HE jungle drums continue to beat about TV3’s Garda soap opera Red Rock. It picked up a clutch of awards at this year’s IFTAs and, in November, Amazon Prime announced it was bringing the series to American viewers. It’s pacey. It’s got flinty dialogue and, refreshingly for Irish audiences it has an Irish setting, slang and scandalous storylines.
“A lot of its stories tend to revolve around the garda station,” says Patrick Ryan, who plays troubled garda Paudge Brennan.
“You wouldn’t have a lot of interaction with the garda station for the regular Joe Soap. To get a little peek into the lives of guards is interesting. And our love of cops and robbers is as old as television, going back to the Keystone Kops.”
One of the show’s most engaging plot lines hinges on Paudge’s predicament. He’s being blackmailed into leaking information to a local mobster and at the end of the New Year’s Eve episode he’s caught in the middle of a dramatic murder. He’s a mammy’s boy or, in the words of his tolerant mother, “He’s a good lad but a bit of an eejit”.
“He’s sort of an everyman character,” says Ryan. “I’ve had a few people say to me, even gardaí, that there’s one in every garda station and they try and avoid being him. I don’t think you’d look down on him but he certainly isn’t on a pedestal.”
His mother, Maggie Brennan, is a more formidable person, played by Brid McCarthy. There’s a bit of ice in her veins. Ryan admits it’s a traditional trope — “the Irish mammy and the son who has a light shone on him, but at the same time she won’t take any of his messing either. She’s tough. It’s not ‘Oh, isn’t he great, my wonderful son’. She’ll crack the whip when needs be.”
The endless lying, and the way his conscience is eating away at Paudge makes for compelling viewing. Ryan does shifty well.
“Before he comes into interaction with anyone else there’s a head full of trouble coming with him into a scene,” he says. “It’d be like someone who is heavily into gambling. You have to rob Peter to pay Paul and then you have to tell Paul that you didn’t rob Peter. You’ve about three little plates in the air at the same time. It creates stress and tension for the person at the centre of all that.”
He offers some insight into the frame of mind he gets into before a scene. “You really have to clear the mind as much as you can. You have to be focused, and just try and achieve what that character is trying to achieve in that scene. It could be spinning a lie, in what seems a small throwaway scene. If he’s telling a lie, you have to sell it to the audience. It’s subtle. It’s an instinct that we all build up for a lie.
“We’re all adept at telling the off fib or two. It’s when the lies get bigger, that’s when the trouble comes.”
Ryan grew up in Caherconlish, Co Limerick, so he was well cast as one of the rugby players in John Breen’s smash-hit play, Alone It Stands.
His screen credits also include a turn as a beardy, sword-wielding knight in the first season of Game of Thrones. His latest role in Red Rock has made him a bit of a cult hero. He laughs at some of the comments he gets in public.
“People do a double-take: ‘Are you yer man?’ I had one garda roll down his window and ask me if I was going to come with him for the day. He wanted me to go working.”