‘As I get older and more confident I trust myself more’

Smother star Dervla Kirwan tells Eugene Masterson about filming the second season of the drama, why she’s proud to be related to Michael Collins and how she keeps her youthful looks
Dervla Kirwan plays Val Ahern in Smother, which returns for a second season next Sunday

Dervla Kirwan plays Val Ahern in Smother, which returns for a second season next Sunday

Dervla Kirwan with her on-screen daughters Seána Kerslake and Niamh Walsh in Smother

Dervla Kirwan with her on-screen daughters Seána Kerslake and Niamh Walsh in Smother

Dervla says she’s proud to be related to Michael Collins

Dervla says she’s proud to be related to Michael Collins

A youthful looking Dervla Kirwan is on the other end of a zoom camera in her home in Hampshire, appearing fantastic for a lady who has just recently in October turned 50.

“I can’t feel any different,” she replies in her smooh sweet voice, the renowned one Marks and Spencer TV cleverly choose to use in their commercials.

“Look maybe I’m in denial but I feel more energised, more enthusiastic and more confident, more optimistic than I did when I was 25 and I think that’s the great thing about getting older, you begin to trust yourself a lot more

“Life knocks you about a bit and you know that you can bounce back and that reservoir of experiences is a ballast. You get to 50 and you go ‘ok I think I can pretty much cope with anything that’s thrown at me’ and of course now I’m praying to God and saying ‘hubris is a terrible thing, please don’t test that’ (laughs).

“But no, I feel pretty good. I had a very very low-key birthday, obviously ‘cos its Covid. It was the complete family, and some colleagues I was working with at the time and that was it.”

She’s then asked how she looks younger than her years.

“This is funny. I do think I had a little bit of an age meltdown because I realised when I was away (filming of the second RTÉ series of Smother) - ‘I’m going to show you this- (she reaches for a box) -I realised I came back and I bought like loads of face creams, obviously,” she smirks.

“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t take drugs. I live a very healthy lifestyle and I looked after my skin, let’s put it that way,” she said, heavily winking at the camera.

Dervla says she’s proud to be related to Michael Collins

Dervla says she’s proud to be related to Michael Collins

She is diplomatic about the subject of whether she’s ever had Botox.

“I think Botox is like colouring your hair. Whoever wants to do it, you do what you want, but no comment,” she adds with a laugh.

Dubliner Dervla lives in her English countryside home with her actor husband Rupert Penry-Jones and their two teenage children Peter and Florence, who she notes have had to change their lives due to the pandemic.

“I think kids are great, they adapt rapidly to their situation,” she stresses. “

“They’re frustrated. They got Covid in the Summer. They bounced back pretty well. Ten days wasn’t great but they bounced back.

“I didn’t get it. I’ve been vaccinated and I feel very fortunate I haven’t caught it.”

With the Omicron variant now in full flow Dervla is realistic about the future.

“I just think we have to get on with it,” she insists. “I don’t think they should be ramping up the fear-mongering. I think they should be having a much more realistic calming approach to it. Less fear.”

Dervla gets all gooey-eyed when she hears my new pet bichon frise puppy Hudson is being a bit of a distraction and asks to see him.

“Oh, he’s gorgeous,” she exclaims. “I have to show you my dog. I think he’s gone for a walk.”

She jumps off her seat and calls his name, which sound something like Ruffles, but to no avail.

“He’s gone for a walk. He’s a white fluffy, gorgeous dog. I’m crazy about animals.

“My dog Blue died tragically during series 2. That was horrendous. But he was very old, he was a beautiful border collie, we had been with me for 16 years. That was terrible. I don’t understand people who don’t love dogs or cats, I just don’t get it - I mean they add so much to your life.”

Dervla is here today though to talk about the new second series of Smother, which starts this Sunday on RTÉ 1.

