Best known for her comedic role as Cheryl Brady in Hollyoaks, loval actress Bronagh Waugh has proven that she’s more than just another soap star. She’s a chameleon in her craft. Here she talks to Emma Deighan about her very own Sitcom, becoming IN! Magazine’s Woman of the Year and her critically acclaimed role in the BBC drama The Fall…
Bronagh Waugh is the type of girl everyone needs as a BFF. She’s a hoot. She’s grounded and she’s not affected by her own fame, even though she very well could be. Her recent success as Sally Ann Spector in BBC drama The Fall has beckoned credit that would ordinarily go to anyone’s head, but not Bronagh’s.
American actress Lena Dunham said of her role as the exhausted housewife in the The Fall:”Holy shit. The Fall should give a master class in cliffhangers/bonechillers. Bronagh Waugh & Gillian Anderson are insanely compelling actors…”
“I was like whaaaaat,” said Bronagh when referencing that testimonial Tweet from the Emmy Award winning star.
“She’s only like the most amazing woman in the world,” she continued.
Now the pair are social networking buddies and they’ve arranged to meet up. It’s an impressive commendation for the 31 year old from Coleraine who one time struggled to even get a role acting a Northern Irish character.
“After studying at Guildford School of Acting, I was geared up for theatre but I wasn’t getting seen for Northern Irish parts,” Bronagh explained.
“No one had seen me act in a Northern Irish accent before so I made a clear decision to move back to Northern Ireland to get those roles because this accent is what sets me apart from other actors,” she continued.
When recalling funny anecdotes such as castings in America, Bronagh effortlessky falls in and out of LA dialect that is so convincing, it’s understandable how casting agents don’t associate her with Northern Ireland. When recalling conversations on the set of Hollyoaks, her English intonation is equally as impressive.
She says this talent stems back to her childhood. She grew up in Northern Ireland but lived in Bangkok for five years when she studied at an American high school. She also completed sixth form college in England where she says she was badly bullied.
“Accents have been something I was always good at because as child who moves about, it’s what you do to fit in. I hung out with the misfits at sixth form college. My best friend was drag queen by night,” she revealed.
But a few years working at home was all Bronagh needed to land a role that allowed her to expose her USP. She secured the part of Northern Irish Cheryl Brady on the set of Hollyoaked for five years. And, as they say, the rest is history.
It was in 2012 when Bronagh heard about ‘Northern Ireland’s new serious drama’ and ready for change, Hollyoaks producer Emma Smithwick paved the way for Cheryl Brady’s depature.
“I was attracted to the role of Sally Ann because it was a huge depature from Cheryl. She was bubbly and comedic. Sally Ann is tired, down and stressed and she’s different from anything I have ever played before. I wanted to leave the show for a while and I was ready for a change.,” said Bronagh.
Now filming the second series of The Fall with a host of former Hollyoaks colleagues including her former onset brother Emmett Scanlean and Karen Hassan and Gerard McCarthy, Bronagh kept tight lipped on where the storyline is going but did commend the show’s writer and producer Allan Cubitt for his craftmanship adding: “You wonder how he comes up with these scenes.”
On the subject of scenes on The Fall, it’s only natural to ask what everyone else wants to know… what it’s like to play the wife of serial killer Paul Spector, or more importantly, act out love scenes with former Mr Calvin Klein and the immortalised Christian Grey otherwise known as Jamie Dornan.
“I get asked that all the time,” she begins on the subject. “He’s just Jamie. When you’re an actor and you work on the set all the time, it’s just a work thing. The interest is weird,” she continued.
“Our intimate scenes are the least intimate moments ever. For a start there are 40 people in the room.
I remember we did this one scene, in the bath and the water had to be still, no bubbles. I got in and lay down and I see Jamie’s shoulders going like this (shakes) and I look down and there’s my modesty cover floating down the bath so when things like that happen, it’s the most unromantic, unsexy thing ever,” recalled Bronagh.
Jamie Dornan’s rise to fame as an actor could very easily dominate a conversation with Bronagh and she’d happily chat for hours about his skillset, his professionalism and what a great guy he is without resentment; “I went for an audition once and I think I was only called in because I worked with Jamie. It’s just a really weird thing and I’m like ‘yes, but did you see the show? Did you like the show?'”
The majority of viewers of The Fall were unanimous in thinking that was one of the best dramas to come out of NI. That includes Lena Dunham, CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper and screenwriter and American Psycho novelist, Brett Eason Ellis.
