Saturday 7 December 2019

Having fun as an extra on the set of hit crime soap Red Rock

ACT: Allison Bray is “arrested” by extra Emily O’Callaghan
ACT: Allison Bray is “arrested” by extra Emily O’Callaghan

Allison Bray

A tip-off from a garda source that a major crime story was breaking had us assembled in a small media scrum outside the garda station, hoping the superintendent would give us a few crumbs to go on.

He told us they were "closing in on the killer" before rushing off into an awaiting garda car and driving off.

This might have been a fairly typical press briefing at any garda station, except it took place in the fictitious seaside town of Red Rock and none of it was real, except that myself, the TV cameraman and the two male reporters in the scene are real-life journalists playing ourselves as extras in the hit crime soap Red Rock. And it was good craic, which is what keeps the 21 cast and 65 crew going, according to assistant director (AD) Nick McCarthy.

"It's good fun. I don't think anyone can not enjoy doing this," he said in between the four takes in about an hour that it took to get the scene right.

Normally it takes an average of three takes before the AD calls the final "cut" and moves on to the next scene.

And while the scene itself took just seconds, it took the guts of three hours from the time we arrived on set until it was completed, which means lots of standing around waiting to be called for the scene and drinking numerous cups of tea and trying to stay warm dressed in spring clothes despite the January weather.

But there is also something magical about walking on to the set of a favourite TV show, where everything looks so real and familiar.

The former office of the now-defunct John Player factory in south Dublin where the bulk of the series is shot, looks very much like a typical garda station built in the 1960s or '70s. Across the street, actors are sipping coffee inside the Neptune Café, which is so genuine-looking - from the bottles of juice and minerals stacked in a window cabinet underneath the till, to the neon 'Open' sign on the door - I was tempted to order a takeaway Americano.

Even the storefront shell of a Costcutter shop next to it looks so real, I had to stop myself from popping in to get a newspaper, which would have come in handy had I sat waiting for the number 810A bus at the Red Rock bus shelter to arrive.

But it's this attention to detail by set designer Alan Farquharson and a script reflecting the often gritty life of the Irish capital that has made the show, with an average weekly viewership of 360,000, such a success.

Sunday Independent

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