When the first season ended earlier this year we saw Dervla’s matriarchal character Val Ahern finish her relationship with her Danish boyfriend Carl and concentrate on her three daughters.

Her complicated family tree saw her having daughter Jenny before she met husband Denis, who had daughter Anna from a different relationship. They had one daughter together, Grace.

Dervla Kirwan with her on-screen daughters Seána Kerslake and Niamh Walsh in Smother

Dervla Kirwan with her on-screen daughters Seána Kerslake and Niamh Walsh in Smother

Denis was murdered in the first episode, by Alanna, with Rory (who was married to Anna) – who later died from cancer – becoming the fall guy in order to stop Alanna (who was Rory’s first wife and mother of their two children) from going to prison.

Still picking up the pieces after the death of Denis and the cover up that followed, Val’s world is rocked once again when a stranger turns up on her doorstep. The stranger introduces himself as Finn - Denis’ estranged son, and his existence is an unwelcome surprise for the family.

Abandoned to grow up in foster care in Britain, Finn wants to get to know his family but his appearance coincides with what seems to be an orchestrated campaign against the family, as each of the Ahern daughters has their lives targeted and exposed.

As Val’s daughters, initially hostile towards Finn, start to warm to him and invite him into their clan, conflict between the girls and Val ensues.

Viewers will also see a bloodied flashback scene in the Ahern home at the start of the new series, which could give a clue as to the mayhem that followed.

“All is not what it seems. But it’s going to be quite shocking I think,” Dervla confirms.

The series is filmed around Lahinch in Co Clare and Dervla chortles when it’s pointed out that with a murder in series one and possibly another in the second batch that the sleepy west of Ireland haven is turning out to be competition for Midsomer Murders.

“Lahinch – ‘welcome to Lahinch, inhabitants 2,299 …today’. Someone had a brilliant name, ‘Lahinch mob’, I thought that was brilliant,” she exclaims.

Dervla was extra cautious while shooing the new series earlier last year and stayed in her own little bubble.

“I was really observing,” she reveals. “I felt that if I got it it would really have a very negative effect on the whole filming schedule, because obviously I would have had a sort of two-week recuperation process

“I walked every day. I wasn’t able to go to a gym. There was nothing open anyhow. So, I just worked. I couldn’t get back (to England). There was nothing I could do except just be there and concentrate on the job in hand, that’s what I had to focus on.”

She got to see her family in Churchtown in Dublin while she was here, and as a great grandniece of Michael Collins she tells a humorous tale about once visiting the location of his assassination near Béal na Bláth in Co Cork (the 100th anniversary of his death is next year).

While shooting the Neil Jordan directed film Ondine in Co Cork in 2008 her driver decided to stop off at the ambush site.

“I didn’t tell him that I was related to Michael Collins, because you just don’t know with people,” she recollects. “It turned out he was a massive fan. But I never told him. It must have been a specific day, a birthday or an anniversary. This guy then got very friendly and proceeded to tell me he had 19 pints the night before and he was driving like a lunatic. I was just thinking ‘this is it, I am never going to see my family again’, but we got there anyway. But I’m very proud of that connection.”

The frailty of life makes her ponder when asked if she’s religious.

“I’m trying to figure it out babes,” she chuckles. “I’m really trying to figure it all out. I’d say like a lot of Catholics I’m not a very good Catholic (smirks). But I’d love to figure it out before I die, what all this experience is.”

She reflects more when put to her that maybe she is an ‘a la carte Catholic’, in picking and choosing what she wants to suit herself.

“I think I probably burnt the menu a long time ago,” she playfully retorts. “That just doesn’t work for me, but I don’t want to be disrespectful, to anyone’s religious point of view. But there’s got to be something else to it, and I do firmly believe that there’s something else.”

  • Series 2 of Smother starts on Sunday January 9th 9:30pm RTÉ One and RTÉ Player - the series runs for 6 weeks until February 13th. Series 1 of Smother is available on RTÉ Player

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