19 September 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor on playing Padraig Pearse in TV3’s ‘Trial of the Century’
27 Apr 2016 : Seán Brosnan
Vaughan Lawlor as Padraig Pearse in ‘Trial of the Century’
With ‘Trial of the Century’ about to hit TV3 screens, we talk to Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who plays Irish nationalist Padraig Pearse in the highly anticipated mini-series.

Produced by Loosehorse Television and Treasure Entertainment, directed by Maurice Sweeney and written by Hugh Travers (with Colin Murphy co-writing the second episode), ‘Trial of the Century’ is described as a provocative take on historical storytelling, as Padraig Pearse - the leader of the 1916 rebellion - is put in the dock. In a trial that he was never afforded in real life, Pearse must defend the actions that changed the course of Irish history.

Not only is ‘Trial of the Century’ unique in that it offers an imagined, alternate history but the three-part series is also two parts drama, one-part contemporary jury as it book-ends with broadcaster Pat Kenny chairing a 12 person jury in the present day who are tasked with deciding on the fate of Pearse.

For Vaughan-Lawlor – best known for playing the gangster Nidge in RTÉ’s landmark series ‘Love/Hate’ – the attraction of playing Pearse had nothing to do with the unique format of the mini-series and everything to do with how the character was written.

"What was attractive was that they were offsetting the public figure with the private man. I loved that”, Vaughan-Lawlor tells IFTN. “To explore the national icon we see him as, but to counterpoint it with the intimacy of the individual.”

With Pearse one of Irish history’s more revered historical figures, Vaughan-Lawlor’s portrayal will also undoubtedly be put on the dock – did the IFTA-winning Dublin actor feel any pressure when preparing for the role?

“I didn't feel pressure when we were shooting. Not in an arrogant way”, says Vaughan-Lawlor, who played Charlie Haughey’s political advisor PJ Mara in RTÉ series ‘Charlie’ in 2015. “I just don't think it's helpful to worry about any of that. But now that it's nearing transmission, I'm a bit more nervous.”

When asked how he prepared for the 12 day shoot, which largely took place in February 2016 in Green Street Courthouse in Smithfield, Vaughan-Lawlor tells us that he both read Pearse biographies as well as watching documentaries chronicling the Irish nationalist.

‘Trial of the Century’ will air over three consecutive nights on Saturday 30th April, Sunday 1st May and Monday 2nd May.

Vaughan Lawlor is speaking to us from Cork, where he is currently shooting another true-life political tale – the feature film ‘Maze’ written and directed by Stephen Burke. He can also be seen later this year in the US crime drama ‘The Infiltrator’, opposite Bryan Cranston.

“Maze’ is about the 1983 escape of 38 IRA volunteers from the Maze prison in Belfast”, says Vaughan-Lawlor. “I play Larry Marley who was the architect of the operation. It explores a fictional relationship between Larry and a prison warder. ‘The Infiltrator’ is another true story, about an undercover US Customs agent Robert Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston, who exposed the money-laundering relationship between big US banks and Pablo Escobar's cartel. I play Steve Cook who was Mazur's Agency handler.”

BS IFTN Filmography: 'Trial of the Century' directed by Maurice Sweeney
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