Famous the world over as star of Sleeping With The Enemy, Patrick Bergin is back on our screens as a new and intriguing character on TV3’s RED ROCK
Patrick Bergin cemented his place in celluloid fame with his portrayal of Martin Burney, the psychopathic husband of Julia Roberts in the hit movie Sleeping With The Enemy. Bergin perfectly portrayed what is still one of the most sinister villains to grace the big screen with such ease and conviction.
A delusional, obsessive-compulsive maniac perfectly packaged as a perfectly polished prince charming, his deep, dark eyes captured the essence of the character’s inherent malice. And while he does have a captivating gaze, it’s the voice of Mr Bergin that most enthralls.
The star is set to make his debut on TV3’s hit soap Red Rock when he will again play a sinister soul. His character is Jim Tierney, the grandfather of Detective Rory Walsh, who has a chequered past and is set to make waves in the soap as she strives to protect a long-buried secret.
Speaking to TV Week, Bergin said his transition from big screen to small screen was very satisfying.
‘It was very enjoyable to do. It was a great team and I think the series is admirable and the storyline is very interesting. It’s a very powerful piece of drama,’ he says.
But he is giving little away as to his character’s fate as Tierney struggles between redemption and saving himself and his secret.
‘It’s the arc of a character. He very much has a past, although in his current manifestation he is a good man and he has a good heart. While it’s hard to say he has a moral position, he certainly has a caring position,’ says Bergin.
But in a glimpse of what is to come, he hints at unleashing his sinister side in Red Rock.
‘He is willing to do whatever is necessary to get what he wants and do what he has to do,’ he says.
Bergin’s appearance in Red Rock is sure to bolster the show’s already growing number of viewers. Since moving to a new time slot in January, more than 1.5 million viewers have tuned in, with an average of 200, 000 per episode.
Patrick Bergin lives in what he calls ‘The Bergin Triangle’ as he divides his time between LA, London and his castle in Co. Tipperary. While ‘rattling around’ in his 15th century abode, he does keep in tune with Irish television and drama.
‘I have been following Irish drama. Love/ Hate was particularly good. It was probably the only thing I have ever seen on television that physically scared me. I have great admiration for everyone who worked on that; it was wonderful and it certainly pioneered that sort of territory. I worked on a film many years ago called The Courier, with Gabriel Byrne. It was one of the first Irish films to attempt the Irish criminal underworld. And it has come a long way since then. I think the sense of realism . . . TV allows you to have a sense of realism that probably a feature [film] doesn’t.’
Bergin is enormously proud of the Irish contribution, both past and present, to the arts.
‘I think the Irish history in the arts, in all areas of the arts – in acting and drama – is second to none,’ he says.
While he is proud of his career and his family, Bergin’s baritone falters a notch at the mention of his father.
It is clear that his late dad Paddy had an enormous influence in his life, and Patrick tells me he was a ‘wonderful man’. Paddy Bergin was a Labour politician whose principles seem to be a guiding beacon in his life.
‘My father was absolutely a great man,’ he tell me. From the arts to politics to family, his father has, it would seem, been a distinct force in the success that is Patrick Bergin.
‘My father started an acting theatre in Carlow called The Little Theatre, which still exists. I collected an award on his behalf a few years ago. He started it in the late ’40s with a group of other people. He essentially was a Labour organiser and he wanted his workers and people around him to know how to walk and talk at the same time, as well as study literature. Acting is a very noble career. And certainly to study drama, even if one wasn’t to become an actor, is a great asset to a person.’
While he has not strayed into political life, it is not a course that he has yet abandoned.
‘It crosses my mind all the time. I think politics is part of what it means to be a human being and to be involved in some shape or form. But whether to make it a career; that’s a different matter. I mean, a ‘career politician’ doesn’t exactly have a nice ring to it. But it’s a hard job and one could talk all day about the idealists in politics and the corrupt politicians and I’m certainly very, very interested in it.
‘I think the election of Trump and Brexit has certainly polarised people and made them focus on who and what and why they support various theories.’
While Patrick may seem to have an idyllic existence – living in a castle, with a successful career spanning four decades – he has fought the good fight against his many demons.
He gave up drink after some words of advice from Shane MacGowan.
