AOIBHINN McGinnity is happy to be a bad girl. On screen at least.
This won’t come as any surprise to the hundreds of thousands of viewers who tuned in for five years to watch the Monaghan native play gangster’s moll Trish in the hit RTÉ drama Love/Hate.
She embodied the tough Dublin woman married to Nidge, and the actress became a household name in the process.
Fans of Trish would struggle to recognise her yoga-loving alter-ego today.
When I meet her, the VIP Most Stylish Woman nominee reckons she is dressed like a 12-year-old, in a red and white stripy top, teamed with dungarees, box-fresh chunky runners and blue nail polish.
A bang-on-trend one, perhaps.
It’s a world away from the tight, leopard-print clothing favoured by Nidge’s heavily made-up wife, and just as removed from McGinnity’s demure appearance in her latest role as a grieving mother in TV3’s 1916 drama Trial of the Century.
“There wasn’t much make-up used,” she says, wryly.
“There are times when you can ask for more, and you just might know yourself that this needs this and this needs that. You’re very aware you’re shooting on HD, and you’re doing a close-up, but in this case it’s 1916 and you’re to serve a story, and she’s in shock and you have to let all that go.”
Trial of the Century imagines an Ireland in which Padraig Pearse wasn’t executed in Kilmainhaim Jail after the events of that Easter, but instead stood trial for his supposed crimes.
The three-parter briefly reunites the Love/Hate couple as Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, McGinnity’s former on-screen husband, portrays Pearse.
McGinnity has a small but pivotal role in the first episode.
She plays Catherine Foster, a mother whose two-year-old child, Sean, was killed in his pram by a stray bullet on Easter Monday.
It’s a shocking story, made even more poignant because McGinnity is portraying a real woman whose son was one of the 40 children under the age of 16 to die in the Rising.
She thinks it’s brilliant that the lives of the women and children of 1916 are being remembered now, compared with the male-dominated commemorations of 50 years ago, “and I’m not going into a feminist rant”.
Later, when we talk about the Waking the Feminists movement at the Abbey — when women from across the arts in Ireland protested at the lack of female representation in the national theatre’s commemorative programme for 1916 — she doesn’t hold back.
“It’s a joke, an absolute joke, when you think about it, it’s across the board, not just in acting, not just in the Abbey, that we’re still considered, without anybody having the balls to say it, we’re still considered second-class citizens.”
Among the viewers for Trial of the Century will be Aoibhinn herself.
“A lot of the time you just see it [for the first time] on telly. Your senses are a little bit more heightened.
"You’re watching yourself, some of us get used to it and some of us don’t and you don’t watch it through the best eyes.
“It’s probably better to watch it twice. It’s something I’m trying to work on, watching yourself and getting over it.”
Filming finished on Love/Hate two years ago, but the character of Trish still looms large.
“I got her. She’s very complex. She comes across as selfish, shallow, but she has a great survivalist streak in her.”
She attributes a lot of Trish’s character to her costumes. There was a hardness, a stiffness to them, that was uncomfortable.
“I loved it because it was so part of her, so necessary. Sometimes I’d think this is going to look mental and it would, but it would be correct, completely accurate.”
She is quick to dismiss Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn’s assertion in a recent newspaper interview that Love/Hate was reckless in its depiction of violence, saying: “The only thing glamorous about it was that it was on telly.”
ut she is more hesitant when the possibility of another season of Love/Hate is mooted.
“I actually don’t know.”
Would she like it?
“It would depend on timing and where the story could go. I think it would be hard, but I do think if Stuart [Carolan, the show’s creator] did do it, because he’s such a genius, it would be cool, but it’s very tricky.”
Her role in HBO series Quarry, in which she has a small part, may be her big break Stateside.
McGinnity had gone to New York in October 2014 when Eoin Colfer’s rom com Poison Pen in which she starred was shown at the Irish Film New York Festival.
She stayed in the city for a month with her friend and fellow Monaghan actress Charlene McKenna.
McKenna may be a good luck charm for McGinnity.
The Ripper Street actress had helped McGinnity get “into the room” for her debut role in RTÉ’s Wild Decembers.
This led to meeting casting director Maureen Hughes, who would work on Love/Hate.
During McGinnity’s time in New York, she was signed by Bill Butler Management and the Gersh Agency, which also represents Jamie Foxx and Calista Flockhart.
She returned to the Big Apple the following spring and did the round of auditions for pilot season, winning a role in Quarry.
The eight-part series, which is due to air in the US later this year, centres on a man who returns home from Vietnam after serving in the Marines and finds himself becoming a professional sniper.
“She’s definitely not a good girl,” McGinnity says of Mercy, her character in Quarry. But the actress isn’t worried about being typecast.
“Sometimes it would cross your mind. You get similar character descriptions when you’re getting auditions.
WBut if the typecasts are being goody-goody or a little bit darker and if I do end up getting typecast in the latter, I’d be happier with that.
"It’s good to be good, but not so much to watch. And there are different types of bad.”
She doesn’t have role models as such, but admires those who have a varied CV.
“I love watching Julia Roberts, I love how relaxed and open her face is. And I love Renee Zellweger, I don’t know if she can move her face anymore, but when she could, she was amazing, amazing face.”
et in Memphis, Tennessee, Quarry challenged McGinnity to master yet another accent.
“It’s something I do need to work on because my accent is quite strong, so I’m always very conscious of doing a good job because there’s nothing worse than hearing the accent coming through. It just ruins the story.”
She doesn’t have a career plan or even a dream role but she is drawn to comedy. “You need to be into the freedom or unpredictability of this industry. You can’t be trying to plan. You can’t do that in life anyway. I like it.”
McGinnity is a big believer in the power of visualisation and a fan of The Secret, Rhonda Byrne’s best-selling self-help book which claims positive thinking can make you happier, wealthier and healthier.
“I think you can apply it to everything. Whenever I first started reading about it, I thought this is amazing but it can be counterproductive if you go ‘I’m doing The Secret, I’m visualising’.
"You think it, you believe it and then you let it go. And then you do something that serves you, that keeps your soul happy, that keeps your inner child happy.”
So what next?
“I love America. I want that relationship to continue and to grow.
"I love who you can become in a city [New York] like that because you have to have a bit of a fighting spirit, and it can be hard.
"But you can come back better for it. That’s what happened to me so far, it mightn’t happen every time.”
She has just finished working on The Drummer and the Goalkeeper, an uplifting comedic story, with another Love/Hate alumnus Peter Coonan.
There’s nothing lined up in the immediate future, but she isn’t worried.
“You have to train yourself to ride the wave.”