July 2015 - by Carl Marsh
With you appearing in The Fall, you have had a tough time as the ‘innocent’ PC Danielle Ferrington in both series one and two, surely you will be hoping on an easier ride for her in series three?
Certainly not! An easy ride is no fun. The difficult stuff is the most fun to play. I hope she’s in the thick of it!
Do you have any good stories, funny or crazy, from when you were shooting The Fall?
One day we were shooting up at The Maze prison. It’s miles from anywhere and very spacious. One of the crew had an air pistol so the lads were killing time with target practice, target being an old sign above a door about 150 yards away. I won’t name names but these were big lads enjoying a macho moment and they were all missing the target by miles. Eventually the gun passes to me and obviously they were all expecting me to be shit, but I hit the target, first go, zero effort! The lads all nearly died! It was all round the set by the end of lunch that I was a ninja badass. I played it cool, of course, but it felt pretty good. *dusts shoulders off*
On the flipside, you were also in Holby City, playing (Staff Nurse) Mary-Claire Carter, your character initially came across as blunt, lazy and insensitive; so how did you prepare for this role early on?
Aww, that was in the early days. Over time she developed into someone more rounded, warm, and aware of her flaws. It was fun being the light relief in the show, I got to deliver some great lines! But I am very proud of how she developed. Mary-Claire and Niamh McGrady ended up morphing into 2 sides of the same person, so it was actually very easy to maintain.
Niamh is such a lovely name, much so, that we wanted our daughter to be called Niamh, and guess what...? she is called Niamh, and what an independent, fun loving, (really) funny, intelligent and knows what she wants character she is! Is it all down to the name?
Bravo for keeping the right spelling! Having to explain the pronunciation and meaning is very character building in itself! But it is definitely worth it. It means ‘brightness, beauty or lustre/sparkle’. So yes, naming your child after me was a very canny thing to do indeed!
I know you attended the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama which is down the road from my home, this is probably where you discovered the partying side of things, as I know you like a good night out; do you have any crazy moments you can tell me about, during your time in Cardiff?
Growing up in Northern Ireland, particularly my area where the Buckfast flows in rivers, I was a well seasoned partier by the time I hit Cardiff. I struggled initially at drama school because I felt like a fish out of water and I couldn’t find anyone to rave with. I did assemble a good crew though, and we had some serious adventures! I recently found an old diary that I kept of all my nights out- with flyers from the nights and everything! It will make a good memoir one day, but I won’t disgrace myself or anyone else just yet!
You were in Cannes recently, some can only dream of attending the parties down there during the film festival, was it all it was cracked up to be?
Absolutely!! I mean, I didn’t see any films but I did get to party on a yacht!
Acting I guess is something you have always wanted to do from an early age, yet it must have been tough leaving home for another country, even though Cardiff in Wales is very welcoming (I settled here), at such a young age to follow your chosen career path? Perhaps you can offer any advice to anyone wanting to follow your path but is feeling a bit trepidatious about making such a leap?
I spent my whole teenage years chomping at the bit to get out of my hometown. I felt so hemmed in and frustrated. Moving to Cardiff was the perfect choice. It is so warm and not so big that it’s overwhelming. I suffered badly from homesickness though. I had many years of feeling weirdly displaced. My ties to home are still very strong but those early years were hard. All I can say to anyone who feels trepidatious, just follow your gut. Always. It will lead you to the right place.
Stage or screen, which do you wish to remembered for, come the end of your career (in many years to come), as I know both have been a massive part of your acting career so far? And do you have any anecdotes from the stage you can share, as I know you have worked with lots of talented stage actors?
I just hope that I am remembered for being good at the job and fun to work with. That would make me very happy. As for anecdotes? They are best remembered over a bottle of wine.. although Patrick Stewart used to tell us some belters! He’s your man for a good story..
I know you are a cat lover just like me, and one of your close friends (Jonjo O’Neil) told me to ask you about your cat called Carrot! Please do tell?
Ha! Thanks Jonjo! It’s such an epic story, but basically she appeared in my garden, just over 5 years ago, young, frightened, dirty and very very sick. It took a year to get her fully better. She was severely anaemic and would not have lived much longer had I not taken her in. Because of all this, we have a very special bond. She is most definitely my familiar. I went to a psychic in LA a couple of months ago who told me that Carrot and I were meant to be together! That we had spent many past lives together and that we would be together for a long time. Also that she had brought me and my boyfriend together because she wanted me to be in a relationship! HA! I wept like a child as she told me all this. I mean, it’s the most far fetched thing I have ever been told in my life! But yet.. it all feels weirdly true…
And Unicorns! What is the obsession?
