Meet Cork's youngest Young Offenders

Meet Cork's youngest Young Offenders
Baby's Nola and Penny Richardson, who play baby Star in The Young Offenders, enjoying a nice meal on set. The Young Offenders, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Nola and Penny Richardson, 19-month old twins have become stars in their own right alongside the Young Offenders cast.

The twins, who live in Cork's Drimoleague, share duties as little Star O’Keeffe, daughter of Jock and his girlfriend Siobhan.

The two heartbreakers were a mere eight-months-old during filming of the second and third series last summer.

The hit comedy returned for its third series on Friday last, airing in the prime-time Late Late Show 9.35pm slot on RTÉ One.

The new series sees the best friends continue to navigate their awkward teenage years as they hatch plans to help distract from their tough home lives, work on sustaining their relationships, and try to care for the newest family member, baby Star.

Produced by Vico Films for BBC Three, the comedy series has proved to be a huge hit with RTÉ viewers since its debut, with the last series averaging 377,000 and 1.14m streams on RTÉ Player.

Conor and Jock returned to the screens last week. File picture. 
Conor and Jock returned to the screens last week. File picture. 

Making it to the small screen

Parents, Randa and Gareth Richardson, say it was a series of happenstance that led Nola and Penny to the small screen.

"It was a friend of mine that tagged me on Facebook in a looking for / wanted eight-month-old twins post for a TV show. 

"Of course, I clicked in and I sent pictures in — they were just at-home pictures with the girls, they weren’t professional pictures or anything like that, because we had never even considered doing anything like this ever, it had never even crossed our minds. 

"I tagged other mums I know with twins the same age," says Randa.

It was a thrill to get the opportunity to work on a show that both she and Gareth love, Randa said — even if she couldn't quite believe it first: "The person who called had a Northern accent so I thought it was a friend who was having a laugh with me. But no, it wasn’t."

"We’ve been following it since the film, we were big fans of it. We of course never thought we would end up living in West Cork after watching the movie."

Pictured: Penny and Nola Richardson as Stars Chris Walley as Jock Keeffe, Alex Murphy as Conor MacSweeney. The Young Offenders, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Pictured: Penny and Nola Richardson as Stars Chris Walley as Jock Keeffe, Alex Murphy as Conor MacSweeney. The Young Offenders, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Randa is originally from Kildare, while Gareth is from New Zealand, and the two met in Australia. 

He's still coming to grips with the nuances of the Cork accent, she joked: "He has a little bit of a struggle to understand the Irish accent from time to time, especially among the older generations when we would go out on walks along the country. 

"We’d maybe meet a friendly farmer along the way, and sometimes I’d have to translate — but I’m from Kildare, and it took me some time to get used to the country Cork accent."

Moving to Cork

Cork won out in the decision as to where to live, according to Randa.

"We knew we wanted to live in Ireland. Gareth knew I wanted to move home and it was about four years ago when we arrived back for Christmas with my family. We got married in Galway and we really liked it, so that was an option. 

But we looked at Cork because we really liked the food — Cork is the foodie capital of Ireland at the moment, it really is second to none. We came to West Cork and found ourselves wowed.

While there may have been some nerves about what to expect on the set of a hit show such as the Young Offenders, especially with eight-month-old children, the cast soon put that to rest.

"The cast was unbelievable. Hilary (Rose, who plays Conor's mum Mairéad), and Orla (Fitzgerald, who plays Siobhán's mum Orla) have babies of similar age to the girls, just a few months either side. 

"Every time we would come on set, they had to come over and say hi. It was never they were celebrities, it was because they were mums. There was an instant kind of connection, mum to mum."

Mum and Dad, Randa and Gareth Richardson from Drimoleague, with their daughters, twins Nola and Penny Richardson, who play baby Star in The Young Offenders.
Mum and Dad, Randa and Gareth Richardson from Drimoleague, with their daughters, twins Nola and Penny Richardson, who play baby Star in The Young Offenders.

New Co-Stars

Randa says that the two Young Offenders themselves, Alex Murphy and Chris Walley who play Conor and Jock respectively, were a revelation around the twins, as was Shane Casey, who plays the show's antagonist, Billy Murphy: "Alex and Chris were like ducks to water. 

"They said they were a bit nervous at the beginning but wow, they were so calm and relaxed, and the girls picked up on that. Of course, Shane was just great craic.

"The lads were singing to the girls during scenes, Alex would have his phone out playing Beatles songs, and when they were just about to shoot, Chris would clear it with production, walk off and sing to the girls, settling them. Then he’d come back and be straight into character, ready to film. 

"The professionalism was so great all round."

While Randa, a Scottish-trained upholsterer, is busy setting up her new business called The Chairwoman in Drimoleague, it is a busy time for the young family. But she'll never say 'never' to another opportunity that may come the twins' way, she said.

"Dad and I are buzzing off the whole experience, but it’s too early to see if they have the bug. We’re certainly not actively looking for it, we’ve got 19-month-old toddlers, and I’m about to set up a business. 

"Living in a corner of Ireland means travelling and chaperones, so we’re not as flexible. If something was to present itself, we would, of course, consider it. 

"It’s something that they have, and if they were to show an interest in later years, with something like drama classes, of course, we would 100% nurture that if they wanted it."

We had a wonderful experience. It has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. It’s beautiful to see the positive comments online, the show is a brilliant thing to come out of Ireland, and to be filmed in Cork.

Any directors in the future may have their hands full with Nola, who could end up giving Zsa Zsa Gabor or Liz Taylor a run for their money. Randa laughs: "Nola is the biggest diva you will ever meet. She’s a gas ticket. She’d have her demands, I predict."

The adventures of Nola and Penny can be followed using the handle @thetwirlsandme on Instagram.

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