Friday 20 September 2019

'I wasn’t famous and the next day I was like a Beatle' - John Connors opens up on fame and family on Living with Lucy

John Connors with Lucy Kennedy on Living With Lucy, Virgin Media One, Monday September 9, 9pm.
John Connors with Lucy Kennedy on Living With Lucy, Virgin Media One, Monday September 9, 9pm.
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

John Connors has revealed how he struggled with instant fame following Love/Hate.

The actor, writer, and director shot to fame as Patrick Ward in the hit RTE crime series but says he was treated differently than his fellow actors by the media.

Speaking on tonight’s Living with Lucy, John (29) concedes that he can be “very reactive” on social media but says that, unlike his Love/Hate co-stars, he felt he had to defend his Traveller background.

“I’m easy to pull into a fight.  But my introduction to fame was Love/Hate so one day I wasn’t famous and the next day I was like a Beatle,” he says.

“While all the journalists were asking Tom Vaughan Lawlor and Peter Coonan or any of the other guys about their dream role and if they wanted to go to Hollywood, I was asked to account for rural crime and this stereotype and that stereotype.”

In tonight’s episode, airing on Virgin Media One, presenter Lucy Kennedy moves into John’s chalet at his family’s camp in Darndale.

John speaks about the “unconscious bias” that both settled people and Travellers have about each other, but Lucy says she had no preconceptions about John.

“I wasn’t in any way apprehensive,” she tells Independent.ie.  “I just thought, happy days, I’m going into camp.  I knew he had never done this before.  I would have had more anxiety at Katie Hopkins’ front door. 

“I knew I would like [John’s family].  I didn’t realise I’d like them as much as I did. I was surprised at just how warm and welcoming they were.”

As well as John’s grandmother Chrissie, and his brothers, Lucy also met John’s grandfather Paddy, who has sadly passed away since filming wrapped.

“I’m so glad for John to have that now on tape.  They were fiercely close,” says Lucy.

“They really are a very tight knit, close community and they really look after each other.  You’d never feel lonely.  I never felt lonely and always felt safe and protected.  There’s plenty of laughter and children running around.  It’s a nice place to be.”

Lucy had approached John before to appear in the series, but he had refused as he had “concerns”.  However, he signed up when his grandmother gave him her blessing to invite Lucy into camp.

“It was a brave decision for him I think and for them too,” says Lucy.  In recent times Travellers have had an awful time.  Unfortunately, when one person does something wrong everybody is tarnished with the same brush.  But he was right to do it I think.”

In the course of the episode, John speaks about his criminal record, how he started boxing as a child to defend himself against bullies, and he also addresses his father’s suicide, which happened when John was just four years old.

Chrissie takes Lucy to visit the graves of John’s father and uncle.  His father was also called John and he died aged just 30.

“John was very comfortable opening up about his life,” says Lucy.

“He’s proud of being a Traveller and passionate about their culture. He almost gets emotional talking about it, that’s how deep it runs through his veins.  He was less comfortable talking about his love life than his father’s death.”

Aside from the difficult subjects, the episode features plenty of banter, not least because John’s cat left an unexpected deposit on Lucy’s bed, particularly disturbing since she is allergic to cats.

“I spent the whole time with an itchy throat, itchy eyes, blocked nose, streaming eyes,” says Lucy.

“John thought it was funny, as did the crew.  The more I moaned the funnier they found it.  So I just kept taking the antihistamines.”

Living with Lucy is in it’s fourth series with Virgin Media, having previously run for three seasons on RTE, and this series will also see Lucy living with former Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle and Dublin actor Barry Keoghan.

“Nadine Coyle has never done anything like this and she really opened up to me,” says Lucy, “And with  Barry Keoghan we were there when he got his Marvel news - and he’s hilarious.”

Living with Lucy airs on Virgin Media One at 9pm tonight.

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