Star turn: Vic­to­ria Smur­fit’s short film

Vic­to­ria Smur­fit re­turned to Ire­land from LA to take a star­ring role in a twisty thriller about to be screened at the Cork Film Fes­ti­val, writes Es­ther McCarthy

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

HER knack for play­ing strong women on the big and small screen has made her one of our best-known ex­ports. But some­times there’s no place like home.

So when Vic­to­ria Smur­fit re­cently found her­self in the Of­faly coun­try­side work­ing with cast and crew she’d known for years — in­clud­ing some she worked with at the very be­gin­ning of her ca­reer — she felt a sense of joy.

“It was great craic,” she smiles at the mem­ory. “We laughed from morn­ing ’til night. Some of them I worked with on Bal­lykissan­gel, so it was a real home­com­ing, great fun.”

The re­sult is The Se­cret Mar­ket, which will screen as part of the pres­ti­gious shorts pro­gramme at this year’s Cork Film Fes­ti­val.

In Gar­ret Daly’s twisty thriller (co-di­rected by Martina McG­lynn), she plays Amy, a doc­tor who dis­cov­ers an anony­mous body has a se­cret about her that they in­tend to re­veal to the world un­less she bids to buy it back at auc­tion.

“I get to read a lot of stuff, I’m very lucky, and I kind of loved that. You know we come from a kind of cur­tain-twitch­ing com­mu­nity, but now that cur­tain-twitch­ing com­mu­nity is every­where be­cause of tech­nol­ogy. You can spy on peo­ple in all sorts of ways.

“I liked this idea that if you did have this big hor­ren­dous se­cret, and there was a mar­ket for it, what you would do and how you would cope.

“I’d like to think that peo­ple are watch­ing it and think­ing, what’s my se­cret? What would I pay to hide? And that if you don’t have that se­cret, have you lived in­cor­rectly?” she laughs.

When we speak, the busy ac­tress has just fin­ished work for the day on the sec­ond se­ries of Mar­cella, the gritty crime noir se­ries that has proved a rat­ings smash for ITV and Net­flix.

Hav­ing stomped many of the same Lon­don streets for years as de­tec­tive Roisin Con­nor in Lynda La Plante’s Trial & Ret­ri­bu­tion, she’s be­mused to not be grilling sus­pects this time round.

“It’s funny be­ing part of a po­lice se­ries and not ask­ing ev­ery­one where they were at 0800 hours. It’s kind of nice be­ing on the other side,” she smiles.

“I’m on board for sea­son two. It’s go­ing re­ally well, but it’s a hell of a com­mute,” added the LA-based Dubliner.

“You only know from script to script who and what you are. It’s a leap of faith for the ac­tors as well. You don’t find out who­dun­nit, ev­ery char­ac­ter is a dark shade of grey. You don’t re­ally know un­til the se­ries finds out who you re­ally are, which is a fas­ci­nat­ing way to work.

“I’d heard ev­ery­body talk­ing about it but I hadn’t the chance to see it. When I knew I was get­ting on board, I thought: ‘Ah, I’ll watch episode one.’ The next thing you know, the night’s gone and I’ve ploughed through the se­ries and it’s 5am. It’s re­ally com­pelling view­ing so I’m thrilled to be part of it. And I’m get­ting to be Ir­ish in it, which is great.”

The day be­fore, she shot key scenes with ac­tress Anna Friel, who plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter. “She’s great, she’s re­ally fo­cused and she’s so good as this char­ac­ter. She’s great fun — we were work­ing to­gether yes­ter­day, hoot­ing laugh­ing. But she’s a per­fec­tion­ist, she wants it done right, which I love.”

Ever since the-then teenage Smur­fit made her big-screen de­but in Ir­ish drama The Run of the

Coun­try, the daugh­ter of top busi­ness­man Der­mot Smur­fit has mixed up big stu­dio pro­duc­tions with smaller in­de­pen­dent projects.

She held her own op­po­site Hugh Grant in About A Boy, starred in TV’s Cold Feet, and took a smaller role in The Beach to work with the great Danny Boyle. As the con­flicted de­tec­tive in La Plante’s

Trial & Ret­ri­bu­tion, she made the role her own, solv­ing gritty mur­ders and who­dun­nits.

Af­ter be­ing based in Dublin most of her life, six years ago she de­cided to move to Los An­ge­les with her young fam­ily, and later said: “I pre­ferred the idea of try­ing and fail­ing than not try­ing at all.”

AMER­ICA has been good to her, of­fer­ing an out­doors, ac­tive life­style and roles in TV’s Once Upon a Time as the de­light­fully vil­lain­ous Cruella De Vil, and in forth­com­ing movie The Lears op­po­site Bruce Dern.

