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'Love/Hate' Star Charlie Murphy Talks to IFTN
05 Dec 2013 : By Kevin Cronin
Charlie Murphy in 'Northmen: A Viking Saga', filmed in South Africa.
Charlie Murphy, now one of Ireland's most prolific acting exports, has enjoyed a particularly eventful 2013 – winning Best Actress at the IFTAs for her powerful performance as Siobhán in ‘Love/Hate’ and rarely leaving our screens since.

A supporting role in BBC’s ‘The Village’ brought Ms Murphy to the attention of UK audiences, while high-profile parts in ‘Ripper Street’ and Stephen Frears’ Oscar-hopeful ‘Philomena’ further solidified her career’s upward trajectory.

More recently, she got the chance to play a Scottish princess skilled with a crossbow in ‘Northmen: A Viking Saga’, filmed in South Africa, and will next appear alongside Gabriel Byrne in an episode of ‘Quirke’ in the New Year.

With principal photography now underway on her latest BBC crime drama ‘Happy Valley’, Ms Murphy took time out of her busy schedule to chat to IFTN about her many recent and upcoming projects, along with career advice for young aspiring actresses.

Ms Murphy, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to IFTN. To begin with, could you tell us a bit about ‘Happy Valley’ which you’re currently shooting?
I’m in Halifax in West Yorkshire at the moment for ‘Happy Valley’, which is written by Sally Wainwright. This is my first day on the job! I play the daughter of a very affluent local self-made businessman and I get kidnapped for ransom. It’s not a rom-com! It should be really good and I’ve worked with one or two of the cast before, so I’m really looking forward to it. James Norton and I worked together in South Africa on ‘'Northmen: A Viking Saga’ and we were both cast in this too - which was a lovely little coincidence. And Joe Armstrong, who plays the detective in ‘The Village’, is in this as well!

What kind of character did you play in ‘Norsemen: A Viking Saga’?
I’m a Scottish Princess captured by Vikings! I got to play with crossbows and do lots of stunts! It finished about a month ago. It was great craic and something completely different to everything else I’ve done. Being over in South Africa was an amazing experience. So much movie work is being done over there at the moment. It’s such a beautiful landscape.

Irish audiences are still discussing the ‘Love/Hate’ season finale, with season four achieving the show’s highest ratings to date. Siobhán’s storyline this year largely revolved around caring for Tommy following his serious Nidge-inflicted head injuries, while weighing up the prospect of helping the Gardaí. What did you make of her arc this year?
I think it was a great natural progression. Siobhán has had to find coping mechanisms for everything she’s been through but in another sense she’s not dealing with them and focusing on other things instead. These are pretty big themes and she’s had to play catch-up with how bad Tommy is. You can see the penny dropping during the series. She realises she has to be the minder in this relationship as well as taking care of her kid, like a single Mum. I think those are all the ingredients that make her decide to help the Gardaí at the end of series four. She’s slowly been hardened on the inside towards her uncle and has had to grow up by herself. No one’s been holding her hand.

What are you memories of winning the IFTA for Best Actress earlier this year?
My family were delighted! There were a lot of drinks over that. I am absolutely chuffed that I won it. So I’ve just been beavering away with as much work as I can ever since. You never know when it’s going to stop!

You had a small but very memorable part in ‘Philomena’ as another young mother forced to give up her child for adoption by the nuns in Roscrea. What was the experience of working on the film like?
Oh, thank you! I only worked for a few days on ‘Philomena’ but it was a great experience. We got to meet the real Philomena Lee on set and that was pretty humbling. She’s such a beautiful woman. The themes in the film are still echoing today because so many people’s lives have been affected. I’m so proud to have been part of ‘Philomena’ as a small little wheel in that massive clock. It is lovely to have it down in my repertoire.

You role in ‘Ripper Street’ looked like a lot of fun. You got to play a feisty red-headed Irishwoman in London, a bit like a young Maureen O’Hara.
Haha! My Mum would be very happy you said that! She loves Maureen O’Hara. It was loads of fun! It was great because I hadn’t watched ‘Ripper Street’ before, but Ireland is so small that you would know different people working on it. It was just lovely to be on that fantastic set with such a great cast and crew. Damien Moloney was just gas craic, so it was really good fun!

You’re probably best known in the UK at the moment for ‘The Village’, BBC’s period drama set shortly after World War I. Do you get recognised a lot now when you’re over in the UK?
Not really! I spent most of my time on a plane between Ireland and England so I never really see anyone. I’m barely in Ireland and I’m barely in England because I’m split between both of them all the time. But it was just such an amazing experience on ‘The Village’. I’ve just been so bloody blessed with the gigs that I’ve gotten. It was just amazing working with Maxine Peake and John Simm, and young actors like Nico [Mirallegro] and Bill [Jones]. And the costumes were fantastic. It was just so much fun! It was hard work though. We were in the back arse of nowhere yet again. It was filmed all around the Peak District, about an hour away from where I am now in Halifax. That was all around Chapel-en-le-Frith, a really beautiful valley in Derbyshire with small villages. I think it’s the highest peak in England and it was bloody Baltic! We had the same Director of Photography from ‘Love/Hate’ on ‘The Village’ as well, David Odd. He was a great friendly face to walk in to see for the first BBC production I had done!

Can you tell us anything about the forthcoming second series which will continue the story into the 1920s?
It picks up where series one left off. Peter Moffat is the writer and I don’t know how far the next series is going to span, so we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll be stuck up North now for the next couple of months anyway!

‘Quirke’ is another highly-anticipated series, set to air on both BBC and RTÉ in early 2014, which you appear in for a stand-alone episode. Did you get to work with Gabriel Byrne in the scenes you shot?
I had one tiny scene with Gabriel and he was an absolute sweetheart! It was a small set with a close cast. I play a 1950s housewife, struggling with drug problems - which Ireland saw a surge of at that time. So my character kind of gets caught in a dark place. I’ve played so many different characters and I always find the joy in doing something different! They always seem to be veering on the dark side, but I enjoy that too.

Would you have any advice for young actresses starting out in the industry?
I have met so many people who have taken different paths to get the work that they want to do - some who have trained and some who haven’t. I suppose it depends on the person. It’s rare that you get anywhere without training but it does happen, if you’re persistent and talented. For me, finishing my studies was the way to go. I trained in the Gaiety School of Acting and put my head down - even though I was tempted to go out and start my career. Especially for a girl, you always feel you’re under pressure to make a stamp before you get old. I honestly don’t know what advice to give! I’m still learning myself! Surround yourself with like-minded people. It’s a real vocation and you need to have the heart for it. It’s not a normal life. It’s hard but it’s so rewarding. I’m booked up now for the next couple of months! So I’ll keep my head down and start learning my lines!


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