Saturday 24 March 2018

Love/Hate garda storm 'utterly ridiculous', says Nidge nemesis

Detective Kieran O'Reilly in 'Love/Hate'
Killian Scott, Tom Vaughan Lawlor, Peter Coonan and Brian F O Byrne
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

THE introduction of An Garda Siochana to the last season of Love/Hate certainly caused a stir.

Not only was it the first time drug lord King Nidge had come face to face with the 'boys in blue', there was also the revelation that character Garda Ciaran Madden was being played by a real life detective, Garda Kieran O'Reilly.

A media furore ensued resulting in Garda O'Reilly being transferred from the drugs unit to the National Immigration Bureau.

It's something Brian F O'Byrne, who plays Nidge's arch nemesis, Detective Mick Moynihan, still can't get his head around.

"I thought it was utterly ridiculous," he says flatly. "I didn't understand it. For me it was a non-story."

"Kieran is an actor; he plays a fictional character in a fictional drama. How do you legislate against a fictional character? You don't. It's as simple as that."


O'Byrne (46) was born in the small town of Mullagh in Co Cavan and grew up surrounded by dairy farms. He studied at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College Dublin before moving to New York to make it in the acting world.

After some minor roles on TV dramas, O'Byrne began clocking up parts both on and off Broadway; he received Tony nominations for his performances in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Tom Stoppard's trilogy, The Coast of Utopia.

In 2004, he received the Best Actor gong for his portrayal of a child murderer in Frozen.

"I must have a dodgy looking face," he says.

He has also shared the screen with some of Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars; Hilary Swank in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and Kate Winslet in TV film, Mildred Pierce.

But now he's back treading the Broadway boards in Pulitzer winning playwright John Shanley's play, Outside Mullingar. The play has been dubbed the 'Irish Moonstruck', a reference to Shanley's 1987 film, and sees O'Byrne team up with Smash and Will and Grace actress, Debra Messing.

"It couldn't be going any better to be honest," O'Byrne says.

"The audience are laughing and crying in the right places. They're really responding to it."

It's not the first time O'Byrne and Shanley have collaborated -- O'Byrne played Father Flynn in Shanley's acclaimed 2004 production, Doubt. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman went on to take up the role in the 2008 film.

While on set, O'Byrne met his wife, actress Heather Goldenhersh. "We were both in the production. Priests and nuns go together very well."

Doubt was Shanley's personal response to the war in Iraq; a dark and disturbing piece.

But Outside Mullingar, which is currently running at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre in Manhattan, is a much lighter piece.

"It's completely different," O'Byrne explains.

"It's Shanley's first Irish play and it's a homage to his own family and his Irish roots. It's a very simple but a very brave piece.

"There's an innocence to it. I think he is in a place in his life where he's interested in love. It's honest; it's dangerous because of its honesty."

Shanley was initially reluctant to describe himself as an Irish writer because "critics discount 46pc of your talent as a natural, genetic by-product."

The 57-year-old playwright first visited his father's hometown of Kilucan, located just outside Mullingar, in 1993 and was inspired to write about it. He says the story just 'spilled out'.

O'Byrne stars as Anthony, a painfully shy farmer who is being pursued by his neighbour Rosemary (Messing).

"Debra is a total pro," he says. "It was her Broadway debut and watching someone experience that excitement for the first time was thrilling."

When the curtain falls on March 26, O'Byrne will return to Ireland to start working on the fifth series of Love/Hate.

"I was a big fan of the show and had watched it before I got called for the part," O'Byrne said.

"A lot of people have come up to me after seeing Outside Mullingar to talk about Love/Hate. It's nice to see Irish people are now coming to New York for the culture, not the shopping."

This year O'Byrne will also appear in several home produced Irish films including Ken Loach's Jimmy's Hall.

"I've lived in the States for 20 years but Ireland will always be home, being able to come home and perform in productions of this standard is amazing."

He will also star as RSM Digby in John Boorman's Queen and Country alongside Sinead Cusack and Richard E Grant.

"It's a follow up to Hope and Glory. It's John's story; he is very anecdotal and tells you stories about his past and you get the chance to know him."

Despite his success, and the range of roles he's played, O'Byrne is remarkably grounded and softly spoken.

"It's what I do; you get up by the clock," he said. "Journalists write different articles, actors play different parts. It's part of the job."

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