Andrea Irvine: time out from 'Red Rock'
Rarely can a woman have been so in need of a summer holiday. For Andrea Irvine, who plays Gda Sgt Angela Tyrell in TV3's Red Rock, it has been a six-month baptism of fire, as everyone involved in the fledging soap worked overtime to entrench it in the hearts and minds of the viewing public. The programme takes a break now until the autumn, and perhaps it came not a moment too soon. "It's a very exhausting, full-on experience," Andrea confesses.
"It was a huge learning curve for everyone. At the beginning you're handed a few scripts and the broad brush strokes of your characters and then you just jump in. You use muscles that you've never used before. You couldn't have anticipated the volume of work before you were in it. From January onwards, the story was really centred around the garda station, so that involved everyone who was playing a guard quite a lot."
Andrea took some time off when her sons Joseph, 13, and Harry, 10, were younger, and in those years she called the deluge of home life - all the cooking and cleaning - "banal beyond belief", and said she had relished working again. But, she says, she still struggles with the trade-offs that have to be made in the name of doing everything. "Parents, women in particular, I think, face this a lot: how can you have it all? You enjoy your work, the validation of interaction with other adults, the financial positives, but when we're both working we go into a kind of chaos. Our kids have different activities and are very busy and it takes some juggling."
Andrea met her partner, Patrick Leech, when he was an actor too - he's since gone on to qualify as an accountant - and she says that it helps having someone who understands the pressures of the profession.
Andrea grew up in Troubles-era Belfast, and for a time in her youth was quite religious. "In my teens I was very friendly with a girl at school and she was very involved in a local church; but by the time I was 17 I realised there were too many temptations going on, boys, alcohol, all that. If I'm honest, I'd be intrigued to look at Methodism in terms of how it was positive and good, because when I was growing up, I had a strong sense of the sectarianism and negativity associated with it."
She says she has noticed a transformation in the atmosphere in the province now, but is cautious about the changes that still need to happen. "I'm not on the ground, but I think definitely there has been progress in moving forward - I mean, people are not being killed. But there's still a lot of fear and prejudice. Maybe we need baby steps."
Like many actors from the North, she says that she was aware growing up that she'd need to leave the province to make a go of things career-wise, particularly after spending time at college in Scotland. "I ended up working at [theatre group] Tinderbox, and I met Tim Loane there who is now writing for Red Rock. Tim had just come back from Druid and he talked to me about them. I came down and everyone I met was new to me - a lot of them were based here and I thought I'd give Dublin a go." She would go on to forge a successful career on stage and screen, winning recurring roles in Love/Hate, 6 Degrees and Line Of Duty.
She remains an avid theatre-goer but says she's cautious about bringing her two lads to see a play. "Well, the thing is, I want them to get into theatre, so it's important not to bore them. I don't want them to feel like they're trapped in the dark for two hours. So I'm careful about what I'll show them." Red Rock makes the cut, needless to say. "That, I know they'll enjoy, " she laughs.
'Red Rock' season 2 starts on September 2, but TV3 will be showing hour-long catch-up episodes of the hit soap this July and August.