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Father Ted stars Ardal O’Hanlon and Pauline McLynn play husband and wife in new TV show

He admits it can be intense to play someone who’s drunk all the time.

Ardal O'Hanlon with actress Sheridan Smith

Ardal and Pauline in the new show

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Ardal O’Hanlon claims the reason booze plays an important part in his new TV series he reunites with Pauline McLynn in because it’s so endemic in our culture.

“It’s so normal so when I’m playing that role, I don’t even think it’s extreme,” says Ardal of his character Conall Molloy in Sky TV show Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything.

"You see it every day around you, every family has people like Rosie and Conall. It’s just so acceptable. Every celebration is soaked in alcohol and every time you’re down, you medicate with alcohol. It’s a huge part of the social fabric of Ireland and Britain, it has been for years.

“We could talk about geography, we could talk about climate, we could talk about centuries of oppression, but Conall does not see it as a problem. I don’t think he could ever be convinced that he has a problem, which is classic denial.”

Rosie, played by Sheridan Smith, is Conall’s daughter in the new series.

Pauline McLynn and Sheridan Smith. Photo: courtesy of Sky

“My favourite thing about being Conall is not even what he says, just the way he gazes at Rosie in adoration. Rosie is the apple of his eye but she’s high functioning and it takes her an awfully long time for the penny to drop,” he stresses.

“For the most part, we were drinking non-alcoholic Guinness, which I’ve learned is a lovely product,” he smiles. “It’s almost like the real thing and so I quite enjoyed that, because with the taste you felt like you’re drinking. You have the smell of the pub as well, which helps to set the scene. Also, there’s a placebo effect to drinking.

“ I know this from a play I did a few years ago called The Weir, which is another alcohol-soaked production. My character drank non-alcoholic pints and shots steadily throughout, and by the end of the play, I was slightly tipsy. It’s not a huge stretch then to act drunk when you’ve been drinking stuff that looks like a real drink.”

He admits it can be intense to play someone who’s drunk all the time.

“It’s an incredible commitment,” he confirms. “You do invest very heavily in these parts on stage. It’s a bit different in TV because you’re in and out doing scenes here and there over a period of weeks. But let’s not forget this is a comedy.”

Ardal and Pauline star alongside Sheridan Smith, who plays their daughter in the new series and the Monaghan actor stresses camaraderie was great on set.

“It was a very warm, happy set with a lot of room for fun,” he beams. “On most sets you go to, there’s always some big problem, whether it’s beyond your control, like Covid or whether it’s bad behaviour but this ran so smoothly. That’s attributed to the director David and the producer Sarah. They all fostered this positive mentality.”

Ardal and Pauline in the new show

The series is about Manchester girl, Rosie Molloy, who is addicted to everything - smoking, alcohol, Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, Xanax, Adderall, caffeine... the list goes on.

After an embarrassing incident at her brother Joey’s wedding Rosie wakes up in hospital and decides to change her life by ‘Giving Up Everything’.

But as Rosie juggles her father Conall’s illness, with a dawning realisation that her addictions are destroying her friendships, family and work life, she also starts to question that by giving up everything - is she also giving up the very thing that makes her Rosie?

Ardal recalls how he got involved in the project.

“Some scenes were sent to me and I immediately responded “yes”. You see lots of stuff, and it’s fine. you think, “yeah, I could do something with that”, but this was ready-made,” he recollects.

“It was funny in a very edgy way. Scenes where they had a lot of charm about them. I’m playing the common character, playing Rosie’s dad and with the best will in the world, a lot of dad roles are fairly generic. But this one wasn’t even though he’s a secondary character. He had his own story. “

He then realised Pauline was to be his partner in the show.

“That was just before we started rehearsing,” he explains. “My agent let that slip and my first instinct was to laugh. I thought it was hilarious on many levels.

“ I’m very friendly with Pauline, but we don’t see much of each other. So apart from anything else, I was looking forward to seeing her and hanging out with her again after so long. It’s a good match in terms of doing scenes with Pauline.

"It makes sense to cast us together because we have this familiarity and we can be prickly with each other. We know each other that well, going way back, so we have this shorthand. We can take the piss out of each other so I think that all translates quite well to playing husband and wife roles. “

As for his character: “Conall is Rosie’s dad and he also reckons that they’re best friends as well, or they’re very close friends. They confide in each other. He’s possibly not the best role model in the world for Rosie.

"He’s got his own issues to deal with but I think his instinct at all times is to have fun. That’s his coping mechanism. The family has had a trauma in the past and they’ve never dealt with it. His way of dealing with whatever life throws at them, generally, is to drink more.

“So, he never takes anything seriously. Deep down he’s probably in great pain, great psychological pain, but on the surface, he just enjoys life. He drinks, smokes, eats, and he does all the things that Rosie does. It’s not as obviously destructive as Rosie but he doesn’t do himself any favours. We get a sense of the roots of Rosie’s issues through the relationship with her parents.”

Pauline enthuses is was wonderful to work with Ardal nearly a quarter of a century after the pair played their much-loved roles as Fr Dougal and Mrs Doyle on Father Ted.

“I keep saying to him, “Are you sure you don’t have some sort of court order?”,” she giggles.

“But I have seen Ardal over the last 25 years, either socially or gigging or whatever, and here we are now as husband and wife.

We’d say, “Is that who we are now? Someone’s elderly parents?” which in our heads, we are still the youngsters from 25-plus years ago. It was wonderful; some good friends that you don’t see from one year to another, but we didn’t need to have much of a catch up. We continue from where we find ourselves and it was like that for us.”

She loved working with Sheridan.

“I once played her mother,” she reveals. “Sheridan was 17 and I was her TV mother in a show that only got one very short series. It was called Dark Ages for ITV.

"She will always be 17 to me which kept me a little bit young in my heart as well while we were on the set. If they’re still the same joyous person they were when you met them first, then that’s who they’ll always be to you. So it was nice to pick up almost where we left off in a new, funny and touching series. “

Asked how the series presents or interrogates the inherited ways we cope with trauma, she replies: “People will make up their minds about how much of Rosie’s problems with addiction are inherited. Because there’s two schools of thought: Does it run through a family or can you become an addict? There is a certain thing nurtured by her father. He almost welcomes her too readily into his culture of going out for pints every night.

"But he’s a retired man and Rosie has a career to look after. It’s a very muddled thing, the way things happen in families like that.

"I think it will help people a lot to see both kinds of addiction being portrayed in a series that also has such wonderful comedy in it. If you can make people laugh, then you’ve opened a conversation with them and put them at ease with a series that won’t pummel the message.”

  • Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything starts on Sky on December 7

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