It’s a hangover from childhood. I was obsessed with them then and nothing has changed. I still have all my My Little Ponies.. childhood was very precious to me. I have kept EVERYTHING and I still believe in magic… why not? Growing up doesn’t have to mean growing less fun.
I know you like to read books, so what is your preference when deciding what to read, and why?
I try to read the classics so I can sound more educated at parties ;) Although I unashamedly read the fluff too. Thats also fun to talk about! I hate people who are snobby or superior about what they read. Keep it mixed!
The usual question I ask is, what is your favourite book or books, and author, and as the last question, why?
I was strongly encouraged to read as a child. It definitely put me on the right track for my career! It’s hard to choose a favourite of anything as I like to switch things up. A classic followed by fluff has been my usual routine. I also love a lot of Irish writers, theres a lot of wit and wisdom in writers like Roddy Doyle and Colm Tobin. Although these days I mostly read books that are on the spiritual shelf. Another Irish Writer, John O Donohue would be high up among my favourites. His words are so quietly calming. Essential if living in crazy London when quiet and nature are so hard to reach.
I should also ask if poetry is a love of yours, and if so, which poet ticks all the boxes for you, and do you have any favourite quotes?
Poetry is a big love of mine. Perhaps even more so than literature. You can disappear into a poem in a moment, and it doesn’t require the commitment of a novel. Small, digestible moments of magic. I carried a Rumi book around with me for so long that it eventually fell into shreds! There are so many poets i love. Yeats is a firm favourite. 'Song of Wandering Aengus' might be my favourite poem of all time. Also Rilke, Plath, Heaney, Tagore, Duffy, I adore them all. As an actor I am reading all the time, scripts for shows, scripts for castings.. A poem takes a moment out of time. Bliss.
Every line of his is so quotable, but I shall give you this from Rumi;
"Dance, when you’re broken open."
"Dance, when you’ve torn the bandage off."
"Dance in the middle of the fighting."
"Dance in your blood."
"Dance, when you’re perfectly free."
Thanks for those words by Rumi. If we can still talk books Niamh, why should people read more?
Reading books will make you smarter. It’s a scientific fact. Reading can also bring you comfort when you need solace, and challenge your view of the world.
Besides The Fall, what can we expect to see you in our screens or the stage, next?
I am currently enjoying a little break for the moment while I decide where to tread next. I don’t see myself back on stage for a while yet..
A random question but I know you worked hard to get where you are, so if I can ask what you think about everybody that wants to be famous nowadays, without doing any of the hard work, it seems? What message would like to give that hard work is paramount, whilst doing nothing isn’t?
People can get famous these days for anything, with reality TV and so forth, and that’s all fine. But if you want to be an actor to get famous then you are in the wrong game. Actors primarily want to create, and that takes a lot of work and commitment. They will inevitably become well known if they work a lot in TV or film, but they (we) have to manage the fame game very delicately.. you have to be able to keep your integrity as an artist.
So how do you stay motivated now that you are a full time actress, what gets you out of bed each day, and what advice can you give to others, to possibly have a career like yours?
I don’t get out of bed unless I really need a wee, or if I can’t ignore the cat doing laps of my head for food!! But on days where I am working I can honestly say I bounce out of bed no matter how early. It’s the buzz of the job. As for this career? It’s hard to say, I don’t know where my own will end up! There are never any guarantees, and there is SO much rejection and instability. This job requires a lot of patience. Only follow this path if those things aren’t enough to put you off. It has never deterred me although it has been tough at times.
Please name 3 things that make you angry?
I don’t like to focus on the negative. But that said:
That equal marriage hasn’t been passed yet in NI.
That religion is still used as an excuse for bigotry.
POLITICS IN GENERAL.
And also please name 3 things that make you happy?
People standing together for what is right.
Last question, if you were an animal, what would it be, and why?
I would be She-Ra’s horse, Spirit. It turns into a white Unicorn/Pegasus with rainbow coloured wings, so it has all the benefits of being a badass unicorn that can FLY! Obviously…