The awardwinning actor talks to Donal O’Donoghue about fame, family and Finding Joy
“We are all meant to be shiny happy people,” says Amy Huberman of Finding Joy, her TV drama writing debut. “Of course, it’s not realistic to be happy all day, every day. I’m not upbeat all the time but I’m not going to come in here, giving out about stuff. I don’t feel that I have to bare my darkest fears or worry all the time about the things in my life, like my parents getting older or the fact that my Dad is not well. I have to accept those as the realities of my life but I do have a positive outlook. That’s not to say that there are times I feel down or am hard on myself, because that’s just human. I think we should own our sadness but there’s also the pressure to constantly have your game face on.” Three months earlier… It’s early June, the last week of filming on Finding Joy. We’re in a semi-d in leafy south Dublin and Amy has her game face on. Not that you’d notice with this upbeat multi-talent, who is an actress, writer, novelist and fashion designer (Bourbon footwear, Newbridge Silver jewellery). On set, everybody loves Amy (who plays Joy) including the producer, her co-stars and the cameraman who jokily pretends to pour a can of Red Bull into his camera as Amy laughs. You feel the love too. Despite being under the weather, Amy gamely does a short interview, fuelling up with a mouthful of Tangfastics, before apologising for rustling the sweet bag. Then, before returning to filming, she phones home to say goodnight to her two ‘babies’, Sadie (5) and Billy (3).
Two weeks ahead of Finding Joy’s debut, we meet again. I expect Huberman to be up the walls but she’s not anxious at all. Well maybe a bit. “Finding Joy is my other baby and I want it to do well but even if it is an absolute failure, I’m going to own it. This has been a long time coming for me and it was a dream to do it. I do feel like I’m walking the plank now and wondering who or what is waiting in the water.” She’s had little time to mull over such matters, busy in the editing room, adding in “little screams or noises” to the comic soundscape. “I’m probably driving them all crazy,” she says, but of course, you know that she isn’t. It’s mid-morning in a trendy café in south Dublin. The previous night Amy was at the theatre to see her big brother, Mark, in Hamlet. Now she orders a coffee with oat milk and immediately checks herself: “That’s such an actressy thing to do isn’t it?” People nearby pretend they haven’t clocked the actress but their studied indifference is a dead give-away. When Amy suggests we swap tables to a quiet alcove, a member of staff rushes over to wonder what the hell is going on. Then they notice Amy and their fuss transforms. For these reasons, it’s a devil to interview her, as inevitably you end up yapping and laughing and before you know it you’re best friends, time’s up, and you’re wondering, did I ask her anything ‘journalisty’ at all. Like, what’s going on with her epic new home or life with hubby, rugby icon Brian O’Driscoll, or bringing up her babies?
Of course, right now she wants to talk about her TV baby. In the opening episode, we get Joy wedged into a harness (“Can you see my knickers?” she wails) just before abseiling from the top of the Aviva stadium. “Yep, I did that for real,” says Amy, who did lots of other things in Finding Joy for real, but the view from the top of the stadium was the scariest one. “I said to myself ‘Grow a pair Amy’, but it was really scary up there and I was bloody terrified. I was laughing later with Brian when I told him that he now had competition for who was most scared in the Aviva. I did jump out of a plane in New Zealand once but I won’t be doing that again and I won’t bungee jump in a million years. Joy also gets to wrestle and does a few illegal manoeuvres. You haven’t see episode two have you?”
Finding Joy is the tale of a recently single 30-something, who shares her bed with her faithful dog Canine Aidan (as opposed to her ex, human Aidan). Her name is spelled in light-bulbs above the bed, which just makes her seem sadder. If it’s comedy with a lonely side, it also has a surreal twist as Canine Aidan is also a narrator of sorts. There are some fart jokes, a few swear words and a kookiness that plays with Huberman’s wide-eyed personality. Despite a starry cast, including Aisling Bea and Laura Whitmore, Amy is undoubtedly the star, although followed closely by her four-legged co-star, Ferne. “She’s an amazing actress because she’s playing a man,” she says, “but we had to edit out her nipples in one shot where I was rubbing her belly.” Finding Joy was germinating in her brain for some time. “I first met the guys from Treasure Entertainment for the sketch comedy series Your Bad Self,” she says. “They were so good to work with and we became friends. Later, I made The Stag with them (and also Handsome Devil). We were at the Toronto Film Festival and my first child, Sadie, was like four seconds old, well actually six months and I hadn’t slept in those six months and it was first time away and I was really jaded. I chatted with (producer) Rebecca O’Flanagan who said I had to write a script and so it happened, with Rebecca being a true mentor to me. By then, I had already started writing a film script, Bolt, with Rebecca as well. Then Rebecca and I had this idea for Joy.”
