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Sunday 18 August 2019

'The very first day I thought this is a really hard job' - Irish actor Ned Dennehy on Peaky Blinders and his role in Aussie hit Glitch

Season 2 of Glitch is available on Netflix now

Ned Dennehy (r) in Peaky Blinders
Ned Dennehy (r) in Peaky Blinders
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Ned Dennehy is the kind of actor who doesn't take himself too seriously, which is apparent when he reveals he landed the role of Paddy in Netflix series Glitch after the casting director "came to Ireland to find the best actor in Ireland and Colin Farrell wouldn't do it so they went to the next best looking man and that was me".

The second season of the Aussie sci-fi hit has just landed on Netflix and Dennehy is also currently enjoying the deafening buzz surrounding period crime drama Peaky Blinders as it blazes through its fourth season on the BBC.

It's the former role about which he is most excited, however.  Paddy Fitzgerald is one of several characters in Glitch who have inexplicably emerged from their graves in a rural Australian town in the present day and are trying to come to terms with their past lives.

Paddy's story is classic fish-out-of-water - he's a 19th century 'entrepreneur' thrust into the modern day and it makes for some hilarious moments as he negotiates his new journey with the help of a young Aboriginal boy called Beau, who he happened to befriend on the night of his 'resurrection' from the dead. As you do.

Paddy is also a man of his time, "an old-fashioned sexist, racist, homophobe, but with a heart of gold" explains Dennehy, who adds that the part fits him "like a glove", referring more to his Irishness and sense of humour than the aforementioned 'attributes'.

"I thought, he's absolutely in my DNA," says Dennehy.  "When you get a character like this – some characters are difficult, you have to pretend to be somebody you’re not – I’m not saying I am Paddy, but it’s in your blood, it's just there, it's a glove that fits."

Ned Dennehy as Paddy Fitzgerald in Glitch
Ned Dennehy as Paddy Fitzgerald in Glitch

Although Paddy's dialogue sounds authentically Irish, Glitch writer Louise Fox is not.

"Mostly you read the words and you go, 'That's exactly what he would say,' but Louise is not Irish, which was really surprising," says Ned of the script, although he has felt compelled to argue the Irish perspective on a phrase or two.

"I remember one line, ‘Oh she’d steal the blessing out of the holy water’ and I was like, ‘Irish people would say "she’d steal the eye out of your head"’.  I lost that battle and it’s in so you have to kind of sell it, that kind of thing that’s a little bit too Irish."

Aaron McGrath plays his side-kick Beau Cooper and their exchanges are frequently as un-PC as you might expect.

Ned Dennehy as Paddy Fitzgerald with Aaron McGrath as Beau Cooper in Glitch
Ned Dennehy as Paddy Fitzgerald with Aaron McGrath as Beau Cooper in Glitch

"We have a bit of fun with the improv," says Ned.  "Paddy's from another century and his racism and stuff is not edged with any sort of hatred, it’s just he’s this flawed product from another time. He’s great fun to play.  In one line he says, ‘That Nancy boy was no good.  You can’t beat the darkies when it comes to the hard work.’ He’s saying this to his buddy Beau and Beau says, ‘I’m not a f***ing darkie.’ And he says, ‘Well, what are you then?’"

The first series explores Paddy's origins as an Irish immigrant who opened a bar to serve the miners working through the Australian gold rush.  "He opened a store and a boozer with rum and opium.  They had better gear than we have," explains Ned.

Ned has no insights for fans on developments in the second series, as he says, "Paddy’s story is very separate to the rest.  He stands alone so I never really bothered myself in the series and in what the other characters were up to or what the science was about" although he does reveal that the "pace is ramped up and there is more violence".

When the series hit Netflix originally people began to recognise him on the street in Melbourne.

"I get recognised alright but I’m not quite wearing the same gear as Paddy going around," he says.  "In Australia you’re in your shorts and in your shades.  I get approached by Australian people in supermarkets in Dublin, weirdly.  You get weird ones.

"I always find it strange if somebody stops you in the street in London and you don’t look like your character.  I don’t have long hair and a cowboy hat.  I would never recognise anyone. Judi Dench could walk past me and I wouldn’t know it was her."

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Ned Dennehy attends the Birmingham Premiere of Peaky Blinders at cineworld on October 30, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Ned Dennehy attends the Birmingham Premiere of Peaky Blinders at cineworld on October 30, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

Of course, on this side of the world Ned is more likely to be recognised as Charlie Strong from Peaky Blinders, which is currently in the midst of its fourth series on the BBC.

Ned, however, is not quite so enamoured by Charlie as he is Paddy.

"Peaky Blinders is massive but the thing with Peaky Blinders is I'm on the lower level of stars," he says.  "There are new ones coming - Adrien Brody, Charlie Murphy, Aidan Gillen - so I play quite a low key character who doesn’t go out killing anybody much.  He just gives out to Cillian’s character. 

"It’s a nice part but it’s not a glove fit.  He's a north of England chap and it’s one of those ones where you feel more like you’re faking.  What I mean by that is you do your work and put in the time to come up with your character and try to sell that character."

Then there's that Brummie accent to master.  The series has been criticised for the fact that some members of the cast struggle with the dialect.

"The very first day I thought this is a really hard job, this accent, it's a Brummie accent," he says, "You're looking at Ozzy Osbourne's accent, thinking, 'I'm going to have to be Daniel Day Lewis and talk like this the whole time'.  And then I get on set and Cillian is like [does Cork accent], 'How are you?  How's it goin'?  I'm from Cork' and I'm like f*** it, I can't be doing it if he's not. 

"The thing is, [writer] Stephen Knight isn't too pushed.  The accents are all over the place and some people from London have a problem with it because it sounds like lots of London people breaking into London.  But at least Cillian's got the hang of it."

There are many Irish faces among the cast and crew from director David Caffrey to DOP Cathal Waters and production designer Stephen Daly to actors Cillian, Charlie, Ned, and Aidan Gillen.

"It's embarrassing how many Irish there are," he says.  As an Irishman, the weather is also a factor in the extent of Ned's enjoyment, or otherwise, of a role.

"It’s a tougher gig. It’s the North of England.  It’s miserable.  You can’t get a latte.  In Australia the sun is shining, you can get avocados and long blacks, they’re good at coffee, you have breakfast in the shade.  It’s all outdoor life," he says wistfully.

Glitch's sunny Aussie shoot got him nicely over the winter 'hump', he says, and he has another sunny gig lined up for Cape Town, South Africa in March.   It's a role in Good Omens, Amazon's upcoming big-budget six-part series based on the best-selling novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  Jon Hamm has just been announced as joining the cast which also boasts Michael Sheen and David Tennant.

It's unclear whether or not Paddy will survive for a third series of Glitch, should it get the green light, but he would be "very happy" to do it.  As for Peaky Blinders, he would do a fifth season but he has his conditions.

"There's talk of another series and talk about it being the final one, but they always say that - it's like David Bowie's last tour which I think was in 1981," he says.

"If they do another series they would really want to have the whole family back in Birmingham as much as they can, and that would include Charlie and Curly.  Our particular set is very important - the canal and the barges are important in this series.  It's useless if they go off to New York and Charlie and Curly are still back at the ranch.  I'd really have to see if it was worth it.  Is it juicy enough?  So, certainly I'm delighted to be in this one and I would of course do another.  I'm part of the family for so long now."

Glitch seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix now.

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