She had the right to remain silent, but we’re glad she didn’t use it. Her character Dinah can be seen questioning suspects in Channel 4’s No Offence, but here actress Elaine Cassidy answers David Hennessy’s questions
“Paul Abbott,” Wicklow actress Elaine Cassidy answers without hesitation when asked what attracted to playing Dinah Kowalska in Channel 4’s new police drama, No Offence.
The first episode saw Elaine’s character chase a suspect under a bus and dive into a canal to save the latest victim of a killer preying on down’s syndrome girls. Elaine knew she wanted to be in the latest from the BAFTA award-winning creator of Shameless.
“That’s enough. His work is so complex, the rhythms are so unique, it’s really hard work but it’s so worth it because only Paul can create the world that Paul creates. It was definitely the challenge I was after. I felt it had been a while since I had found a character that really stretched me. This project came along and it was absolutely what I was looking for.
“He’s also given a really respectful, responsible voice to the Down’s Syndrome community and I think he’s done it in such an impressive way. He’s said, ‘they have personalities, they are people and they all function very differently from one another’. That continues throughout the series which I think is only right. The way Paul writes is reality-based but it’s just about two degrees left of reality so there are heightened moments but it’s not too surreal that you don’t invest in it.”
Elaine, from Kilcoole, burst onto the scene with Disco Pigs, which she co-starred in with Cillian Murphy. She won the first of her two IFTA awards for this role with her second coming for US television series, Harper’s Island. She has shared the screen with Colin Firth in When Did You Last See Your Father? Sally Hawkins in Fingersmith and the late Bob Hoskins in Felicia’s Journey.
No Offence starts with Elaine’s character Dinah kicking a lover and his crutches out of her taxi, telling him, ‘I would rather have a w**k’. Then spotting a murder suspect, Dinah impulsively chases with no back up, a move that proves fatal for the runaway and costs the police woman a promotion to sergeant. Later on, Dinah invites a girl who has narrowly escaped from a serial killer with her life into her own home as she has no family to look after her. Another unorthodox move.
“She’s just interested in getting the job done whatever that takes and I think that used to be the way policing was done back in the day. Now it’s all bureaucracy and paper work and it’s obviously in place for valid reasons but I think what it also does is makes it more difficult for police to police.
“Back in the day to get a confession from someone, one person might go into the cell and a few bruises later, the confession comes and that’s not the right way of doing it and that’s not what Dinah would do, or would she?
“These are the police you would want to have on your side because they just want to get the result. They just want to get the criminal. They want to solve the case. I think that’s what people will warm to.
“What’s so lovely about the characters Paul writes is, I think, if you were to get it in another country or on another network, they would be like, ‘oh my God, she has to be likeable’, ‘Oh no, she can’t do that’, ‘we need to see scenes of her with her daughter and her being so loving and she has to be morally this, that or the other’.
“Paul doesn’t entertain it. It’s just, ‘here’s the characters, warts and all’ and he doesn’t judge them. I think that’s what is so attractive about his work, because then you get to play really interesting, complex, 3D characters.
“I think there’s a new breed of that. I feel a real turning point of that was Breaking Bad. For the first time in a long time, the lead character wasn’t likeable. Things seem to be more character driven, rather than plot driven and I’m more interested in characters.”
No Offence has some of the same qualities as The Wire for how it shows an unorthodox police team getting real satisfaction from their work. Can Elaine relate to it and see why someone would want to do such a tough job? “Everyone chooses their job because of who they are, there’s something in your personality that suits that job if you find yourself in the right job. Obviously carers have that caring streak and people get into the police for different reasons. Some people like the power, some people want to make a change, some people want to protect. If you get into the MI5 or something, there’s huge adrenaline there. I think it’s quite close to criminals themselves if you’re on the front line.
“I would be awful in the police force. It’s not suited for me. Ten years ago when I was shadowing the police for Channel 4’s The Ghost Squad, I was going around with two police officers and when they were chasing someone, I was like, ‘get away, get away. Don’t catch them’. I was rooting for the criminal, not saying that’s the way you should be but I would be too soft and I would be like, ‘now, don’t do it again’. But then maybe if you got me on another day, I would throw the book at them. I don’t know. I would just be awful.”
One thing Elaine and Dinah have in common is that they are both parents but mother of two Elaine says: “I don’t think Dinah is really a family person. I think Dinah’s really married to her job, that’s first and foremost.
For the full interview see the May 16 Irish World.
No Offence continues on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesdays.