Boys are back in town - The Young Offenders return

With the new season of ‘The Young Offenders’ landing on our screens tonight, its star actors tell Marjorie Brennan about their lives during lockdown, what they are watching, and their hopes for the future
Boys are back in town - The Young Offenders return
The Gruesome Twosome: Jock (Chris Walley) and Conor (Alex Murphy) in 'The Young Offenders'. Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/ Vico Films

We could all do with a laugh right now, so the return of Cork’s favourite scallywags, Jock and Conor of The Young Offenders, could not have been better timed. 

Filming back-to-back seasons last year meant that season three was fortunately in the can before the coronavirus and lockdown hit. 

Ahead of the show’s screening this week, we caught up with the stars to find out what they’ve been up to during lockdown.

Hilary Rose plays Mairéad MacSweeney

“This is the first time in a couple of years I’ve had a bit of a break, where I was able to get normal stuff done. 

"We moved into a new house in Cork two years ago and it’s the first time I’ve had time to paint rooms and do the garden, all the stuff that had been piling up on me because we were so busy. 

Hilary Rose as Mairead MacSweeney. Photo: PA Photo/ BBC/Vico Films/Miki Barlok
Hilary Rose as Mairead MacSweeney. Photo: PA Photo/ BBC/Vico Films/Miki Barlok

"I was really lucky in that I got to spend time with the kids [Rose has a four-year-old and a one-year-old with husband Peter Foott, director and writer of The Young Offenders]. I threw them out into the garden and said ‘Ok, let’s get dirty’.

“When lockdown happened, I was on a really nice shoot, for a drama thriller called Smother, in the west of Ireland. I think we are going back to that in September. 

Other than that, I’ve been writing. I started a new blog [Live Wild]. It’s about reconnecting to yourself in a modern world. I think it happened organically at the right time, it has been a wonderful creative outlet.

“I didn’t watch television; I started reading again. I am currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi, which was Steve Jobs’ favourite book. It’s bizarre and wonderful.”

Chris Walley plays Jock O’Keefe

“I was over in London, then at the end of March, I fled back to Ireland, I figured it was the safest place to be, with my family in Glanmire. It gave me time to calm down a bit and just clear my head.

“I got quite lucky in terms of filming. I was doing a BBC series up in Belfast called Bloodlands, that will be out at the end of the year. I finished filming that on Friday, then everything shut down on Monday. We just got there by the skin of our teeth. 

"There were a few things I had coming up — a theatre thing in the West End that was supposed to be happening at the end of the year, and a film at the end of the year. 

Chris Walley as Jock O'Keeffe Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/ Vico Films
Chris Walley as Jock O'Keeffe Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/ Vico Films

"I know the theatre thing won’t be happening for a long time, but I was speaking to the director of the film the other day and he is still hopeful, but it will be next year at some point.

“For an actor, obviously there are long periods of time when you wouldn’t be working anyway. I found it a lot easier to be productive this time because there was nothing else I could do. 

"Me and a friend, Frank Blake, who is an actor as well, had said for ages we would write something, so we did. We Face-timed every morning for over three months and we wrote a script.

“I watched The Last Dance, about Michael Jordan, which I loved. I also binged on Normal People because all my friends were in it.”

Alex Murphy plays Conor MacSweeney

“I was in the middle of The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Gaiety when lockdown was announced. We were lucky enough, we got 57 out of 62 shows done before it was called off. 

Alex Murphy as Conor MacSweeney Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/Vico Films
Alex Murphy as Conor MacSweeney Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/Vico Films

"On the Thursday morning of lockdown, we got a call saying this matinee is your last show. The Gaiety is about 1,700 seats and there were about 250 people in the audience, it was bizarre. We still enjoyed it, but it was a very different experience. 

"Then I went home to Cork. I packed for a week but I was there for ten weeks, which was fine. It was nice to slow down, you’re not rushing here and there to meet people and do stuff.

“I had stuff lined up, but everything has either been pushed out or cancelled. I’ve been doing lots of self-tapes and stuff, which is good — TV and film will definitely start up quicker than theatre.

“Tiger King was the big watch for me during lockdown — there was a while there where I looked quite a lot like Joe Exotic. 

"My brother bleached my hair and I had a handlebar moustache. It wasn’t intentional. I also got around to reading a book recommended by my uncle — The Hobbit. 

"I had never read it, and it is just the perfect book. It is being made into a TV series now, I was telling my agent there is no reason why I shouldn’t be a hobbit.”

Demi Isaac Oviawe plays Linda Walsh

“Lockdown has been very different because there’s seven of us in the house here in Mallow and I’m used to being up and around, going to college, going to work. You learn to deal with everyone at the same time but it has been grand. 

"There’s a baby on the way and we are prepping for that as well. I did a gender reveal for my mum, which took a lot of planning, that was the highlight of the lockdown. 

 Jennifer Barry as Siobha¡n Walsh and Demi Isaac Oviawe as Linda Walsh - Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/Vico Films
 Jennifer Barry as Siobha¡n Walsh and Demi Isaac Oviawe as Linda Walsh - Photographer: Miki Barlok/BBC/Vico Films

"It will be the first girl in the house apart from me. I’m really excited. I started learning how to cook traditional Nigerian dishes. I was also using TikTok a lot more.

“I had just finished a short film literally just before lockdown was announced so I was happy that was done and dusted. I’m working in 96fm at the moment, which I could do at home — I went back into the studio last week.

“I’ve been listening to so much music and watching a lot of documentaries. I’ve started writing as well, I’ve had a lot of ideas. 

"I loved Normal People, I binge-watched it on the Player, my eyes were hanging. I’m in love with Paul Mescal. The casting, the script, the whole production was immaculate.”

Jennifer Barry plays Siobhán Walsh

“I live in Kilbrittain but I was down in Bere Island in west Cork for lockdown because my mum is on the frontline and my dad and my brother are high-risk so I said I’d go down and live with them and make sure they were getting on okay. 

"We only got wifi for the last two weeks down there, so it was a bit of a detox, which was nice. My brother brought down his bodhran, and I had my tin whistle.

“I had a couple of different bits that were put to bed for a while, mainly auditions — I was meant to go over to the UK for a while. 

"I was also going to start a podcast but that was put on hold as well. It’s my first proper project by myself so I want to make sure it’s as good as can be.

“When I was in Bere Island, I would hike to the highest point and download series. I caught up on Sex Education, The Crown, all those old series. 

"I read Grown-Ups by Marian Keyes, and it’s so good. I still have to watch Normal People, although I have read the book. Paul Mescal is all over my Instagram and TikTok — I’m not complaining.”

Shane Casey plays Billy Murphy

“I live in Fairview in Dublin, in an apartment with my fiancée Honor. 

"The lockdown kind of suited because she was finishing her doctorate in psychotherapy, which she just got, and I was the part-time cook. 

Shane Casey as the volatile Billy Murphy. Photographer: Miki Barlor/BBC/Vico Films
Shane Casey as the volatile Billy Murphy. Photographer: Miki Barlor/BBC/Vico Films

"When I was filming for The Young Offenders, I would read the script, jot down a couple of notes and see what kind of songs would put me in the right frame of mind. 

"When I’m writing, I tend to listen to a lot of cheesy ’70s stuff. I’m also reading Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier at the moment, it’s funny.

“Hopefully me and Honor will be getting married before the end of the year. We have plans made, it might be a case of adapting things. We’ll see how things go.” 

 - The Young Offenders is on RTÉ 1 at 9.35pm and BBC 1 at 9.30pm, tonight.

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