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We were pushing TV boundaries ages ago, says Eileen

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Actress Eileen Walsh. Picture: David Conachy

Actress Eileen Walsh. Picture: David Conachy

Actress Eileen Walsh. Picture: David Conachy

Cork actress Eileen Walsh thinks Pure Mule was one of the first Irish dramas to push boundaries when it came to depicting sex on the small screen.

She remembers the award-winning series becoming a water-cooler moment with edgy storylines including drug-taking and a threesome in the back of a car.

The London-based mother-of-two said its gritty portrayal of midlands life was a revelation for its young audience.

"It's lovely it's getting a second airing because people talk about it being a point in their lives where they saw and they felt like they saw their own lives for the first time."

The beautifully shot drama swept the boards at the national film awards in 2006, but controversy also erupted.

Eileen said: "I remember there being lots of drama about the sex before marriage, people doing drugs or just talking about doing drugs.

"Then there was uproar about somebody who got into the car and didn't put a seatbelt on and that got loads of letters of complaint. It was such a different time.

"For the time, it was so refreshing to see the real Ireland projected back on people's screens. Also they weren't just shown as being country bumpkins."

She said Pure Mule pushed boundaries on nudity and sex scenes when it aired in 2005.

"There was a little bit of nudity, I know there was for me and I know some of the sex scenes were slightly more adventurous than they would have been on TV before then.

"Eugene [O'Brien] was at a great age writing it as well. I think Channel 4 had some input in the early days of it which gave him great backbone then taking it to RTE. Knowing Channel 4 had been interested gave RTE a bit of a spur on that it was time to start pushing boundaries a bit."

She said the Liveline furore over the airing of love scenes in Normal People reminded her of the Pure Mule controversy.

"Ireland has changed so much with divorce and the referendum and the equal marriage act and yet it just takes a small little telly show to come on and people are up in arms at a bit of sex," said Eileen.

But she is glad to see intimacy directors on sets in 2020. "I think intimacy directors are important so that the issue of consent is always spoken about.

"I think sometimes particularly for younger actors, male as well as female, feel compelled to have to do it to keep the job and that the price of youth is often paid for in flesh.

"There is a beauty in our nudity, which is totally fine, but I think there are also times when it is taken advantage of for ratings."

Eileen also spoke of the joy of starring in Catastrophe as Sharon Horgan's outrageous childhood pal, Kate.

"We had such a good time playing it. I adored every minute of it. I loved getting the call. You just knew it was going to be great craic."

But her two young daughters aren't such big fans of the outrageous character. She said: "My kids are often going, 'will you ever play someone who is not drunk?' So Pure Mule would be a good one for them to see. She's a nice girl, actually."

Lockdown has postponed filming on her new movie, Wolf, but Eileen is hoping she will be able to appear in a leading role in Macbeth in the Gate Theatre in September.

She said: "I am keeping everything crossed because that is a real passion project. But who knows, theatre is struggling so hard right now.

"It's such a slog throughout. Anyone in the creative line is feeling that but the Irish Government have been doing loads compared to what is happening over here for UK actors.

"I hope they continue to and support theatres because film and TV will always bounce back."

'Pure Mule', RTE One this Thursday at 10.30pm.

Sunday Independent