Happy St. Patrick’s Day week! I’ve always felt, as someone with absolutely no Irish heritage or genetics, that I shouldn’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. But that’s no fun! So I’ll celebrate the way I celebrate every other occasion in my life: by watching the best British TV I can find. And this week my British/Irish TV viewing is all about its Irish actors and actresses!
Chris O’Dowd. Birthplace: Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland.
Oh, Chris O’Dowd, let me count the ways I love you. For being the only watchable person in the (way too long, as are all of Judd Apatow’s movies) movie Bridesmaids? For your role in The IT Crowd? Oh, for my money, your role as creator and co-star in perhaps one of the best programs ever to come out of the UK: Moone Boy (loosely based on your own Irish childhood)? Yes, I most definitely love you for Moone Boy:
Bonus points for Moone Boy for also starring Irish actor David Rawle as Martin Moone, as well as the spectacular Deirdre O’Kane and Peter McDonald as his parents.
Maria Doyle Kennedy. Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland.
Have you ever seen the movie The Commitments? No? Okay, go do that. It’s a fabulous movie, complete with awesome soul music, and it’s based on the novel by Roddy Doyle. This alone would fulfill your Irish viewing requirements for the week.
But the other thing about The Commitments is that one of its main actresses is Maria Doyle Kennedy, who is gorgeous, and can sing. And she can act; if you have any doubts on that score, check her out in the not-at-all-historically accurate program The Tudors, where she holds the screen as Henry VIII’s often overlooked first wife Queen Catherine of Aragon:
That’s a blooper reel but you get the idea. The Tudors is loaded with Irish street cred; its other stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (birthplace: Dublin, Ireland) and Sam Neill (birthplace: Omagh, Northern Ireland, although his parents are from New Zealand) are also Irish.
Michael Fassbender. Birthplace: Germany, but he was raised in Killarney, County Kerry, and has an Irish mother.
I’m not actually a huge fan of The Fass, as a friend of mine calls him, and he’s more known for his film career (including “The Light Between Oceans” and “X Men: First Class”), but he’s also done some work in British TV, including a 4-episode role on the drama Murphy’s Law (starring James Nesbitt, another Irishman):
Okay, by rights, I should just have listed James Nesbitt as the Irish actor I wanted to highlight, but Fassbender’s the bigger name. As long as we’re on the subject of Nesbitt, though, you should know that he was a favorite character of mine on Ballykissangel, when he was doomed to play second fiddle as Assumpta’s boyfriend (although she was actually in love with her parish priest, Father Peter Clifford). He was also a key part of the very popular drama Cold Feet, a new series of which recently aired in the UK.
Ciaran Hinds. Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland.
I still don’t know how to pronounce his first name (okay, evidently it’s “Keeran,” thanks, IMDB.com), but I find it hard to look away from Ciaran Hinds, whenever he turns up on TV series or in literary adaptations, which is surprisingly frequently. One notable turn was his role in the 2009 police drama Above Suspicion (based on novels by Lynda La Plante, who was also the writer behind Prime Suspect). Huh–I see from his filmography that he’s also been in Shetland, a police drama I’ve not yet seen, and that he also plays Mance Rayder in the series Game of Thrones. He’s keeping busy!
But I’ll always love him most for his turn as the definitive (in my mind) turn as Frederick Wentworth in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Sinead Cusack. Birthplace: Dalkey, Ireland.
Has earned her spot on this list entirely due to her mesmerizing turn as John Thornton’s Iron Mama in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, although she’s been in a ton of other things (including Marcella, which I really want to see). Wow, was she good.
Don’t see your favorite Irish star? Tune in on Thursday for five more must-see Irish actors and actresses!