her role as Dr Niamh Donoghue in the BBC’s long-running daytime series, Doctors.
Regan was born in Kilkenny, grew up in Tipperary and found her feet in Cork.
“All my family are from Cork. Cork was sort of every summer, every Christmas. I’m Cork by proxy. I didn’t feel at home until I finally got to go to university in Cork. The Granary is responsible for all the nonsense in my life. It was my stable.”
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Her cohorts at UCC’s Dramat included Siobhán McSweeney, Ray Scannell, and Lynda Radley, and the director Tom Creed schooled her in delivering speeches for drama school.
She remembers borrowing the train fare from her parents to audition in Dublin for London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was 22 years old, and succeeded in bagging a place. Regan says it gave her a great grounding.
“I don’t believe Rada is like the general perception. It’s not Black Swan. They don’t want you to lose your accent. They want you to keep your originality. It’s very practical. There are no essays. You do all these classes of movement and voice, and things like unarmed combat and armed combat. You learn how to wield a sword, which is very useful for women!
“In some of the classes, you’re wondering, why am I learning to dance like they did in the 1800s? The skills might not be directly transferable, but your brain becomes incredibly pliant. It becomes a muscle like clay. They say, ‘We want to make actors that if you get a job and the director says, ‘By the way, there’s a tap-dance in Act II, can you learn tap in six weeks?’ You’ll go, ‘Sure. No problem.’ They groom you to be a high-performing, very aware actor.
“I remember my animals study class. What animals will I get inspiration from? If you’re playing somebody who is predatory, you’ll think about a predatory animal, and you might be very still, and then suddenly move. You take their physical cues. Or if you’re playing somebody very beautiful and graceful, and you’re not either of those things, you might try and inhabit a swan. It will change your deportment and attitude to space.”
Regan has built up an impressive role of credits on stage and screen over the last few years.
They include a stint on EastEnders, an eye-catching role opposite Ian McKellen in the pilot episode of The Academy and her last gig before landing Doctors was spent playing Tuzza Azzara in Richard Eyre’s acclaimed version of Luigi Pirandello’s Liolà at the National Theatre alongside fellow Irish actors, Rosaleen Linehan and Eileen Walsh.
She says she couldn’t believe how good the fit was when she was called to audition for Doctors last year.
“They were looking for an Irish doctor, female, 30 to 33 years of age. She’s meant to be a bit clumsy and a bit hyper. I was like, ‘That’s me.’ And a bit incompetent — ‘That’s me.’ I very much went for it. The chances of that description — Irish and my age — coming up for a recurring character is very rare. They weren’t looking for Keira Knightly. They were looking for someone who looked like a person. I’m normal looking. I didn’t have to be a size 6.
“They said there would be a lot of comedy, and that’s my favourite thing to do, but actually she ended up having very dramatic storylines. ‘OK, it’s not so funny. I’m crying every day.’
“She was very nervous when she started at The Mill. She made a few mistakes. Someone died, and you’d be surprised you’ve got to do a lot to get struck off, which is slightly terrifying.”