From Love/Hate to life in The Village

ACTRESS Charlie Murphy says “I would love to reach a stage when I never worried where the next job is coming from, but I don’t know if that will ever happen”.

She laughs and concedes it could be a whole lost worse. Playing the role of Siobhán, girlfriend of Tommy (Killian Scott) one of the pivotal women in TV drama Love/Hate, has focused keen attention on the Wexford-born actress and she is taking none of it for granted.

When we talk, she’s mid packing, preparing for a move to London. Her name has already been noticed by TV executives. In December, Charlie completed filming new British drama The Village, starring John Simms and Maxine Peake which airs on BBC One later this year.

A part in Channel Four’s comedy drama Misfits saw her cast alongside Love/Hate co-star Robert Sheehan and there’s more British projects in the works. Film industry folk are watching her even if her father is not.

The opening episode of the last series of Love/Hate attracted a string of complaints after Charlie’s character Siobhán was raped by IRA boss Git (Jimmy Smallhorne).

Viewer complaints are to be expected for a TV series that presents the harsh world of drug trafficking and gang warfare in an uncompromising light. The show’s creators are unapologetic about the portrayal and it has paid off. For Charlie, it was never the viewers she worried about, but women who had been raped.

“There was a lot of pressure to get it right on the day. It was a closed crew just a few people on set but everyone was amazing. Jimmy [Git] was fantastic. I was lucky because I had worked with most of these people for three years already.”

The actress met with counsellors from the Rape Crisis Centre to prepare for the scene, but declined to speak to women who had been raped saying she didn’t want to focus on just one woman’s story.

However harrowing it was for Charlie or the viewers, it was a leap too far for her father who declined to watch.

“I prefer that he didn’t watch it. I suppose you still feel you’re a little bit of a teenager sometimes with your parents and you’d prefer they didn’t see something like this but he’s happy out the door for me still.”

The desire to act struck Charlie as a teenager after she spent most of her transition year skipping class and acting in plays. The encouragement from those around her and a later course at the Gaiety School of Acting further sparked her ambition.

In the last few years, she earned lavish praise for her performance as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at the Abbey for which she secured an Irish Times Theatre Award. She also won a Best Actress award at this year’s IFTAs for her role in Love/Hate. Her role as Eliza also raised eyebrows when Charlie emerged nude from a bath on the stage. The theatre was forced to place notices warning audience members of full frontal female nudity. Charlie laughs at the commotion and says she was more worried about not breaking any bones by being dumped roughly into the bath than someone catching sight of her in the nip. Both her parents went to see it and agreed you could “barely see a thing”.

Whatever about theatre reviews and media awards, there’s no doubt Love/Hate has captured the heart of the Irish viewing public and brought new levels of fame to its cast. Tom Vaughan Lawlor who plays Nidge is subjected to friendly shouts of recognition on Dublin’s streets. The female cast members admit it is easier for them to hide behind a disguise of altered hair and make-up. The last episode of the series attracted almost 1m viewers and RTÉ, quick to capitalise on the success, removed the series from the RTÉ player so DVD boxsets would sell. Charlie attributes the success of the show to a number of factors.

“I think it grew in just the right way and at just the right pace. There is the script and the crew and then there is a magic combination of actors. Some of these actors are incredible. Stuart [Carolan] and David [Gaffney] have watched the actors’ strengths and weaknesses over the years and have applied those to the parts.”

The series ended with one of the leading characters Darren played by Robert Sheehan being shot in the head and Tommy (Killian Scott) Charlie’s on-screen boyfriend lying in a coma. She is coy about the next series for two reasons, I imagine. The creators are careful to keep their cast from spilling the beans on storylines. Also it’s clear writer and creator Stuart Carolan and director David Gaffney keep the actors in the dark. As shooting begins on each series, the cast learn the fate of their characters only in the early episodes. As the weeks go by, they see the full picture.

“I remember last year we just got episodes four and five as we started shooting. I was ringing Aoibhinn [McGinnity] who plays Nidge’s girlfriend and Susan [Loughnane] and saying I can’t believe this is happening to our characters. We are like the audience wondering what’s going to happen to us next”.

All Charlie will admit is that filming begins at the end of February, but she won’t even say if she will be flying home for the first day of shooting. Keeping quiet is hard work for the cast.

“It kills us that we have to say nothing until the show airs in the autumn. I can’t even get drunk in Dublin just in case I say anything,” she laughs.

Getting drunk is hardly on the actress’s agenda right now. When asked how she relaxes, she pauses for a while. “We-ell, she answers slowly, “the thing is I haven’t had a day off in a while... in ages”. And if she did? “I would try and meet some of the Irish actors I know who are living in London and we’ll go out on the town.”

Charlie has been in a long-term relationship with fellow actor Ciaran O’Brien. As she packs up in preparation for the London move, she still longs to be part of a major Irish film. “Actors like Cillian Murphy or Gabriel Byrne, I’d love to work with them and on a successful Irish film like Intermission.”

She has plenty to occupy her but the upcoming work doesn’t quieten the anxiety that gnaws away at most actors. What happens when the next project is complete? Charlie recounts Helena Bonham Carter’s response when she won a Lifetime Achievement Award from London’s Critics Circle in January.

“I hope they’re not trying to say it’s time to stop. I’m only just getting the gist of it,” said Bonham Carter.

“That’s what every actor is secretly thinking,” says Charlie. “I just hope it never stops. But hopefully I will calm down about it all… some day... maybe.”

I wonder if she has contemplated a move stateside but she is slow to consider it. “If I had a good foundation of work behind me, that would translate to the States, then I would think about it, but I think it’s important you go there fully prepared ... with a proper portfolio of work behind you.”

Then she laughs.

“Or maybe Siobhán could just smuggle some drugs to LA ... just for the craic.”


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