Charlie’s an­gel

HOW SINÉAD WAT­TERS WAT­TERS LEFT HER JOB MID-RE­CES­SION AND GOT HER FIRST BREAK... GIV­ING CHARLIE HAUGHEY A CONSCIENCE

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

The demise of the Celtic Tiger led to the wrack and ruin of many a tal­ented pro­fes­sional in Dublin. De­vel­op­ers, ar­chi­tects, builders and es­tate agents went to the wall while the rest of the coun­try strug­gled to prove their worth in a shrink­ing job mar­ket. All, that is, ex­cept for Sinéad Wat­ters. As the bub­ble burst Sinéad held the po­si­tion of head of press and pub­lic­ity at Aiken Pro­mo­tions, Ire­land’s sec­ond-largest con­cert pro­mot­ers. Dur­ing her ten­ure she was re­spon­si­ble for help­ing bring the likes of Justin Tim­ber­lake, George Michael, Bruce Spring­steen and Michael Flat­ley here. It was a po­si­tion that most would have killed for but in 2007, when oth­ers were cling­ing on to a sta­ble, pen­sion­able job, Sinéad handed in her no­tice in a bid to chase her dream of be­com­ing an ac­tor. Now, as one of the prom­i­nent ris­ing stars from RTÉ’s three-part drama Charlie, Sinéad is fi­nally reap­ing the re­wards of her bold move.

‘Work­ing on the likes of Justin was a great gig and that job was a great job,’ she re­calls. ‘I had to be hon­est with my­self though and act­ing was some­thing I had al­ways wanted to do and I just had to give in. It was a re­ally tough decision be­cause the boom had just stopped and the re­ces­sion had kicked in. My friends kept telling me I had lost my mind but if I didn’t do it then I never would have. My fam­ily sup­ported me but my mates kept telling me that peo­ple would kill for my job and I was about to leave it all for one of the most un­cer­tain jobs in the world. All I can de­scribe it as is an itch that was get­ting worse and the only time it would go away was when I was act­ing. It was a mas­sive change but I don’t re­gret it at all.’

‘I was lucky enough to work close to a lot of re­ally cool peo­ple. Pink was prob­a­bly the coolest per­son. She was just not what you would think. She was so nice to ev­ery­one and just re­ally awe­some. Dolly Par­ton was not a let-down ei­ther, she was a legend to be hon­est, and ev­ery­thing I had hoped she would be, just so down to earth. I sup­pose num­ber one had to be Bruce Spring­steen though, he is such a gen­tle­man. He wouldn’t let us call him ‘the Boss’. No­body in his crew was al­lowed to call him that, he was just Bruce. He wanted as lit­tle fuss made about him as was pos­si­ble and just got on with things. He was def­i­nitely the num­ber one to work with.’

The cat­a­lyst for her road to Da­m­as­cus con­ver­sion came on the back of an Easter work­shop at the Gai­ety School of Act- ing in 2006. De­spite work­ing back­stage with some of the world’s big­gest mu­sic su­per­stars, she re­alised that her real pas­sion lay on the stage in­stead of with Peter Aiken be­hind the scenes.

‘I did a short-term night course over Easter, just to see how I would get on,’ she says. ‘ So I threw my­self in at the deep end and after an hour of the first class I knew this was the ca­reer I wanted. From there I just started act­ing cour­ses and classes at night ev­ery night and it just took over. I had the bug and the day time work was be­com­ing more of a sec­ond place for me, not that I wasn’t en­joy­ing it, just that I wanted to act more. It was scary be­cause I had rent to pay and bills and when I left the job the salary stopped. But I had to do it and I just didn’t care what any­one else thought.’

Ini­tially Sinéad threw her­self into ed­u­ca­tion, jumping from course to course, net­work­ing and build­ing up con­tacts. And her big break came in 2012 when she landed a spot in a fledg­ling course at the Fac­tory, an ac­tors’ stu­dio now named Bow Street set up by di­rec­tor Kirsten Sheri­dan.

‘I did a year’s course and that was just in­cred­i­ble. She (Kirsten) is bril­liant and she took care of us. Then we had John Kear­ney and cast­ing agent Mau­reen Hughes and it be­came this hub of ideas and cre­ativ­ity and then you had th­ese three pow­er­houses of the Ir­ish in­dus­try and they were there on hand to give you ad­vice and in­struc­tion. Mau­reen runs many of the ma­jor cast­ings but she is also there if you

have any ques­tion s and just looks after you. I left the Fac­tory two years ago and it has just given me a foun­da­tion for the in­dus­try which is in­valu­able.’

De­spite the Fac­tory su­port, the act­ing scene proved to be a dog-eat-dog world. Un­de­terred, Sinéad took re­jec­tion on her chin and filled her spare time writ­ing.

‘Ir­ish peo­ple are great be­cause they gen­uinely want to help you,’ she says. ‘If they can’t help you they will try and put you in touch with some­one who can. But the bot­tom line is you have to put your­self out there and you can’t be awk­ward or shy and you have to swal­low your pride and get ready to face re­jec­tion. It is harder for girls be­cause there are a lot less fe­male roles out there. You just have to work and keep busy. I write as well and I just re­cently fin­ished a short film that I was also in called The Au­di­tion. It’s a short psy­cho thriller and it has got­ten into sev­eral film fes­ti­vals which is amaz­ing.’

Even when the roles did come in, many of them weren’t suit­able. Imag­ine the feel­ing of joy you must feel get­ting a job of­fer from the Game of Thrones fam­ily only to dis­cover it’s for the role of a naked pros­ti­tute.