“We were all ensconced in getting it right and to see it doing so well, even in America is just fantastic and that is testimony to the cast and Allan and the wonderful crew,” said Bronagh
But back to the A-list friendship she’s kindled with Hollywood elite, Vogue cover star and Girls superstar, Lena Dunham.
“I take that as the biggest compliment and because I’m writing my own show, I take great inspiration from her. She writes and executive produces her own show and she’s only 23,” Bronagh enthused.
While in Belfast filming The Fall, Bronagh is tirelessly composing her own comedy sitcom on the side. The plot, when describes by Bronagh is one a local audience will very much relate to.
“It’s out there. It takes risks and it could offend but comedy is about pushing boundaries isn’t it? And I want to show Belfast off in a really modern light. You could say Belfast is the third main character in the show,” she divulged.
Viewers can expect banter inspired by conversations overheard in local pubs such as one liners from hecklers at The Empire Comedy Club that Bronagh frantically took note of. This collective wit will be delivered amid a backdrop of modern Belfast.
“I think Northern Ireland needs something like this,” Bronagh continued. “I’ve been out and about, seeing all the new bars and the best of the city and I hope it will be shown in the UK and America, because doesn’t everyone love the Northern Irish sense of humour? Aren’t we just so fucking funny?”
Funny is one adjective that is very apt for Bronagh. Humour is all part of her makeup. She’s one very funny lady and her self-deprecating tales could while away hours in her company.
One example is her recital of the IN! Magazine Awards in March when she took the title of Woman of the Year – an experience she reflects on with pride but a touch of embarrassment.
“I was delighted but I did not expect to win,” she said. “I took by bra off in the toilet. It was hurting me and I thought ‘screw this’. I wouldn’t have done that if I knew I was going to win,” she recalled.
The bra issue didn’t go unnoticed as host Eamonn Holmes so kindly pointed out to 400-strong audience.
“I also fell off my chair,” Bronagh continued.
“When Jamie and his wife won Couple of the Year, I stood up and the UTV cameras were on me. I knocked my chair over and didn’t realise and I’m standing tall, clapping, all proud and then, when I went to sit back down, I fell. Oh god, it was awful. I hit my face off the table and Leah Totten from The Apprentice had to pick my chair up. I was scarlet but there you go, Northern Ireland’s Woman of the Year, keeping it real!”
Staying grounded is something Bronagh won’t forfeit on her journey of success. Altough she could get carried away with the invites to gala events, the celebrity diary dates and the A-list Tweets, she’s keeping her feet on terra firma by ‘keeping it real.’
Charity works is top of her agenda in this domain. An ambassador for Cinemagic, the homegown film and television festival that educates young people here, Bronagh would much rather swap a night on the tiles for something a touch more philanthropic.
“I was a student at Cinemagic and it’s just nice to give back, isn’t it? The local film and television industry is thriving at the minute and those young people involved in Cinemagic are the future actors, cameramen and talent for that industry.”
She also does work local charity Arthritis Care and she’s an ambassador for The British Skin Foundation.
An exzema sufferer, Bronagh believes that an unrealistic quest for perfection in young people is unhealthy and she hopes that ‘talking about it will make young girls feel more accepted’. “I think you should strip it back and love yourself the way you are. Confidence really is a beautiful thing and it’s empowering,” she added.
And while she dared to bare on a the cover of Heat Magazine, all for the cause, she does confess that getting ‘dolled up’ is ‘the nice part’ of her high profile job.
“At the IN! Awards, I was interviewed about the dress I was wearing and I was like ‘Pucci. From TK Maxx and I’m thinking, ‘why do I do that’?
“I was up for an IFTA once and I had this blue dress on and they were like, ‘Bronagh, who are you wearing?’ and I responded, ‘TK Maxx £29.99. Awk, I’m delighted with it.’ But I hope people can identify with that. I just think life is too short to make out that everything’s perfect.”
Although Bronagh has just recently received her dual citizenship for Canada where she hopes to live in the near future, a return to Northern Ireland is definitely top of her agenda no matter what awards she beckons or what roles she secures.
“I would like to meet a good Irish man, marry, have children and settle down here. I’m very loyal to my home base and I’m very proud of it. I love where I come from,” she said. And to reinforce that fame and fortune won’t be going to her head any time soon, she concluded: “I’m just a normal girl from Coleraine following my dream, and I hope young girls see that and realise that they too can achieve their dream.
All for £29.99 at TK Maxx.”