Huberman started writing Finding Joy in January 2017 (the outline was penned at a friend’s house in LA) and lming started in May of this year. “Joy needed to be somebody who was not shiny,” she says. “She had to be somebody who struggles, as most people do, with happiness. How do we get to be happy? So I wrote her and fell in love with Joy. And yes there are elements and quirks of myself in there.” She wrote four episodes before shooting season two of Striking Out and making Cold Feet in Manchester (where, many years ago, she made her stage debut, in an Irish take on Sophocles’ Electra) before getting back to Joy and completing the rest of the series (again in LA).
“Workwise, this year has been really busy and fun but there have also been times when I thought my career was over,” she says. “I thought ‘ at’s it’. So there might be people looking in, thinking ‘ at was really easy’, but it was not. I think of all those pitfalls and the jobs I didn’t get or got dropped or the pieces I wrote that people didn’t like and that’s part of life and also part of the creative process. But you have to put it in the context of other people’s problems and I know that I’m incredibly lucky to get to do what I do.”
She also enjoys the other side to her life. “I love being a mother,” she says. “I really enjoy my family time and I need it and I’m protective of it. I also need to be creative, so I need my time away from it as well. But I would never be prescriptive about how anyone else should live their life and whether they should be doing it one way or another.”
Amy is big on social media (with nearly 500,000 followers on Twitter) but she doesn’t post images of her children. “It’s a personal choice,” she says, refusing to be dragged down the rabbit hole – at the end of the interview, she says again that she wouldn’t want to suggest how others should live their social media life. “When I put myself out in the public eye, that is my choice and I can still walk away from it,” she says. “It is a misplaced sense of responsibility if you believe you have to do everything perfectly, whether that is wearing the right clothes or saying the right thing or doing the right projects all the time. at’s impossible.”
Acting was almost accidental: Amy, who studied social science at UCD, followed older brother, Mark, into acting classes. “Sometimes my whole career seems very serendipitous but the thing is, I have worked my arse o . e whole thing might seem to have happened so easily, but I spent years trying to make it work. And a few years ago, there was the time when I had the kids and I felt, I don’t know, strange, wondering how I might get back into this job that I had been entrenched in for so long. But I had that feeling also in my 20s, living in ats in London, not knowing where my next job was coming from. I didn’t study acting but it is something I have always loved. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be a writer, but I wanted to do something creative.”
So far, Amy has written two novels and has an un nished screenplay ( Bolt, adapted from her novel, I Wished for You, is also with Treasure Entertainment). “Before I had the kids, I used to write at night-time and I found that at night I wrote the more sentimental stu . I can’t write at night any more as I have to take the kids to school. I can do three solid hours of writing. I get up at six, maybe go to the gym twice a week – but just in case people think I’m super- t, I’m not – then I go to my o ce and spend the morning writing and as the a ernoon is my least creative time anyway, I think I have gured it out! A er all these years, all of 21, ( the woman who will be 40 next year laughs impishly), I have cracked it!”
A fan of TV shows like Catastrophe, Fleabag and GameFace, much of her time recently has been spent making TV rather than watching it, although one show she has started watching is Succession (Sky Atlantic’s modern take on King Lear with Brian Cox in the lead). Otherwise, she listens to true-crime podcasts including the Australian hit serial, e Teacher’s Pet. “It helps me to switch o from what I’m doing for TV,” she says. Did she laugh as she wrote parts of Finding Joy? “I did, but then you wonder if you’ve lost it and is it really funny?” she says. “But I believe you can only write for yourself, so it has to be what makes me laugh and not the guy down the road. People can only come to the screening if they laugh just to make me feel good!”
When we met last December, Huberman was on the way to Manchester for a role in Tony Marchant’s new ITV drama, Butter y (Sunday, October 14). at was at the beginning of a hectic year, which included the second season of Striking Out, lming Flack with Anna Paquin and now the debut of Finding Joy. Is there the possibility of a second season? “ e hope is that Rebecca and I go away for a think-in and try to work out where it goes next,” says Amy, before furrowing her brow. “But what if nothing comes? What if there are no jokes le ? What if I have exhausted everything?” Maybe, but that is doubtful. With that, the tape runs out and Amy says she’ll look a er the bill and you step out in a world that seems just that bit brighter.
ere have been times when I thought my career was over
Amy Huberman with Millie Gibson in Butter y
Amy Huberman & David O’Doherty in Finding Joy