Have the tissues at the ready...

Ahead of a Christmas special of ‘The Young Offenders’, Cara O’Doherty chats to Hilary Rose about the new episode, which airs on RTÉ1on Christmas Day
Have the tissues at the ready...
Hilary Rose Plays Mairead MacSweeney in The Young Offenders. Picture: Miki Barlok

THE festive special of hit TV comedy, The Young Offenders will be a real tear-jerker, as it explores the theme of homelessness.

That’s according to Cork actress Hilary Rose, who plays fishmonger and mum Mairead in the Cork-set show.

Mairead and the two actors she calls her “little brothers” are threatened with eviction in the festive special and she says: “Christmas is a really emotional time of the year. It’s the end of the year, everyone is together and it’s really lovely but emotions run high. That’s reflected in the Christmas special.

“There are massive laughs but there are total tear-jerking moments as well.”

Hilary said it was tricky keeping filming of The Young Offenders secret on the streets of Cork in September.

“We had an embargo on calling it a Christmas special,” she said.

“Even with some of the cast who came in we had to keep it quiet. We just kept telling people we were filming a thing!

Hilary Rose.Picture: Miki Barlok
Hilary Rose.Picture: Miki Barlok

“We kept it as vague as possible but it became really difficult when the Santa Claus suits came in. No matter how much we tried to hide them, we couldn’t really, so people started to know about it, but they stayed quiet to help keep the secret.”

Robert Sheehan, star of Love/Hate and Misfits, makes a guest appearance in the episode and Hilary said: “He is hilarious, I couldn’t stop laughing when we were watching his scenes. Sometimes its hard to get through scenes on set because we end up laughing so much.”

The Young Offenders started out as a hit film in 2016, then became a TV series for the BBC, and there are plans for a second series.

In the Christmas special, Alex Murphy and Chris Walley are back as the mischievous Conor and Jack alongside Hilary’s character, and their new adventure will see them trying to make a Christmas wish come true for Conor’s mum, Mairead, who finds herself in hospital following an unexpected bout of illness.

As I spoke to Hilary last week, she was preparing to go into hospital herself — for the birth of her second child, a sibling to toddler Jake.

Hilary’s husband, Peter Foott, is the writer and director of The Young Offenders and she says filming is always great fun.

“I remember when we were filming the series, there was one scene with Alex and Chris when we did a little bit of improvisation. I said something and Peter liked the line so he decided we should keep it. It took eight takes to get it out properly because be we couldn’t stop laughing. It is such a fun show to work on.”

Hilary Rose and Peter Foote
Hilary Rose and Peter Foote

The show has become famous for mixing laughter with tears, something that Rose attributes to her husband’s creative skill.

“Peter is really conscious as a writer, and a director, that audiences are more invested in characters if you feel the full range of emotions with them. The big emotions anchor the big laughs.

“We got so much feedback after the first season of the show with people asking how we managed to make them cry and laugh in each episode. It was brilliant to hear we were having that effect.”

Hilary might live with the show’s creator but that doesn’t mean she gets a sneak peek at the scripts.

“You would think I’d get my hands on them beforehand, but I have to wait until they are in the final stages. Peter does bounce ideas off me though. I think he doesn’t want me to see the script in case he has to take something out that I liked. He doesn’t want to disappoint me.”

The Montenotte actor admits to being very close to her TV ‘boys’.

“Alex and Chris are like my little brothers. We stay in touch all the time when we aren’t working.

“We’ve been lucky with the way the show has brought us all together.”

The Young Offenders Christmas Special is on RTÉ1 on Christmas Day at 10.35pm.

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