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Friday 22 November 2019

'The pressure of this being my year is really frightening' - Dublin Murders star Sarah Greene enjoys breakout year

At 35, Sarah Greene is finally getting the recognition she deserves for her role in the hit TV drama Dublin Murders. So why is she feeling anxious? She tells Eleanor Halls

Sarah Greene says she thinks about getting ‘work done’ all the time. Photo: Clara Molden
Sarah Greene says she thinks about getting ‘work done’ all the time. Photo: Clara Molden

Eleanor Halls

When Sarah Greene got a call from acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson asking her to audition for his forthcoming BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney's wildly successful millennial relationships novel Normal People, she was, initially, peeved. The role was a working class mother to one of the Dublin-based co-protagonists.

"I thought, I'm too young to play Lorraine," she says, straightening her 5ft 3in frame out from the nook of a London hotel sofa in mock indignation. Greene, who grew up in Cork, is 35. "Then I realised Lorraine is 35, too. She just had Connell at 15. So I am the right age," she sighs.

While Greene doesn't look a day over 28, it's clear ageing is a preoccupation.

And not without cause - women over the age of 30 tend to get shunned by Hollywood, while their ripening male counterparts continue to reel in career-defining roles well into their 40s and 50s. "I mean, look at Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He looks f****** gorgeous, whereas I've currently got every single machine and product working on my face to iron out every single wrinkle," says Greene.

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"It's really, really tough being a woman. I think about getting work done all the time. Look at Nicole Kidman - her face is completely done."

And yet, I tell Greene, this could well be considered her breakout year. The actress, who was nominated for a Tony award in 2014 for her Broadway performance in The Cripple Of Inishmaan opposite Daniel Radcliffe and won plaudits for roles in Woyzeck and The Ferryman in London in 2017, currently stars in BBC's/RTÉs eight-part series Dublin Murders as homicide detective Cassie Maddox. It's 2006, and alongside her partner Rob (Killian Scott), Cassie is investigating the killing of a 13-year-old ballerina found dead on an ancient stone altar in the woods.

The series has hooked viewers with its sinewy plot, eerie Irish folklore and richly drawn characters: both Cassie and Rob bear psychological scars from past trauma connected to the case, and both operate under dual identities.

Dublin Murders, along with Normal People, are her biggest TV projects to date - aged 35, no less. Proof that times are changing?

"Yes, even with The Ferryman, it was unusual to get such a meaty part for a female on stage. We want to hear female stories," she says.

"Dublin Murders was written by Sarah Phelps [adapted from Tana French's bestselling Dublin Murder Squad novels] and the series had all female producers. And Cassie's on a murder squad as the only woman in the team.

"Likewise, Normal People was the first time I'd ever worked with a female director of photography, and they bring such a different energy on set. They don't shout, they don't throw their weight around. They can actually delegate."

Speaking of men throwing their weight around… I say, while Greene purses her lips expectantly. "Harvey Weinstein is a horrible man. He's a pig," she interjects, curtly, reluctant to discuss the director. They met at the 2014 Tony Awards where the disgraced producer promised to launch her career in Hollywood.

"'My money's on you. Ima make you a star,' " Greene says, imitating Weinstein's gruff voice. "I told him he lost his money because I didn't win [the Tony]. Then he emailed me and told me he was coming to see [The Ferryman]. We had dinner afterwards, just the two of us. He said, 'I want to put you in my films'. The next day, I had two scripts in my hand." Did he try anything? "No," says Greene, before mysteriously adding, "not then." Not then? "Listen, I don't want to be associated with him. I knew what he was like. I made sure I wasn't ever in any hotel rooms with him. I was older than he thought I was. There's no story to tell."

Greene is equally reluctant to discuss her ex-partner and Poldark star Aidan Turner. "It's been five years!" she cries out in frustration. The pair met at Dublin's Gaiety School of Acting in 2003 before dating between 2010 and 2015.

"I'm always referred to as Aidan's ex-girlfriend. I love Aidan, we're really good friends, but no one would ever ask him about me."

Greene smooths over her irritation by getting out her phone to excitedly show me pictures of her newborn nephew.

"I think my biological clock ticking is more worrying for me than getting the right roles," she says. "My boyfriend and I were talking about where we'd bring up [any future] kids. He's from Northern Ireland, so he really wants us based there, whereas I'd rather Dublin. It's such a tight-knit acting community in Dublin.

"Everyone knows everyone because we've all worked in theatre. All of our Dublin Murders crew came from Game Of Thrones. Also, we only drink in two pubs in Dublin, so we always bump into each other."

Does she receive greater attention in Dublin than London, where she currently lives?

"I don't get recognised over there. Although I haven't been back since [the 2018 Roddy Doyle film] Rosie, and that was big, so maybe I would now." She pauses for several seconds. "The pressure of this 'being my year' is really frightening. It makes me anxious when I think of it like that."

She shuffles nervously, looking genuinely petrified and reaching into her bag for a cigarette. When Greene looks up a moment later, however, fear is beginning to make way for exhilaration. "It's freeing, too, I suppose, having the camera on me. With these rich characters, it's not about how I look, it's about so much more than that."

Dublin Murders continues on Monday on BBC One at 9pm and Wednesday on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

Read more: 'I was pretty broken when filming ended - I took 2 months off' - Sarah Greene on Dublin Murders

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