Ann Skelly uses her first-hand knowledge of teenage life for her Red Rock role, writes Marjorie Brennan
TV3 soap Red Rock has been a big hit for the channel, attracting big audiences and critical acclaim, leading to the show being picked up by the BBC and Amazon Prime. One of the show’s most gripping storylines has been the murder of dastardly garda Brian McGonigle, now reaching a climax as the show’s summer break approaches. One of the main suspects in the killing is Rachel Reid, the schoolgirl preyed upon by the manipulative McGonigle.
Reid is portrayed by Ann Skelly, whose performance has been attracting a lot of attention. As one of the central figures in the show’s main storyline, the 19-year-old has been working hard but she’s enjoying the challenge.
“We are wrapping up now with a lot of big scenes to be filmed. It can be intense, especially the storyline with Brian’s death and the investigation. Sometimes the days can be long, filming 10 or 12 scenes; it can be stressful but it’s a pleasure at the same time.”
Skelly got the part in Red Rock when she was 17, playing the 15-year-old Rachel, and her mother had to accompany her on set for the first couple of months. Were her parents worried about her playing opposite an older man as part of such a powerful storyline?
“No, my parents are very excited. They love Red Rock and are delighted I have such a big role. They’ve met Sean Mahon (Brian McGonigle) and are glad I get to work with him.”
Skelly, who lives near Gorey, Co Wexford, with her parents and brother, has focused on her acting career since getting the part of Rachel, finishing school halfway through sixth year.
“I don’t plan on doing my Leaving Cert; I don’t really agree with the system and it doesn’t agree with me. I like learning by talking about things, it’s more human. I like being around people, which is why I like acting so much. My parents are very understanding; my dad paints and my mam writes and they are both photographers. They value art and creativity.”
While Skelly says she is very different from Rachel, her own experience as a teenager gave her an empathic connection with the character.
“I remember when I started in the role, I didn’t really have any method or technique, I just did it. I related it back to when I was 15 and what it would be like if I was in those circumstances at that age. When you’re a teenager, everything is intense and new. You are being introduced to an adult world but you are spoken to like a child, it is very confusing. Rachel is very intense and she doesn’t do things the easy way. She’s aimless, there is nothing to stop her. I know a lot of girls that age who are like that. If you don’t like yourself, it’s harder. You want to give her a hug and a slap at the same time.”
Skelly also appeared as Biddy Lambert in the 1916 drama Rebellion, quite a different experience.
“We got to spend way more time on scenes and there was only one director. On Red Rock, because of the number of episodes, there are different directors for each cycle. We could improvise and forget the technical side of things. On Red Rock, you can’t be too loose because of the time limits. Rebellion was fun; we went into make-up and they just put dirt on our faces, I loved that.”
Skelly hasn’t had time recently to pursue her childhood passion for soccer. But the actor, who has represented Wexford in the sport, has signed up to run the VHI mini- marathon in aid of cystic fibrosis on June 6. She is also hoping to make the most of her summer break, going on holiday with her parents before returning to Red Rock.
As for her future in acting, Skelly says she wouldn’t describe herself as ambitious.
“I don’t really think in those terms. I just want to go where the good scripts are. If it’s a good script or you have a good director, you can make good work. I just want to work as an actor for the rest of my life — I don’t think you can be allowed ambitions in this industry.”
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