While many of us are overwhelmed by the number of TV channels on our box – not to mention choices on Netflix, Amazon Prime or whatever streaming service we’re loyal to – while still exclaiming to whoever we’re fighting with for the remote, “There’s nothing on the telly!” we must admit that television has us well and properly hooked these days, and for good reason. Every time we turn around, there is another megastar signing on to an exclusive series written by a hero of the pen, and produced and directed by another hero of the big or small screen.
And this time, the producer and co-creator is Sharon Horgan; the director is Annie Griffin; the writer is journalist and author of Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Lorna Martin; and among the stars is Tipperary-born actress Kerry Condon. The project? Women on the Verge, a six-part, Dublin-set TV series based on Martin’s bestseller centred around three thirtysomething careerwomen.
You’ll recognise Condon’s face, certainly. She’s starred alongside Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; made her screen debut in Angela’s Ashes; and her TV roles have seen her star as Stacey in AMC’s Better Call Saul and opposite Naomi Watts in Netflix series Gypsy. And you may also recognise her voice, which is that of F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Her stage credits are even more impressive (she was the youngest actress ever to play Ophelia in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, and she performed in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan in New York, directed by Garry Hynes).
This new role sees Condon return to Irish shores to play Laura, an investigative journalist who’s having an affair with her boss. Her therapist, Dr F (played by Horgan), tries to help her get her life back on track. Alison (played by Eileen Walsh) is trying for a baby after getting back together with her ex after a series of disastrous one-night stands. Divorced and single Katie (Nina Sosanya) is Laura’s close friend and convinces her to start seeing Dr F. Think Sex and the City with a splash of Girls, and a little Catastrophe thrown in for good measure.
“Laura is a single woman confronted by society’s ideas of what her life should look like, and there’s a lot of anxiety that she doesn’t quite match up to that,” says Condon. “I’m excited to be playing the lead alongside Nina and Eileen. It was interesting to see men come in and play the boyfriends – it’s always been the other way around.
“It was a dream to be able to come home to do this. I knew some of the actors from previous jobs. Dearbhla Molloy, who plays my mother, has been a great friend since we did The Cripple of Inishmann together ten years ago. She has always encouraged me in my career and given me great advice.”
The fact that Sharon Horgan is behind the project will surely have fans in Ireland tuning in. “I’ve always admired Sharon. How does she do it? Writing and producing so many great shows, plus acting the lead in her own show, plus being a mother and wife. I’d be attached to a drip, having a breakdown if I had to do that much. She is all smiles too, with such a generous spirit. I have never met anyone like her.”
This is the first time Condon and Horgan have worked together. “She came to see a play I was in 13 years ago, called After the End by Dennis Kelly, who is a friend of Sharon’s. She remembered me, watched my career throughout the years, and wrote me a letter asking me to play Laura. There was no audition, no meeting. She believed I could do it. I was stunned. I still am.
“The script is very funny. The humour can be dark, which is more real and always something I gravitate towards,” she continues. “Laura rants and raves a lot. She is trying to be strong and independent, but there is a lot of loneliness and anger. Lorna Martin and I spoke about capturing that weekend loneliness and dating men you don’t even like, just for the company. Laura self-medicates with booze too, so it’s a recipe for disaster.”
America is where Condon now resides, but she maintains that Ireland will always be home. “I try to come home twice a year. Home will always be Ireland, even though I’ve been in the States ten years now. All my family is here, all my true friends who’ve known me since I was a child. I’m grateful to be able to live and work in the US, but the last time I arrived in immigration at the LA airport, they said, ‘Welcome home!’ and I almost burst into tears and said, ‘No, home is back the way I came!’ I think eventually I’ll spend more time in Ireland. Life is short, and I want to spend it with the people I love.”
Next up, you’ll catch Condon in Dreamland starring Margot Robbie, which is due for release next year. In the meantime, you’ll probably find her enjoying a bit of quiet time. “Normal for me is taking care of my animals. I have two horses and a dog. I read a lot, keep in touch with friends, try to take care of myself, sleep… and try not to think about work, which is impossible.”
Proud career moments
Originating the role of Mairead in The Lieutenant of Inishmore was a big achievement. I played that part in England and New York for almost two years. That gave me so much confidence. I was the only female character. It encouraged me to be outspoken, feisty and not care what anyone thought of me. My role of Rosie in Luck was another proud moment. That was a show on HBO by David Milch and directed by Michael Mann. I got to play a jockey. I had to gallop fast on a racetrack with a camera in a car beside me. I fell off multiple times. Learning how to ride racehorses changed my life, and it’s still something I do in my free time.
The perks of voice acting
F.R.I.D.A.Y. is the first and only voice job I’ve ever done. It’s great. There’s no need for costume or make-up. I’ve done four of the Avenger movies now. It is a little challenging, as I don’t get the whole script – it’s always top secret. The director and editor always explain the scene and let me play around. They always want it more Irish and usually say, “Just say it the way you would say it!”
Her A-list colleagues
I worked with Nick Nolte on Luck for over a year – he taught me so much and still keeps in contact. Martin McDonagh has been one of my best friends since I was a teenager – he is always encouraging me. Sharon Horgan and Margot Robbie are two beautiful, successful women who remind me that you don’t need to be a bitch to get ahead. David Fincher blew my mind. Alan Parker changed my life – he gave me my first job.
Life in the US since Trump
Americans are divided now, and a lot of people are embarrassed at the state of affairs. American people are so nice, and I think it’s hard because it’s such a huge country, with so many different people. It’s a little easier for me, as I can stand back and see both sides. I feel for people in rural areas who don’t feel heard. Sometimes I think the people on the coasts forget what it’s like to be completely and utterly broke and feel looked down upon. I hope they start to understand each other more and unite.
What young Irish actresses should remember
How you handle your failures, the bad times, the let-downs, will be the making of you. Get a hobby outside of the industry. Share your money with less fortunate beings.
Women on the Verge airs this Thursday, October 11 at 10.30pm on RTÉ2.
Portrait by Ryan Pfluger
Originally published in the IMAGE October issue