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The really Young Offenders

Nappy days for twins Nola and Penny as tots have series fans laughing at their show antics

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Cute: Actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley on set with the girls

Cute: Actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley on set with the girls

Cute: Actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley on set with the girls

She's the little baby who had the nation in stitches when she accompanied the Young Offenders on a heist to rob flat-screen TVs.

But the tot who's become the show's new star is actually played by identical twin girls - and their funny expressions on screen have endeared them to fans of the show.

Penny and Nola Richardson took turns playing Jock's new daughter Star on set, meaning filmmakers could have double the fun with their newest characters.

Now the toddlers have become local celebrities in their native West Cork, while their debut in the new series last weekend has made them social media stars thanks to their hilarious reaction shots.

"The text messages were flying in and we got a load of messages on social media when people first saw the girls on the screen," said mum Randa, who along with their dad Gareth, is a huge fan of the show.

The girls were particularly hilarious in their reaction shots captured by show creator Peter Foott. At one point one of the girls scowls at the show's resident troublemaker Billy Murphy, while another grins in glee as they set off on their heist in the van.

"The reaction was brilliant. Absolutely everybody was commenting on their expressions for each scene.

Cheeky

"Obviously that's editing at its best but everybody thought it was hilarious," said Randa.

"You see Nola in the back of the van during the heist with her cheeky little grin. At one stage Penny screws up her nose and looks at Billy in a judgemental way. She does that to people all the time!" she laughed.

The girls are set to feature throughout the third series, which has become a smash hit on its prime-time RTE One slot on Friday nights. They're the newest faces on the show, which has been a global success, joining existing cast members including Alex Murphy, Chris Walley and Hilary Rose.

With a lack of new programming due to the pandemic, the new series looks set to be a ratings winner for RTE, with a whopping 413,000 people tuning in to see the first episode. It proved particularly popular with 15-34 year olds, with 49 per cent of this total available audience tuning in.

The first episode saw Star, the daughter of teenage couple Jock and girlfriend Siobhan (Jennifer Barry) accompany Jock, Conor and Billy on a heist to rob a van full of flat-screen TVs. Nola and Penny, both from Drimoleague in West Cork, featured in alternate scenes. This weekend's episode saw Jock and Conor have a face-off with their nemesis, sergeant Healy.

Mum Randa said she "thought it would be hilarious" when she heard the idea about the heist, but asked producers not to reveal too much of the plot as she wanted to enjoy it on screen. "They would tell me what was going on and I would stop them. I'm a big fan of the show and I didn't want to know too much."

The twins, now 19 months old, were eight months when the series shot on the streets of Cork last summer. The series wasn't something the family was looking to do, but they were tagged by a friend on Facebook when producers posted that they were looking for twins.

"I told some mums of twins I know and applied myself. We went to be interviewed and later we got a phone call.

"When we got the phone call I thought it was a friend joking around with me. I was over the moon, the babies were asleep and the husband was out for a walk, I was dying to tell someone.

"Their filming was over the course of six weeks but maybe twenty days in total. The girls really liked Chris and Alex, the lads were really, really good with them."

Scan

While Randa loved being on set with the girls, she says she was "in mammy mode" most of the time to make sure the girls were content and happy.

Randa and Gareth had no idea they were expecting twins as their first arrivals. "They were a total surprise, we only found out when we had our first scan. It was a shock at first, but it was amazing, we still pinch ourselves.

"Nola is cheeky, she's a jobs woman - she always want to be doing something. Penny is absolutely very chilled and they're both very sociable and confident babies.

"Having been on set, it was just nice to see passers-by watching and smiling and coming up to say hi to the lads. It really shows Cork well.

"It feels like a wonderful thing that they can look back on when they're older."

Cork filmmaker Peter Foott, who created the original Young Offenders movie before developing it into a spin-off series, has been snapped up for a new comedy by Disney+.

Characters

Foott will rework and direct Spooked, a movie about a group of Halloween trick or treaters who turn into the characters they dress up as.

You can follow the Richardson family on Instagram @thetwirlsandme.

Irish Independent