Bondings, Andrea Smith - Hail Caroline, full of grace
Caroline Grace-Cassidy and her husband Kevin Cassidy met at college, and have laughed together ever since.
Setting up the picture you see of Caroline Grace-Cassidy and her husband Kevin Cassidy proves to be a pantomime, as both are extremely funny. As their office is based in the Jesuit-owned Milltown Park, by the time we wander back in from taking the shot in the gorgeous grounds, we're all exhausted from laughing.
"The best thing about Caroline is how much fun she is," says Kevin. "There is always laughter in the house, as she's never in a bad mood whereas I storm up to my room after a long day. She gets that from her dad, as they are always positive, no matter what is going on.
Caroline comes in the middle of Robert and Noeleen Grace's three children, and she grew up in Knocklyon in Dublin. She had a pony, and spent her time entering showjumping competitions. Her dad had his own roofing business, but he was music mad, and played guitar and sang in lots of showbands, including Skid Row with Brush Shiels.
Caroline went on to do a broadcasting journalism diploma course at Senior College, Ballyfermot, which she loved, and then did three years of drama studies at Inchicore College. She worked as an assistant to theatre producer Michael Scott for three years, and with various TV and theatre production companies, as well as taking on acting roles, including the part of Aoife Coleman on Fair City.
"When I became pregnant, I felt like I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do, so I decided to write a book," she says. "Kevin thought that it was just a little project that I would give up, but I was writing up to 5,000 words per day. It was just spilling out so I guess it was always in there"
Caroline came runner-up in a competition to write a bestseller, and was given a three-book deal by Poolbeg. She has just released her third book, I Always Knew, which was launched by Maia Dunphy. It's the story of a girl who meets her ex-boyfriend again, when she is now in another relationship, and it's a fantastic, moving and engaging tale.
"It was a huge kick for me when Caroline wrote the first book," says Kevin. "I was so proud of her because she didn't wait for someone to give her work, she just sat down and did it."
While she is a regular panellist on TV3's Midday, and will be a writer on the channel's new soap, Red Rock, Caroline also set up all-female TV and film production company Smart Blondes with fellow actresses Sorcha Furlong, Sarah Flood and Elaine O'Connor.
"We wrote and shot a short film, Princess Rehab, and sent it into the Galway Film Festival, and it was selected, which is brilliant," says Caroline. "Then we wrote, I am Jesus, and that premiered in Galway and is going to the San Francisco Film Festival next week. We have also written a four-part TV drama called RTC."
Kevin was born in Derry, and is the eldest of Peter and Angela's four children. His parents separated 15 years ago, but they had moved to Portarlington when Kevin was four, where they ran a pub. Then they moved to Dublin, ending up in Knocklyon, and at one stage, Kevin recalls being in four different schools in one year. "I was constantly the new guy trying to make friends," he says.
He also went to college in Ballyfermot and also did broadcasting journalism, which is where he met Caroline. "She was always very funny and was probably the most popular girl in the class," he says. "We had a flirty love/hate relationship. I made a funny comment about Caroline in front of the class and she was like, 'Shut up, you!' We were both going out with other people, but broke up with them in second year. We went to a friend's 21st and ended up getting together, and that was 22 years ago."
And what attracted Caroline to Kevin? "He was so out there," she says. "Everyone loved Kevin as he was very funny, and, ultimately, I am attracted to humour. He wasn't too bad-looking either. We sparked off each other for a while, then I had a few pints and hopped on him at the party. It got very serious very quickly, and he was the first boyfriend that my dad liked, which was really important to me. Kevin is exceptionally loyal, but he doesn't suffer fools either. His worst trait is that he's too tidy!"
Now both 40, Caroline and Kevin were married on New Year's Eve 2006, booking out the Zetland Country House in Connemara for three days. The chatty pair have two daughters, Grace, 7, and Maggie, 3. "I kept my name and took Kevin's so I am Caroline Grace-Cassidy," says the writer. "I loved the name Grace for a girl and the kids are just Cassidy, but everyone gets confused and thinks our daughter is Grace Grace-Cassidy."
Kevin went on to study in the training centre in RTE, and worked as a director's PA for nearly 10 years. He went out on his own four years and set up The Park Studio in Ranelagh, a one-stop shop for production, crewing, casting and training. They make TV, video and commercials, and have worked with the BBC, RTE, TV3, Channel 4, TG4, Channel 5 and the independent sector. They have also set up a sister film production company, Park Pictures. They produced Smart Blondes' films, and Caroline and Kevin say that working together went very well.
As self-employed creative types with two children, life can be challenging, particularly with the downturn in the film industry.
"Over the past few years, Caroline was writing, I was running a studio, trying to get bookings and doing training courses," says Kevin. "I have to safeguard my daughters for the next 20 years, so these businesses have to be a success, which is a lot of pressure, but I love what we do and that's a great thrill. It's an unconventional industry, but if it is in you and you really want to do something, it is always possible."
I Always Knew, by Caroline Grace-Cassidy, is out now. Poolbeg, €8.99