Her three chil­dren with ex-hus­band Doug Bax­ter — Evie, Ri­d­ley and Flynn — means life is al­ways busy but never bor­ing.

“One of them turns 13 next month. I of­fi­cially have a teenager,

“We’ve

just got the best crews. Ire­land is the most fun and pro­fes­sional place to work... Ev­ery­body’s got each other’s back

I might have to move out,” she laughs.

In fact, Ri­d­ley and Flynn have be­come very adept at the mar­tial art Tae Kwon Do, and have even per­suaded mum to take it up.

“They’re nearly black belts. They’ve got me do­ing it, so I’m way down the ranks and they have great fun teach­ing me all the forms and the moves. They’re bril­liant, they’re proper Nin­jas and I want my daugh­ter to know that no mat­ter what that she’s able to fend for her­self.”

El­dest daugh­ter Eve has been prac­tis­ing a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline. “She loves fly­ing trapeze, she’s a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter al­to­gether. Swing­ing from 35 feet up do­ing flips in­stead, that’s her thing.

“It’s six years since I moved to LA. It’s flown, and I still feel like I’m new.”

Still, she de­scribes her­self as “an adapt­able lit­tle gypsy”.

“Putting down roots wher­ever you hap­pen to be is part and par­cel of be­ing an ac­tor, as you fre­quently travel to shoot at spe­cific lo­ca­tions. Once you leave where you’re from, the world be­comes your oys­ter. You can find home any­where. The kids love it, though one of them did turn to me the other day and say: ‘Mum if Kim Jong-Un is go­ing to blow us up, can we move back to Dublin?’ I said I’m re­ally hop­ing he’s not go­ing to,” she laughed. “I love the fact that they’re plugged into the crazi­ness that’s go­ing on in the world.”

Still, liv­ing in Amer­ica with Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent is no laugh­ing mat­ter, she agrees. It must be strange to live in a state — Cal­i­for­nia — where just 31% of the pop­u­la­tion voted for Trump.

DOES she feel it has im­pacted on daily life? “It does, be­cause ev­ery­body’s fu­ri­ous. My Amer­i­can friends are an­gry that the coun­try that they be­lieved in, fly the flag for, they don’t recog­nise any­more.

“The hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­rup­tions that he has cre­ated are just as­ton­ish­ing, he’s sys­tem­at­i­cally just tak­ing the place apart. I feel like he’s a taken a beau­ti­ful but flawed car, and he’s strip­ping it for parts and sell­ing it off around the world. It’s sad, and it has def­i­nitely im­pacted on daily life. As for his nar­cis­sism, throw a stick and you could hit some­body with that, but he’s ter­ri­bly dis­rup­tive.”

She is heart­ened by the growth in pres­tige for the Ir­ish film and TV in­dus­try both at home and abroad, and was re­minded of its pro­fes­sion­al­ism first-hand when she filmed The Se­cret Mar­ket here.

“Ev­ery­one worked with great hu­mour, great speed. We’ve just got the best crews. Ire­land is the most fun and pro­fes­sional place to work. Each de­part­ment works in its space. But the best crews work be­cause they un­der­stand what the other de­part­ment needs. Be­cause they work in tan­dem with each other, ev­ery­one works hand in hand in a way that is ap­par­ently more seem­less. Ev­ery­body’s got each other’s back.”

She adds that while ul­ti­mately the in­dus­try in LA is a busi­ness where de­ci­sions made and di­rec­tions taken have to make prac­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial sense, be­ing Ir­ish does no harm.

“I have to say, you do get an eas­ier wel­come when you’re Ir­ish. We’ve al­ways been a na­tion of po­ets and writ­ers and artists and that’s re­spected. And I think… cer­tainly the feel­ing I get in Amer­ica is their over­whelm­ing sense of: ‘How can so many Ir­ish peo­ple come out of such a small is­land and make such a big im­pact?’

“I think the dif­fer­ence is, some­times, that you take the work se­ri­ously but not your­self. I think the Ir­ish are sen­sa­tional with be­ing able to marry a good time with a hard-work­ing time. And that kind of brings light­ness to your day. I think peo­ple find it in­fec­tious.”

The Se­cret Mar­ket will be screened at the Gate on Novem­ber 11 at 11.45am.

In the short film ‘The Se­cret Mar­ket’ Vic­to­ria Smur­fit plays Amy, a doc­tor who dis­cov­ers an anony­mous body has a se­cret about her that they in­tend to re­veal to the world un­less she bids to buy it back at auc­tion.

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