Monday 22 October 2018

Irish actress Ruth loves LA and her Netflix leading role

Dublin's Ruth Kearney has managed to hit the big time in a new US series, all while keeping below the celebrity radar, writes Katie Byrne

THAT LA LIFE: Ruth Kearney
THAT LA LIFE: Ruth Kearney
Ruth Kearney in ‘Flaked’ with (from left), David Sullivan and Will Arnett
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

When upcoming Netflix show Flaked was announced earlier this year, the question on everyone's lips was who exactly was this Irish actress who had secured one of the lead roles.

Ruth Kearney's CV doesn't feature any of the rite-of- passage productions that most emerging Irish actors have under their belt.

She hasn't starred in Love/Hate, treaded the boards at the Abbey or appeared in a Meteor ad. Neither are there any pictures of her at launches, or charity lunches, or on the red carpet at the IFTAs.

Yet, despite the lack of publicity around her career, the Dublin-born and -raised actress is by no means an unknown. On the contrary, she's been slowly building her career with roles in a number of well-received TV dramas.

Ruth (31) attended St Andrew's College in Blackrock, Dublin, where former principal Arthur Godsil remembers her as "an exceptional source of energy and positivity".

She later moved to the UK to study at the Bristol Old Vic, graduating in 2009 and immediately landing the role of Jess Parker on ITV show Primeval.

In 2014, she starred in the Fox FX political drama Tyrant, which was filmed in Israel. She then moved to New York to take on the role of Daisy Locke in the third season of The Following.

Ruth's latest role is her biggest yet. Flaked, which is co-written, co-created and stars Arrested Development actor Will Arnett, is one of the most-anticipated shows in the 2016 Netflix slate.

The comedy-drama follows Chip (Arnett), a recovering alcoholic who is trying to live one day at a time in the open-minded yet insular community of Venice, Los Angeles.

It's a stylish production populated by actors who instinctively understand the art of nuance, and Kearney fits right in with her low-key portrayal of London, a beautiful waitress who comes between best friends Chip and Dennis (David Sullivan).

According to Arnett, she was an easy casting decision. "Ruth just came in and blew us away," he recalls during our set visit. "She had a sensitivity to the material that we really appreciated. And she did such a great job of capturing what we were going for in a very subtle way."

She certainly knows how to light up a screen. Indeed, it's hard to believe that the woman with the beach-blonde hair, sun-kissed skin and Fourth of July smile was brought up in the slightly less clement seaside enclave of Monkstown.

It also helps that her accent is flawless. Kearney didn't use a voice coach for the role. "It's not an accent I have ever struggled with," she explains during a break in filming. "In drama school we did loads of phonetics and accent-training. Plus, in Ireland we grow up watching so much American TV that it comes naturally."

In real-life, Ruth is warm and disarmingly understated. She has a smile for everyone, and her Flaked colleagues seem to be especially taken with her. Co-star George Basil stops by at one point during our set visit. "You're meeting Ruth? Buddy, she is the shit…"

The atmosphere on the Flaked set, which was filmed in Venice and in the surrounding areas of LA's Westside, was unusually relaxed. There was no drama, diva strops or red-tape. Showrunners often spout the line about their production being "one big happy family", but this felt like the real deal.

Ruth agrees: "Everyone says it's almost like we're filming an indie film over eight episodes. It doesn't feel like any TV I've down before. It's very organic."

The actress, who is dressed in the Californian regulation uniform of denim shorts and acetate sunglasses, doesn't come across as an out-of-towner. This is partly because she was visiting Los Angeles long before her acting career took off.

Her father moved to California 12 years ago. "He married someone from here and they live in Santa Barbara. It's really lovely for me as I've come out here before for stints with friends. I find it so much easier as it can be a tough town if you come out with no family support."

She loves getting back to Dublin, but regrets that she no longer has immediate family living in the city. Her mother lives in Switzerland ("She's potentially moving to London, though"). Her two older sisters live in London, as does Ruth for the better part of the year.

Her beau, fellow actor Theo James, who she met while training at Bristol Old Vic, is also occasionally based there.

Downton Abbey fans will know James as the handsome Turkish diplomat who seduced Lady Mary. His star has rapidly ascended since. The actor has been working back-to-back in films like Divergent and Jim Sheridan's The Secret Scripture. He's also rumoured to be in the running to play the next James Bond.

Unfortunately, rumours (including one of an engagement) are all there is to this relationship. The PR has warned us not to ask Ruth any questions regarding her love life.

Her boyfriend is equally private. In a recent interview with Flaunt magazine he explained why he's not a prolific social networker. "If I post a picture of us having a drink now and get loads of views or comments and stuff, then suddenly you're quite exposed and you're in a world of work".

The couple currently live in Los Angeles, a city that Ruth says is often misunderstood. "I think people see it in a very specific light. Most of my friends here aren't in the industry. There's a very normal side to LA life. You don't have to see a Kardashian every 10 minutes.

"I love the outdoorsy nature of LA and I always feel like I'm in better shape here. I do lots of hikes. Runyon Canyon is great for people-watching," she adds. "You see some hilarious LA characters and you get distracted by all the boob jobs!"

The first episode of Flaked will appear on Netflix next month, after which Ruth will have to come to terms with a whole new level of public interest. Does she have a strategy in place to maintain her privacy?

"I think it only changes if you want it to. You can go to every party and buy into that lifestyle, but if I continue to lead the life I'm living then I don't think anything has to change.

"There are so many actors who you never see in paparazzi pictures," she continues. "You can live a normal life - it's the choices you make."

Flaked starts on Netflix on Friday, March 11

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