Saturday 16 December 2017

There is life after death for Gemma

Gemma Doorly tells Andrea Byrne there are many positives to her Fair City character being bumped off

Andrea Byrne

'It was put to me, and I was quite happy with it. I was getting a little bit, what's the word, maybe just not as interested in it as I had been," says pretty actress Gemma Doorly, explaining her shock departure from Fair City after a decade (almost to the day) with the popular soap.

"You have to be at the top of your game in there. You have to be on the ball, and I think I definitely took the foot off the pedal," she admits candidly.

As Sarah O'Leary, Gemma has enjoyed some juicy storylines -- particularly that of the resident man-magnet. "She has snogged half of Carrigstown," Gemma laughs.

At least, the end of her 10-year tenure is being marked with some serious drama.

Tonight sees Barry, who is the subject of a vicious rumour campaign, accidentally kill Sarah. Explaining, Gemma says, "I am defending Barry, because he's my friend, and he was really good to me, (he) got me a job in the newspaper. It is very well written, because it is just a slip of the tongue. I say something I shouldn't to Vivienne, and then it gets back to him and the whole thing explodes. I am kind of responsible, so in a way I betrayed him, but by accident. I have to come clean about it, in the end, he is just so stressed out by the situation. We have an argument, there is a bit of a tussle. I accidentally fall, bang my head. That's it. I am dead," she smiles as she relays her last scene on the soap.

"It was sad but they had a lovely send-off for me."

The said "send-off" started in the famous Donnybrook watering hole Kielys and finished much later on in celebrity nightclub The Pink.

Was there a part of her that wished the writers hadn't killed her, allowing a possible comeback in the future?

"Honest to God, no," she says in a way that makes you believe her. "I was kind of glad that I was killed because I think there would be a tendency to maybe sit by the phone, whereas this way, it is a clean break."

Clean break though it may be, does the instability of not having a weekly wage frighten her?

"It is (frightening), but that's the nature of the beast. I was a bit of an exception in that I had a regular job for 10 years, most of my friends from college have been jobbing actors the whole time. So it's actually more normal not to have a regular job -- I will just have to get used to it. In terms of the instability, I think that is what attracts you to it in the first place. It's very exciting, once you're sensible about it."

With her father and sister accountants, she has learned to be good with money, although her parsimony certainly hasn't made her forsake style. Today she looks very Betty Draper in a floral white-and-blue hourglass dress and pointy black midi-heeled stilettos

"Dunnes!", she announces proudly as to their origins. "I was in Penneys the other day and they have the most gorgeous little summer dresses. You can so do it on a budget".

Born in Rathgar, Dublin, Gemma, who is the second youngest of four children, was always destined for life as an actress, having requested from a very early age to join the Betty Norton Theatre School.

"I was one of those annoying children who always wanted to act." As a child, she also appeared in many TV adverts.

Her career is not solely defined by Fair City. In 2007, she received an IFTA for A Song for Rebecca, and one of the many positives to come from her departure is that she is now free to explore other avenues of acting, perhaps even, in other countries.

"I would love to do more TV, more film, but I'd love to get my teeth into something different. I want to get out there and work. I haven't been out long enough to know what the lie of the land is like, I don't know if there is enough work here. I may have to leave like so many people. I'll see what happens. I might be lucky".

The relative ease with which she could leave Ireland is facilitated by the fact that Gemma is currently single. London, she tells me, is the most obvious and indeed appealing option for her should Ireland not work out.

"It's so near. I would jump at the chance to work over there. We'll see what happens".

Fair City is broadcast tonight at eight on RTE One

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