‘That was quite a few years ago, when we used to hang out in Camden town,’ he says. ‘He leaned across me and said: “Patrick, you are drinking too much.” ‘And I looked at him cock-eyed and said: “Really, Shane?”
‘I used to do gigs on a Thursday night in the Sir Richard Steel in Camden town,’ he says. ‘Opposite the Roundhouse, there was a Greek Restaurant called the Marathon.
‘Whatever money we made from playing that Thursday, we would go down there and stay there all night. Everybody came there because it was before the extended licensing laws – and technically, as long as you bought a meal, you could drink there until four in the morning. And people did, and sometimes didn’t even bother with the meal.
‘Shane used to come in and it was really nice – and that’s where he said it to me.
‘I am glad to hear that he has curbed his alcohol intake and certainly I have stopped, and it has been nothing but a joy to stop. I went as far as I could possibly go with drinking. I drank Canada dry, for a start!’
Love/Hate is the only thing I have seen on TV that really scared me
Shane MacGowan leaned across and said: ‘Patrick, you’re drinking too much’
When he’s not rocking around his castle in Cloughjordan, he can be seen at Bruxelles Bar in Dublin with book in hand, water in glass and waiting to delight the crowds with a song.
Fighting his demons, Patrick embraced religion and became a regular churchgoer while also embracing the principle of Buddhism.
Again, his father’s influence is evident in his faith. When asked if his faith been shaken by the most recent revelations involving the Catholic church, the actor admits he was shocked.
‘It’s very shaking and shattering [the Tuam babies]. I remember my father in Carlow causing some disturbance there because he realised that children were being sold to America from Carlow way back, even then. It’s something that we have to be on guard for all the time – that there are people who are being so cruel and so unkind to children.
‘My father stopped it. It was from a convent of some sort, the details of which I don’t exactly recall. It was my sister who pointed it out that it was happening and he went up there and stopped it.’
Bergin met his former wife, Paula Frazier, a British woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, in the early 1980s. They married in Trinidad and Tobago in 1992 and he once said of Frazier: ‘I loved her before I even knew her name.’
Together they had a daughter, Tatiana, who lives in the UK. She has followed him into the ‘industry’ and, while she is still at college, she also works as a film editor.
His voice is peppered with pride when he talks about Tatiana.
‘She’s studying media and she is a very fine editor at the moment. She still has a few years left at university,’ he says.
When I ask if he is concerned about his daughter pursuing a career in a notoriously tough industry, he has no qualms.
‘Too much is made of the acting world being tough. Every world is tough. Do you know ANY easy jobs? There’s no easy jobs and the acting has a very real educational value.’
Of his own career choice, he has no regrets and insists that acting teaches a lot more than bringing a character to life.
‘I have no regrets at all. On all levels, it teaches you confidence, it teaches you to find your voice. You end up reading, which is obviously very important for personal development on all levels and life.’
And while his most famous movie may be Sleeping With The Enemy, he is most proud of another movie.
‘Personally and unquestionably it was a film called Mountains Of The Moon, which took me to Africa, and it was around about the time of the big success of Sleeping With The Enemy.’
He also takes great pride in the fact that he spent many of his younger years in Dublin’s Drimnagh and made his way from there to Hollywood. ‘I’m proud and glad to be there, to be close to Drimnagh.’
As well as his starring role in Red Rock, Patrick also has a movie in cinemas now, appearing with Cillian Murphy in Free Fire.
He is also reigniting his musical career with some high-profile performances both here and across the pond. Tonight he will be joining Brian Kennedy on stage in concert in London, and just last month he sang to huge crowds in The Convention Centre in Dublin in aid of Haiti.
Approaching his 70s, he shows no signs of slowing down. But where to next for the screen star? ‘I’ve got a castle down in Tipperary so I’ll probably be like a dithering lunatic down there,’ he laughs.
When I ask if there is a lady of the manor, he reverts to his scary Burney voice. ‘That’s my business, everybody is special in my life.’
Red Rock is on TV3, Mondays at 9pm. Free Fire is in cinemas now.
Grandfather: Bergin as Jim Tierney with Chris Newman as Rory Walsh in TV3’s Red Rock
Man about town: Patrick Bergin still cuts a dash as he nears 70 With friends like these: Patrick with Julia Roberts (left) in Sleeping With The Enemy and with Uma Thurman (above) in Robin Hood