“I’d go into casting rooms and the casting director would be shocked, because they had never seen a black Irish person before”
Meath man Clinton Liberty starred opposite Paul Mescal in his breakthrough series Normal People, and also plays the main Garda detective in Graham Norton’s drama Holding.
“I remember just going to London and different places and I’d go into casting rooms and the casting director would be shocked, because they had never seen a black Irish person before,” he confirms.
“They usually expect the sort of UK black person, so it’s nice to show how much the country has progressed.
“Something I’m really proud of with shows like Normal People and now Holding is that Ireland is diversifying, its full of diversity and being able to show that onscreen because that tells the world how modern Ireland really is and what the society is about now.
“I remember coming out of drama school and I knew I didn’t want to go for stereotypical parts, I wanted to play Irish characters. Obviously, you want to play English and American’s, but the main characters I pursued and am still pursuing is playing Irish born and bred characters, and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do that in Normal People and now Holding.
“I feel like through my art and craft is show the world what Ireland is about, there’s no better feeling.”
While in the Lir drama academy in Dublin’s Trinity College Clinton got a preview of the star Paul Mescal would become.
“I’ve been Paul’s biggest fan since drama school, before Lieutenant of Inishmore, before Great Gatsby, before any of that,” he explains.
“I will never forget, I was sitting beside two of my closest friends in drama school and we were watching him, I was in first year and he was in third.
"I remember watching him in a play called Mojo and I was blown away. I saw it three times. I remember thinking to myself ‘this is the type of acting I want to do and that guy is going to be a star’.
"I went up to him at the end of the play and thanked him for the work he put into it. The world soon caught on to his stardom and his skill as an actor.”
He played one of Paul’s friends in Normal People.
“I always knew [it] was going to be a very good show, but it was perfect time in terms of lockdown because people needed something intimate to watch and something that was true to Ireland – the world was introduced to Ireland through Normal People,” he notes.
Clinton (24) plays a detective called Linus in Holding, which is set and filmed in west Cork.
“Filming in west Cork, in Drimoleague and Skibbereen was a dream come through because I’ve filmed in Ireland my whole life but I never had the opportunity to really explore west Cork and that gave me the opportunity. The people are so so lovely,” he beams.
The cast includes Brenda Fricker, Pauline McLynn, Charlene McKenna, Siobhan McSweeney and Conleth Hill, while the director is Kathy Burke.
Clinton chuckles that all of them were starstruck when they heard Graham Norton would be visiting the set of the series his novel Holding is based on.
“I can’t say enough nicer words about that man, he is so lovely and so open and so receptive. It was so hard for everybody to concentrate, because his presence was so palpable. He was lovely to work with. He’s very open and gave space to work,” he points out.
Clinton, who is single, grew up near Laytown Co Meath of Nigerian ancestry. He says he has thankfully never experienced racism.
“I’ve been so blessed with the people I’ve had as friends and family. I’ve never experienced any racism, it’s been all very positive.”
Holding is on Virgin Media One on Mondays at 9pm