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Wednesday 23 August 2017

The 10 Irish actresses hot on the heels of Saoirse Sarah and Denise Gough

There is a whole new batch of Irish actresses hot on the heels of Saoirse, Sarah and Denise. Our reporter rounds up the top 10 prospects

Kelly Gough. Photo by Andrew Downes
Kelly Gough. Photo by Andrew Downes
Lydia McGuinness
Hannah Tucker Mamalis
Saoirse Jackson
Amy Shiels
Mimi Carroll
Niamh Algar
Noni Stapleton
Roisin O'Donovan
Seana Kerslake

Tanya Sweeney

One year ago, Denise Gough was another actress hoping for her big break. But now, hers is the name on everyone's lips: fresh from winning a coveted Olivier Award for Best Actress alongside acting heavyweights like Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton. Critics have hailed her role in the West End's People, Places, Things as a triumph, and the Wexford star is now headed for Broadway, where she will join Russell Tovey and Andrew Garfield in a new run of Angels In America.

Broadway is currently the stomping ground of Saoirse Ronan, who is wowing crowds in The Crucible, while Sarah Greene was nominated for a Tony Award in 2015 - the 'Oscars of Broadway' - for her role in The Cripple Of Inishmaan.

It's safe to say that Irish acting talent is enjoying a purple patch, and there's a new wave of fresh female talent waiting to make waves not just at home, but worldwide.

Kelly Gough

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Kelly Gough. Photo by Andrew Downes
 

Kelly (29),  needn't look too far for her acting role model: her sister is the aforementioned Denise. "I hope if (success) happens for me I'm like Denise," she admits. "She fought really hard for it and has the most beautiful attitude about it, and it's not what defines her. She has a true sense of integrity."

As youngsters, the two were obsessed with acting, and even showed up in auditions together.

"The seed is the same in both of us, although there are eight years between us so I was eight when Denise left home," Kelly explains. "I wish I wanted to be anything else, but I don't know that there's anything else I could do," says Kelly. "There's really a feeling that acting is the right thing for both of us. It feels like what we are fated to do."

Lydia McGuinness

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Lydia McGuinness
 

Fans of RTE's Rebellion will likely recognise Lydia, who played Peggy Mahon in the drama. The 32-year-old Palmerstown beauty trained at The Factory, and her career gained even more traction last year when she appeared in John Carney's Sing Street.

"I genuinely believe everyone is creative in some shape or form, and this is my way," she explains. "I've always loved acting. It can be tough, and the skin starts to toughen up after a few years, but it's worth it. Like any career, it doesn't just happen."

This summer, she'll appear in Mark O'Connor's Cardboard Gangsters, as well as a short she collaborated with Naomi Sheridan on. "I'm not sure of my ideal role yet," she says. "Maybe it's out there, being written as we speak."

Niamh Algar

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Niamh Algar
 

Recently wrapping on the short film Pebbles (alongside Marie Mullen), 24-year-old Mullingar-born Niamh is headed for the Cannes festival, where Pebbles has been selected for its short film competition.

"I always wanted to be an actor, but come from a diverse, very academic family so I studied design," she recalls.

Paying her way into the Gaiety School of Acting with design jobs, Niamh cut her teeth with Dublin Shakespeare before finding herself in front of the camera.

"I prefer to think that you are your own competition," she says. "I know that rejection will come, but it's my own fault if it does. If acting was that easy, everyone would be doing it."

Roisin O'Donovan

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Roisin O'Donovan
 

Since landing the role of Niamh in TV3's Red Rock, Malahide native Roisin has been hailed as one to watch. Originally, she studied Event Management, yet dropped out a few months later to pursue her dream.

"You're always part of the job," she explains. "I'll do this job even if it means I have to live in a cardboard box."

An indie feature that Roisin appeared in, Waking The Witch, is due to hit the festival circuit later this year. Meanwhile, plans to do theatre work in New York later this year are heating up.

