ACTOR Gabriel Byrne has spoken of his new role as a hard-drinking, womanising pathologist and detective investigating the dark side of Fifties Dublin.
He takes on the lead role in Quirke, a new three-part drama that will begin on RTE One tonight.
Byrne plays an alcoholic, emotionally complex loner whose investigations into the deaths of the victims on his mortuary slab unexpectedly open secrets in his own life.
The masterful books portray a very dark, seedy Dublin where the Catholic Church holds sway alongside big business and the professional classes. The secrets that will come out decades later are hinted at as Quirke sways around the city on an emotional rollercoaster fuelled by guilt, drink and sexual yearning. Journalism is grubby, the police almost as bad: but the city between the canals has never been so atmospheric.
Speaking of his new role, Byrne, who also stars in the new Vikings series, says he likes "the idea of hiding in plain sight and allowing the audience to play that game with you. I would like people to come away with more of an understanding of the notion that what is hidden and what is secretive produces sickness in the end. Openness and accountability are crucial to a healthy society."
In tonight's opening episode, Quirke arrives back from a party to sleep off his hangover in his pathology lab, but instead he finds his adoptive brother, obstetric consultant Malachy Griffin, at Quirke's desk, completing paperwork for a recently deceased patient named Christine Falls.
By the following morning, the body has been moved from the lab. But Quirke's curiosity is piqued by the lengths his brother is prepared to go to, to cover up the cause of one young woman's death in childbirth. The uncovering of a 20-year-old secret within his own family means Quirke is forced to confront the sins of his past as he delves into the layers of his tangled history.
The series is a co-production between BBC Drama and Dublin-based companies Element Pictures and Tyrone Productions.
John Banville has said he was "very excited by the prospect of seeing my character Quirke incarnated by Gabriel Byrne, a perfect choice for the part".
The cast also includes Nick Dunning, Michael Gambon, Aisling Franciosi, Geraldine Somerville, Stanley Townsend, Sara Stewart and Janet Moran.
The three-part series begins tonight on RTE One at 9.30pm.