A year on from Love/Hate, the lads are swapping King Nidge for King Lear
They're known for playing hard lads and henchmen in the hit RTÉ drama, but now the lads of Love/Hate are swapping King Nidge for, well, King Lear. A year on from the TV show's finale, several of the cast will be treading the boards during the Dublin Theatre Festival, which begins in earnest this weekend. We caught up with stars Peter Coonan, Laurence Kinlan and Ian Lloyd Anderson between rehearsals
It's not often one goes from a gritty gangland TV show to a classic Arthur Miller show at the Gate Theatre, but that's been 31-year-old Peter Coonan's career trajectory. From Leopardstown in Dublin, Peter is engaged to Kim O'Driscoll. They have a baby daughter, Beth, and he also has a son, Ben, from a previous relationship. In A View From The Bridge, running at the Gate Theatre until October 10, Peter plays Italian immigrant Marco who's fled to America to make a better life for his family back home.
'The accent has come together!" Peter tells me just an hour before he takes to the stage for A View From The Bridge. "I did Borstal Boy in the Gaiety last year which was full of high-octane energy; this is very different and it's been a big challenge. It's my first play in the Gate and I'm pretty lucky to have a script like this with such muscular language and such a powerful character."
For Peter, this is a return to where he started. "I chose to get back into theatre 18 months ago consciously, because I'd been away from it for so long. It's where I started as a kid when I was around five years old. In school I got more into sports and let it fall by the wayside, but in college I got back into it. Even so, I'm still learning. This has been a big curve and a very rewarding one."
Love/Hate is something he won't forget easily though; the public took Fran The Man to their hearts, Peter's character going from minor player to lead character alongside 'King' Nidge in the latter seasons.
Despite having a far more upper crust accent than Fran, Peter is still recognised by fans all the time thanks to his distinctive cadence. "My hair is dark to play Marco, so I'm a little under the radar visually. It's usually when I'm in a shop and I start to talk, they recognise the laryngitic tone of my voice," he laughs.
"I don't take much heed of the whole thing; I don't like the idea of being famous. I like being recognised for doing something, and with the popularity of Love/Hate it's inevitable you end up being in the paper.
"And it was pretty incredible, the journey I went on - you would miss it!"
So what was the secret to the show's success then? After all, we're a nation known for loving Glenroe on a Sunday evening, not a gritty crime drama with a high body count.
"At the time we needed something like it, during the recession when everyone was rubbing pennies together, we could all embrace it and really invest in it. It was a real honour to be involved, it gave Irish people something to be proud of. We were getting nominated for awards alongside global, big budget shows like Breaking Bad and The Killing.
"The four years I spent on Love/Hate were very special. It came at the right time, the actors were all hungry for a break. As the character started to form, it all became very organic. Nobody knew what was going to happen with it."
From The Liberties in Dublin, Laurence (32) shot to national fame playing the hapless henchman Elmo on Love/Hate, but he's been acting on stage and screen since he was a teenager. With appearances in Angela's Ashes, Veronica Guerin, Intermission and Breakfast On Pluto, he was a stalwart on the Irish acting scene long before Love/Hate's writer Stuart Carolan came a-calling. Married to Charlene, they have two children, Oren (8) and one-year-old Ollie. Laurence is starring alongside Adrian Dunbar in Conor McPherson's The Night Alive, which runs until October 4 at the Gaiety Theatre.
"I can't pick a favourite between theatre, film and TV," Laurence says. "I only got in to stage work about five or six years after I started acting, but I genuinely love it. My preference for one medium over another changes for different reasons; you do theatre and don't get paid as much, but then you do film and you remember why you like being on stage, hearing what an audience thinks straight away. That's why I like mixing it up."
His character in The Night Alive, Doc, is "a bit of a dope" in Laurence's own words. "It's funny, and not that much of a stretch!" he laughs. "It's a play about people essentially trying to find themselves, to find normality in their lives. It's about ordinary people, and the language is simple but it's also really poetic. I'm really enjoying the rehearsals."
Elmo was one of the few characters that didn't bite the bullet during Love/Hate's five-season run, something he's proud of.
"I talked Stuart out of killing me off actually, a couple of years back. He told me he had a great storyline, so I went over to his house to talk about it. He said he was going to kill Elmo off, but it would be great! For selfish reasons I obviously didn't want my character to die, so we sat down and came up with something different."
Impressive powers of persuasion perhaps, on Laurence's part? After all, wielding the axe on the characters was one of Carolan's most impressive and powerful tools. "He never used it as a power thing - for actors it's so selfish to want to stay, because often it's so right to get rid of the character. It's nothing personal, it's just the right thing to do. That's what made the show amazing, not being afraid of getting rid of main characters - just like in Game Of Thrones. You want the audience to be like 'holy f***!'.
Laurence is happily married with two children. When we meet, he's just back from a weekend at Electric Picnic and feeling the effects. "It's funny when people ask about married life because it's exactly the same! Charlene and I were living together for a long time beforehand, and we had Oren. Nothing really changes."
However, the Love/Hate juggernaut meant Laurence wasn't present at his second son's birth. "He was born on the first day of filming on season five. We were out in Ballymun, so I missed it. It's grand though, I saw the first one," he deadpans.
Laurence has resigned himself to the fact the show that made him a household name won't be back, and instead is focussing on future projects. One of his career highlights thus far was working with the late Heath Ledger on historical movie Ned Kelly.
"I remember acting with him, and going: 'What the hell is he doing?' It was so quiet and understated, I thought it was so weird. Then I saw it on screen and went: 'Ahh, that's what he was doing.'"
Ian Lloyd Anderson
A jobbing actor before Love/Hate came along, it's all kicked off for Ian who has landed roles at the Abbey and Gaiety theatres as well as on TV since he rose to fame as double-crossing Deano. In the end, he met his maker when Fran took a pipe to his head for switching allegiance to Nidge. Ian (28) from Baldoyle in Dublin, celebrated his marriage to long-term love Kim earlier this year. At the Dublin Theatre Festival, he also stars in The Night Alive.
"In some ways it would be great if the show came back, but I think I'd be sick knowing all the lads were back together and I wasn't there! I remember finishing season four and going for a few pints after filming. Stuart made some kind of comment at the end of the night about killing me off in the next series, and I remember saying to Peter [Coonan] when we were walking home, 'I think I'm for the chop'. Peter told me that I mustn't have heard him properly. It was tough. But you can't be sentimental about it."
Ian wed Kim, a school vice principal, last April. "Nothing much has changed, it just kind of feels like I'm a man now," he laughs. "I like wearing the ring, I'm very proud of it. She's my rock."
Now starring opposite Laurence in The Night Alive, Ian is delighted to have a big scene with his former co-star. "Even though he and I did readings and auditions together in the past, we never actually worked together. Even in Love/Hate we only crossed paths when he knocked the crap out of me a couple of times. In this, we have a meaty scene together."
Recently, Ian appeared on Game Of Thrones as a guard of the Night's Watch. "It was a great experience, but I won't be holding my breath waiting to go back again. The budget was so massive, and there are more people but the fundamentals are the same as any show. With Love/Hate though, that was just one guy writing it, which makes it even more impressive."
For Ian, a career as an actor just sort of happened. "There wasn't really anything else I was very good at, this is what I want to do. Then I realised, oh, you can actually make a living from doing it! It's funny, I always try and play it down because at the end of the day it's just a job. I came straight out of school, went to drama school for two years and then have just been doing plays ever since. But working with Colm McPherson is a sort of pinch-yourself moment, he's one of the best contemporary playwrights in the entire world."
For information and to book tickets, see dublintheatrefestival.com