Sunday 16 June 2019

Happily, it all turned out grand for Tara and Carl

Tara Flynn met her Californian husband Carl Austin in London and now he writes for the RTE soap Fair City

Comedian, writer and actress Tara Flynn says that Fair City scriptwriter Carl Austin keeps her grounded and calm when she is stressed: Photo: David Conachy
Comedian, writer and actress Tara Flynn says that Fair City scriptwriter Carl Austin keeps her grounded and calm when she is stressed: Photo: David Conachy

Andrea Smith

When writer Carl Austin fell for actress and comedian Tara Flynn in The Phoenix Club in London in 2008, he was on a bad date - with someone else. It was late at night, and while Carl was at the bar getting the drinks in, the girl he came with was up dancing on the table.

"The barman introduced us, and when I said I was on a date, Tara replied, 'And how's that going for you?' says Carl, 46, amused that she had spotted that his evening wasn't exactly a meeting of minds. "I liked her feistiness and wanted to keep talking. Tara is incredibly funny and beautiful, and there was something between us the moment we met."

Tara, 45, thought Carl was very handsome, but she had been on a few bad dates, and was "so over" romance. Nonetheless, she and Carl wound up exchanging phone numbers, but when she thought about it afterwards, she talked herself out of the spark of interest she had felt. "I realised that Carl was American and they date lots of people, and I didn't want to be another string to someone's bow," she says.

Carl therefore received a somewhat cool reception when he called her, but he persevered and asked her to dinner. They went to a lovely Greek restaurant, and when Tara discovered her wallet wasn't in her bag, she panicked. Carl went home with her and she was impressed at how calm he was. They eventually located it in her gym bag, and this first date proved a real indicator that Carl was special and different.

"He really cares about other people and has made me feel so loved," she says. "There was no doubt in my mind that I would marry him. He is incredibly bubbly and the most annoyingly friendly person you could meet."

By the time they met, Tara had realised she was past the point of wanting to have a family, and knew she had to broach that subject fairly early on. "I told Carl honestly that having children wasn't for me, and while it had been a deal-breaker for some people, I couldn't turn on that desire," she says. "Thankfully he was fine with it."

"By the time I got to 40, I felt I was doing okay without kids," Carl interjects. "So I didn't really see a reason to change that."

Not one to do things by halves, the colourful, funny pair were engaged nine months later, and had two weddings. At that time in England, non EU members had to apply for permission to marry an EU citizen, but the processing of their application got delayed. They had already booked everything and their friends were coming from all over the world, so they decided to have a vow and ring exchange ceremony themselves, which was conducted by their good friend, comedian Dara O'Briain.

"Dara was cracking all sorts of jokes and it was a great celebration," says Tara. "Technically we got married in Hackney Town Hall after the permit came through, which was also lovely."

Tara is from Kinsale in Cork, and her sister Sara is a sculptor. She went to UCC to study English and French, and then moved to Dublin. She still returns regularly to visit her parents, Noel and Mary.

Tara's career began with some voiceover work for RTE, along with acting in theatre and TV. She was a founding member of The Nualas, and regularly performs with Dublin Comedy Improv. She is in regular demand for voiceover work, and is the "no new messages" voice of the O2 mobile phone network.

Her hilarious first book, You're Grand: The Irish Woman's Secret Guide to Life, has just been printed, and she describes it as a comedy life guide from Irish women to the rest of the world.

"Irish women would never be so foolhardy as to trust in a good outcome in the first place," she says, in explaining the title. "We know that it actually doesn't matter whether things turn out good or bad, as either way we'll be grand."

Carl grew up in Inglewood, Los Angeles, and lived with his mother, Willie Louise, sister Jackie, grandmother and uncle. His dad John left the home quite early. His mom, uncle and grandma all died in 2005, within months of each other, which was very hard. He grew up in what he says was a bad neighbourhood - two blocks away from where the LA riots happened - but his mother was amazing and he had a happy childhood.

He went to college to study film, and worked as a cinema manager for 11 years, at one point managing the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He started writing for late Indian director Jag Mundhra's horror and erotic thriller movies, and later on Jag's issue-oriented Bollywood films. Carl moved to London in 2005, where he wrote for TV and film.

He and Tara loved living in London, but moved back to Dublin in 2010, where they share their lives with their cat, Buffy, and cocker spaniel dog, Oscar. Tara had bought a place here in 2004, and there were a few months when it wasn't letting, and as they were unable to sustain both London rent and an Irish mortgage, they had to choose.

"Luckily, Carl had been talking to Fair City, and he ended up getting work writing for the show," says Tara. "Juggling finances has been our biggest challenge as we have a fluctuating income, but we have got through it together. I am lucky to have Carl, as he grounds me and keeps me calm when I'm stressing."

After they moved here, Tara went on tour for a few months, so Carl had to figure out Dublin on his own. Sadly while in Kinsale, Carl was verbally abused on the street, which led to Tara making a satirical YouTube video, Racist B&B, about casual racism, which went viral and sparked huge debate. Aside from that, Carl loves writing for Fair City and has made lots of friends. "I love living in Dublin," he says. "Tara is the most generous person you will ever meet and she is also ten times funnier than me. Even if I have a bad day, I know I will always come home to her and have a laugh."

You're Grand: The Irish Woman's Secret Guide to Life is out now (Hachette, €12.99)

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