"I'd love to do something like The Crucible," she says. "It's a little way down the line, but it's so exciting seeing Irish actors doing so well on Broadway. In the longer term I'd love to do work in the UK or US but I'm really happy working on (Red Rock) right now."

Hannah Tucker-Mamalis

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Hannah Tucker Mamalis
 

After writing and starring in her own one-woman show for Smock Alley's Scene & Heard festival, Clifden-born Hannah wrapped on The Drummer and The Goalkeeper, directed by Nick Kelly. After completing an arts degree, Hannah found herself in The Factory collective of actors, artists and filmmakers.

"My first big job was a small part in Ripper Street, which was an incredible experience," she says. "I remember being in shock that I had my own trailer."

Being a jobbing actress has its ups and downs, which is precisely why Hannah is of the mindset that creating one's own work is a clever strategy. Yet with Ireland's recent wave of acting successes, all boats are rising. "It does seem to be more prolific then ever and there's a real confidence about," she observes. "One big achievement leaves more people feeling empowered."

Seána Kerslake

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Seana Kerslake
 

Seána's is the name on the lips of many casting directors and industry insiders. After making her mark in Kirsten Sheridan's film Dollhouse, the 25-year-old Tallaght actress was properly bitten by the proverbial bug. Roles in Life's A Breeze and The Lobster soon followed in quick succession. Next up is a role in Darren Thornton's feature A Date For Mad Mary, alongside Chris Newman and Kelly Byrne.

"I remember being on set thinking 'wow, people get to do this as a job!'" she says.

"People think it's far more glamorous than it is," she admits. "I know a lot of the roles I've done seem glam, but it's often been a bit 'put more mud in her hair there'.

"You get used to the rejection involved… you think that some jobs might be down your street, but then you might not be the right fit. It just becomes part of day-to-day life. It's that thing every actor says: create a thick skin and stay soft and sensitive to empathise with your characters."

Mímí Carroll

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Mimi Carroll
 

Another graduate from Bow Street's acting course, Mímí trained in mime at the prestigious Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris before appearing in TG4's musical comedy Eipic (and later, the award-winning series An Klondike).

"It was a fascinating exploration and these energetic essences later felt like the foundation for lots of character work," she explains.

"I love searching through myself to find the common ground between a character and I. It can be incredibly emotionally exhausting, but I do feel so grateful that I can spend my time doing something I love so much."

Noni Stapleton

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Noni Stapleton
 

Playing Timothy Dalton's wife in Penny Dreadful has put Noni Stapleton firmly on the map. And like Gough and Greene before her, the Gaiety graduate is a leading light in the world of theatre: she wrote and performed the play Charolais, which bagged her the Stewart Parker Trust Award and is due to hit theatres in the US and Australia.

"Personally, I've had more opportunity in the States, due in part, to the success of Penny Dreadful there and the fact that there are so many US theatre companies with the feelers out for new writing," she reveals.

"I've also been very lucky to have established theatre practitioners and companies here advocate on my behalf. What I like about the US is their willingness to take it as read that you have the talent and drive. The assumption is that you are probably very good at what you do, it's just up to you then to prove them right."

Saoirse Jackson

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Saoirse Jackson
 

There's a new Saoirse in town; specifically, Donegal/Derry native Saoirse Jackson, who has won a role in Sky One's new thriller The Five before even graduating from Manchester's Arden School of Theatre.

"I got really lucky on my last year in drama school. I auditioned for an extra part in The Five, just one line really, and I kept getting called back," she says.

Now living in London, Saoirse is already winning rave reviews for her debut theatre performance in Of Mice and Men as it tours the UK with the Birmingham Repertory Centre.

Amy Shiels

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Amy Shiels
 

The Malahide beauty, best known for appearances in Cowboys & Angels and Citadel, has just landed a plum role alongside a stellar cast (including Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried) in the reboot of Twin Peaks.

The series is due to air on Showtime in 2017, and given its massive success in the 90s, it's safe to assume that great things lie in store for the talented actress.

Irish Independent

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