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‘Women should be represented more on TV

Coronation Street alumnus Dean Fagan reveals his excitement at joining the strong female cast of Smother this season, and tells how he’s still hoping to dig up some Irish roots of his own. By Deirdre Reynolds

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Dean Fagan

Dean Fagan

Dean Fagan as Corrie mechanic Luke Britton meeting his grisly end in 2018

Dean Fagan as Corrie mechanic Luke Britton meeting his grisly end in 2018

Seána Kerslake, Dervla Kirwan and Niamh Walsh as the Ahern women in Smother

Seána Kerslake, Dervla Kirwan and Niamh Walsh as the Ahern women in Smother

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Dean Fagan

THE arrival of a long-lost son to a small, windswept town on the coast of Co Clare is about to make the twisted Ahern family tree in Smother become even more gnarled.

Back at home in Manchester, Dean Fagan, who plays the RTÉ drama’s latest interloper, is still hoping to unearth some Irish roots of his own.

“With the name Fagan, you’d think,” the actor jokes with Magazine+ about the possibility that he, too, could have some undiscovered relatives in Ireland. “I need to do one of those Who Do You Think You Are? shows and go back through the family tree to see what I can find.”

Kate O’Riordan’s brilliant Celtic noir returned to small screens with a bang last Sunday night with murdered Denis Ahern’s secret son, Finn, turning up on the family’s doorstep after the season one finale saw dying Rory take the fall for the crime committed by ex-wife Elaine.

And the unexpected guest looks poised to make it difficult for widow Val Ahern, played to perfection by Dervla Kirwan, and the couple’s three daughters Jenny (Niamh Walsh), Anna (Gemma-Leah Devereux) and Grace (Seána Kerslake), to keep the family’s skeletons in the closet in season two, continuing tonight.

“It’s a complicated family,” says Dean, who admits he hadn’t seen the show when he was cast as the mysterious Finn.

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Dean Fagan as Corrie mechanic Luke Britton meeting his grisly end in 2018

Dean Fagan as Corrie mechanic Luke Britton meeting his grisly end in 2018

Dean Fagan as Corrie mechanic Luke Britton meeting his grisly end in 2018

“I had a bit of catching up to do, but luckily the first season was aired while we were filming, so I quickly got up to speed watching weekly episodes. It was great — I was kind of getting really involved as I was over there.”

“He’s basically Denis’s long-lost son,” he explains of the new character. “He comes back to see what life with the family is like and he might have other motives in mind while he’s over there.

“He’s got a strategy in mind, things happen which the character doesn’t expect, and he sort of has to deal with that at the same time. He gets close to one of the girls and that sort of throws him off the strategy a little bit. It all comes to a head at the end.”

Former Coronation Street star Dean relocated to Lahinch, where the six-part series is filmed, after landing the role following a self-taped audition at the height of the pandemic last year.

“It happened within, like, two weeks,” he recalls of the casting whirlwind. “I had to get everything together quite quickly and go over there and do the hibernation thing for a week or two, which is quite a shock to the system.”

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Seána Kerslake, Dervla Kirwan and Niamh Walsh as the Ahern women in Smother

Seána Kerslake, Dervla Kirwan and Niamh Walsh as the Ahern women in Smother

Seána Kerslake, Dervla Kirwan and Niamh Walsh as the Ahern women in Smother

And that was before the 33 year-old even braved the Wild Atlantic breeze or tried to figure out what local Gaelgoirs were saying about him.

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“It was apocalyptic,” he sets the scene. “Especially when the storm came over the coast. It was quite scary to see, but the fresh breeze certainly woke me up.”

Airing in the UK on Alibi, the sleek thriller joins the company of latter-day hits Big Little Lies and Mare of Easttown with its female-led cast also including Justine Mitchell, Hilary Rose, Ayoola Smart and Carrie Crowley.

After a brief stint in male-dominated BBC prison drama Time, Dean says it was a privilege to be surrounded by the group of talented Irish women, both in front of and behind the camera, while filming Smother.

“We’re seeing it a lot more which absolutely is great because it’s 50pc of the population, and so 50pc of the population should be represented on screen in my point of view,” he tells. “So I love it. It’s about time that more stories about female characters are told going forward.

“They welcomed me in like I was a long-lost family member. Everybody was absolutely lovely.”

It’s four years this year since the actor left Weatherfield’s famed cobbles after his alter ego Luke Britton was shot and burned to death in his car by evil Pat Phelan in a storyline that left viewers reeling.

But, as his appearance in last year’s aforementioned BBC drama starring Sean Bean shows, he’ll always be ‘Luke from Corrie’ to some, like the viewers who took to Twitter after spotting the erstwhile TV mechanic turn up as a lag in the show.

“I’m not against people pointing me out for that,” says Dean. “It’s like being part of history being part of that show.

“I think it’s because of how abruptly I left the show. It kind of left a hole in people’s lives a little bit, so I think they enjoy seeing, if not me myself, the character Luke in other things — that gets them over the grieving stage.”

After four years on the iconic soap, fans weren’t the only ones feeling the loss, the actor explains: “It becomes part of you, so to speak. It’s not just playing the character, it’s the life you built around yourself being in an institution like that.

“It’s the people you see every day — the cast, the crew, everybody who works in the building — and then all of a sudden you won’t be seeing them ever again. That is probably what you grieve about as much as losing the character as well.”

Welcoming son Harry with his actress fiancée Louise Pridding is sure to have helped take his mind off work. “It was pre-pandemic luckily,” tells the dad-of-one. “I can’t imagine what it was like for these parents who’ve given birth during pandemic. Oh my God, I would have gone crazy. He was about one going on two at that point, so he was just walking and sort of running away from us, and we had to stay inside, so it’s a very safe environment to bring him up in, which was great. I try and put the positive on everything.

“I’ll always be thankful for that time, but I can’t imagine how hard it was for the parents who had to do homeschooling and all that stuff. Oh my goodness.”

Acknowledging the “cheesy cliché”, Dean reveals his resolution for 2022 is to “just enjoy every moment” as his career continues to soar.

Of course, as Magazine+ points out, he can’t truly enter the soap hall of fame without a stint on a certain other Irish show.

“I’ve heard,” laughs Dean. “Fair City is the one. I’ve been told it’s a great show to be in, so that’s my next stop after Smother!”

Smother continues on RTÉ One tonight at 9.30pm

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