Performing was always where my heart was at

As The Young Offenders TV series continues, ELAINE DUGGAN caught up with one of the stars of the show, Hilary Rose — Conor’s feisty mother — to chat to her about growing up in Cork, life as a DJ and why she returned to college just ten years ago to pursue her acting dream
Performing was always where my heart was at
Actress Hilary Rose. Picture: Miki Barlok

TORMENTED, angry and prone to strings of profanity… and yet we’ve fallen for her character hook, line and sinker. We’re talking about Mairead, Conor’s tormented, tough nut of a mother in The Young Offenders — played by Cork actress, Hilary Rose, from Montenotte.

In fact, Mairead is so angry, Hilary admits she has to be careful playing her and “consciously leave her go when I finish working.”

Hilary is married to the film/TV series director Peter Foott and so for the past three years, the family have been living and breathing all that is The Young Offenders.

Hilary thinks back to 2015 when her other half came to her with the idea for the full-length feature film, set in Cork, which was inspired by the real life 1.5 tonnes cocaine haul, off West Cork, in 2007.

“We were away on holidays and he had just wrapped on the fourth season of The Fear. He said he wanted to do his first feature film this summer — he pitched the idea to me, I thought it a brilliant idea. Great, I thought, we’ll spend the summer making a film. A month later I found out I was pregnant. We decided to keep going…”

In fact, Hilary was seven months pregnant filming the closing scenes of the movie — which was a box office hit. Soon after, the BBC commissioned a six-part TV series, filming began last summer and we are currently seeing the fruits of the labour on BBC3 and RTÉ 1 (every Thursday night).

And there is more good news on the horizon.

Hilary said: “It is amazing — BBC commissioned the second series, before the first episode ever going to air. It is really brilliant, we are really delighted.”

Jock O'Keeffe (CHRIS WALLEY), Connor MacSweeney (ALEX MURPHY), Mairead MacSweeney (HILARY ROSE) in The Young Offenders. Picture: Miki Bartok
Jock O'Keeffe (CHRIS WALLEY), Connor MacSweeney (ALEX MURPHY), Mairead MacSweeney (HILARY ROSE) in The Young Offenders. Picture: Miki Bartok

So what is it that endears the audiences to the story of Jock and Conor?

Hilary said: “It is interesting because the writing is really, really good. I have only seen the first two episodes, but obviously, I have read all the script. It is really tightly written. Comedy like that can be quite slapstick — for me and Peter it only works if it has a lot of depth and heart — if the audience will fall in love with characters and stay with you. That really worked in the film, it has really worked in the series as well. Every character is developed really well, very rounded. It is very heartwarming and interesting. I think the audience will really stick with it.”

Hilary said the reaction to-date to the TV series has been phenomenal.

“Reaction from people has been really, really great, very supportive, you can’t ask for more than that. There is a real positive buzz around the whole thing.”

You might recognise Hilary from her other successful TV roles, Handy Sandie in the Republic Of Telly and Irinka and The Nun for The Fear, but she admits to being relatively new to the acting scene, compared to others, having returned to study it just ten years ago.

However, performing was certainly on the cards for the young woman, who used to be a professional DJ, up until recently.

Hilary grew up in Montenotte and went to school in St Angela’s on Patrick’s Hill. Music was always a big interest and although she did some business courses and multimedia courses, she settled on DJ-ing — she had been collecting records since she was 16.

Hilary went on to play residencies in some of Cork and Dublin’s top venues, including The Savoy. She also played festivals, clubs and was part of Radio Friendly, Cork’s pirate radio station. She called time on her DJ career two years ago when her son was born.

Hilary recalls, ten years ago, taking the step to go back to college, to focus on a career in acting.

“DJ and performing was always where my heart was at. I decided to go back and bite the bullet — do what I really wanted to do.”

She studied acting at CSN before going on to the Gaeity in Dublin. And then she did a few Screen Training Ireland courses, where they would bring over American tutors. She added that there is not “too much on offer to professional working actors that want to add more to their seasoning”.

And if she wasn’t busy enough with The Young Offenders, she has just wrapped too on a lovely short film called Mother, which will be premiered at the Galway Fleadh. She can’t reveal much right now, but you can tell by her tone she’s excited. Hilary is also a screenwriter and is currently writing a couple of different things.

Hilary Rose and Peter Foott at Irish premiere screening of The Young Offenders at Cineworld, Dublin. Picture:Brian McEvoy
Hilary Rose and Peter Foott at Irish premiere screening of The Young Offenders at Cineworld, Dublin. Picture:Brian McEvoy

She and her husband are together more than 10 years: “He is from Cork, we didn’t know each other in Cork. We had mutual friends, they said to us, you have to meet this guy and meet this girl — and we did.

“We were kind of set up really on a bit of a blind date and that was it — we’re together ever since. He didn’t know I was an actress, I didn’t know he was a film director.”

On The Late Late Show recently she joked how he had made her audition for the role of Mairead. I ask Hilary why is it that people have taken to her character?

“Mairead — she is a really a tough nut, I love playing her. There is a real vulnerable streak to her. It gives her character so much depth, you can do lots with that. She is a real angry character, I have to be careful playing her — I have to consciously leave her go when I finish working. She is a very modern character, female character — strong but also vulnerable, people can really relate to that.”

So what other exciting things are on the agenda next? Well, there’s the next season of The Young Offenders to look forward too — that’s once they finish the first series. A holiday is definitely on the cards, says Hilary, who also likes to train in her down time, with KJ fitness in Carrigaline.

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