The three-part series chronicles Haughey’s divisive political career, from his rise to power in the late 1970s to his ousting in 1992. Gillen said he did not approach Haughey as either hero or villain, but as a larger than life individual with an extraordinary story to tell.
“I was conscious of not being judgmental. Haughey has been judged over and over, particularly in the last decade. It was not my intention to do anything underhand. I’m an actor playing a role. I would be sensitive to playing a character who is a real person.”
The 46-year-old, best known for playing Littlefinger in Game of Thrones and John Boy Power in Love/Hate, said Haughey formed part of the “background noise” of his adolescence in 1980s Dublin.
“His face was everywhere,” he said. “He inspired utter devotion and utter revulsion.”
He was speaking at a press conference in Dublin at which RTÉ debuted 15 minutes from the new drama, which also stars Love/Hate’s Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Fianna Fáil press secretary PJ Mara, Peter O’Meara as Brian Lenihan, Gavin O’Connor as Sean Doherty, and Lucy Cohu as Terry Keane, the columnist with whom Haughey conducted a 27-year affair.
With a rumoured budget of €4.5m, Charlie airs over three, 90-minute episodes from Sunday, January 4. Screen writer Colin Teevan said it was not his intention to stand in judgement over the late taoiseach.
“It’s not a biopic,” he said.
“It’s a story about power — what power does to the individual and what the individual does with power… It’s the job of drama to tell a ripping yarn. He lived an action-packed life. It is not a question of liking or disliking characters. He lived it large.”