'It was the right choice, but it was hard to watch' - Peter Coonan addresses Fran's brutal prison rape scene
Despite four character deaths, including the demise of key character King Nidge, in the final episode of season five of Love/Hate, viewers have been most affected by the brutal prison shower rape scene.
The scene depicted gangster Fran having a terrible revenge exacted upon him by Noely, whose henchmen held him down whilst Noely raped him with a broken snooker cue.
Speaking to Ivan Yates and Chris O'Donoghue on Newstalk, Peter admitted it was a "tough scene" to shoot.
"It took the best part of 7 or 8 hours to shoot that scene because you need to really give it the time it deserves," he said. "We were shooting away all day. The energy that went into it was tough."
Peter recalled arriving to work oblivious to what writer Stuart Carolan's script had in store for Fran.
"I went in to work - episodes are given out gradually when shooting - and when that scene came out people were kind of looking at me and I was like, ‘What’s going on. What could it be?’" he revealed, adding that he felt the graphic nature of the scene was justified.
"I had to kind of sit back for a minute and really think about it," he said. "I rang Stuart and spoke about it. It made sense in regards to the character and the arc of the character and this alpha male being brought down to this level and to be so graphic as well. It was the right choice."
The actor, who has played Fran for four years, since the second season of the show, said it was "hard to watch".
He added, "It’s part of the job but at the time it was... that day was tough as well, one of those days where you have to walk away and sit on your own again just to process what was happening.
"Everybody involved had to be sensitive to the situation as well, not only to the scene and actors but as well as the fact you’re putting yourself out like that and sometimes you have to know you’re making the right decision and trust everyone treats it the way it deserves, with the sensitivity it deserves."
What he found just as difficult, however, was witnessing Nidge being shot dead by Patrick, a plot point he was unaware of prior to watching the show with friends on Sunday night.
"I watched it the other night just like everyone else and I didn’t know about Tom’s character being shot," he said.
"I’d seen an ADR where Siobhahn’s character was shot but I didn’t know about Tom’s character. I saw Siobhan shot and I kind of accepted that and didn’t really want to see it, I didn’t venture further or ask questions.
"I couldn’t believe Patrick ran down the garden. I thought Nidge would jumpt the wall. It was quite a strange experience."
Peter admitted he has no clue whether or not another series will be commissioned by RTE. He said that Stuart may be finding the pace and pressure of writing and filming tough after five years on Love/Hate.
"I imagine the last five years writing the show on his own has been, it can be quite hard," he said.
"In each series he finishes airing in October/November so then they decide before Christmas and he has to write it by the time March comes around. It takes 11 weeks to film 6 episodes so it’s all quite quick.
"For Stuart I’m sure then he’s writing through the series till May, putting finishing touches on each episode so it’s quite hard living in that world and he’s the only writer coming up with these stores so it’s up to Stuart to see how he feels.”
Outside of Love/Hate, Peter has performed on stage as Brendan Behan in The Borstal Boy and plays David Drumm in The Guarantee, which is currently showing at cinemas nationwide. He will also appear in a film called Stalker, releasing before Christmas.
He says he has his sights set on a move to the US.
"Certainly when you start out as an actor and you get the lucky break that you have with Love/Hate and various other projects, my idea was always a 5 year plan, building a good body of work here in Ireland and taking it elsewhere," he revealed.
"People know Love/Hate everywhere now. It’s internationally acclaimed, nominated for Best TV Drama with Breaking Bad, a Japanesee film, and the Danish series The Killing. It holds a lot of water across the water."