‘That was a bit of strange one,’ she says with a cheeky smile. ‘“We have a role for you in Game of Thrones. Would you be will­ing to go naked and play the role of a pros­ti­tute?” Eh, no thanks. You just keep on plug­ging away be­cause you get a lot of re­jec­tion. That can be tough but you have to for­get about it and keep on try­ing. What’s good about Ire­land is that if you don’t have an agent you can con­tact cast­ing direc­tors di­rectly. They don’t mind be­cause of the Fac­tory course, whereas you might not have that sort of ac­cess out­side of Ire­land.’

Sinéad’s big break came when she read for a part in RTÉ’s new drama Charlie. When she au­di­tioned she had no idea that she would be shar­ing most of her screen time with Game of Thrones and Wire star Ai­den Gillen. She plays the part of Jac­inta, a shop keeper in Charlie’s con­stituency who forms an un­likely re­la­tion­ship with the Iron Duke of Ir­ish pol­i­tics.

‘ I think Charlie is my first real break,’ she says. ‘I have kind of done short films and then my own one but this is RTÉ, the na­tional broad­caster. My mum keeps telling me that I have made it be­cause I am on RTÉ. I au­di­tioned for Mau­reen Hughes and it was one of those things. I only read one scene and did one take and that was it and it was over. I wanted to stay and do more just to show that I could take di­rec­tion but that was that. So I left won­der­ing if it went well or if they were happy at all. So I went and I had to for­get about it be­cause the majority of times when you leave an au­di­tion the an­swer is no. And you have to get on with it and process the re­jec­tion and try and learn from it and move on to the next one. But then Mau­reen rang me and told me I had the part and I got sent the script.’

As break­through roles go, Jac­inta the shop keeper is up there. Un­like many of the parts, Sinead’s role is com­pletely fic­tional, there to pro­vide a foil of hu­man­ity for Charlie. She has been cre­ated to show that Charlie wasn’t all that bad. ‘My character is com­pletely fic­tional,’ she says. ‘There was a shop in Don­ny­car­ney where he would go and get a pa­per for his mum. That much is true but I don’t think there was a girl there that he had reg­u­lar deal­ings with. I think they wrote my character as the one per­son who gets through to Charlie. She is his con­nect to the real peo­ple of Ire­land. He sees the stock in the shop has gone and all her friends have left the coun­try and he keeps com­ing into the shop wav­ing money around and has this bravado and Jac­inta just has enough of it. She is wise to him now and she just brushes him off, which is a first for him. Then when she turns up at the house look­ing for money and tells him that the coun­try is kip, he gets a glimpse of what life re­ally is like for the work­ing class Ir­ish per­son and I think that’s what her role is. He gives her the money which is amaz­ing but I think she brings out the best in him. I think that Jac­inta shows a softer side of Charlie. He doesn’t want her to go be­cause it shows just how screwed the coun­try is be­cause she is from where his mum lives and that is why he is com­pelled to help her. I think she shows that Charlie has a bit of heart de­spite all his many, many fail­ings.’

And what was it like work­ing with Ai­den Gillen, one of the coun­try’s hottest ac­tors? ‘Jac­inta is a great role although it is daunt­ing act­ing along­side Ai­den Gillen,’ she says. ‘If I hadn’t the train­ing I did I don’t think I would have been able to do it. They pre­pare you for the big crews and be­ing able to for­get about all the noise around you and just to act. There is al­ways the dan­ger that you will panic and over-act and of course that was there for me but thank­fully the train­ing kicked in. If I didn’t have that to fall back on I prob­a­bly would have pan­icked more. But he is just so lovely. I never saw him with­out the make-up so it was like I was al­ways talk­ing to Charlie Haughey. But when we were talk­ing in be­tween scenes he made me feel re­ally com­fort­able and I just stayed true to the mo­ment as much as I can.’

The third in­stal­ment of Charlie will be broad­cast tonight on RTÉ and Sinéad has another prom­i­nent role to play. She is keep­ing mum on that but hopes that peo­ple will en­joy the character’s arch. Un­like Ai­den Gillen and Tom Vaugh­anLawlor, Sinéad will wake up on Mon­day and start over again, wait­ing ta­bles dur­ing the day and act­ing or writ­ing dur­ing ev­ery free hour.

‘Please God Charlie will open doors for me,’ she says. ‘I have been knock­ing on so many doors for so long and to able to tell peo­ple that I am on tele­vi­sion at the mo­ment re­ally helps. You never know and I will go where the work is. If I have to go to London then so be it. You would as­sume that there will be more work in London but it is so mas­sive and there are in­fin­itely more ac­tors go­ing for the same roles and I would have to start from square one again.

‘I’m try­ing to get another fea­ture at the mo­ment. Jim Sheri­dan is do­ing stuff so fin­gers crossed. I au­di­tioned for Red Rock but I didn’t get it. But they said that it was go­ing to be on for two years and that they will be ex­pand­ing the cast so who knows. But yeah, I wouldn’t have a prob­lem with that at all. It is quite a dif­fi­cult dis­ci­pline, act­ing on a soap set. I think there is a need, from an ac­tor’s point of view, to have another work­ing set. Fair City is great and it is popular but there was def­i­nitely room for another set so I hope it is a suc­cess and that they grow more roles.’

Op­po­site page: A scene from Game of Thrones. This page: Sinéad in her Aiken Pro­mo­tions role with The Ea­gles’ Don Hen­ley and, above, with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips

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