Love/Hate's Peter Coonan, Robert Sheehan, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Killian Scott
By David Hennessy
After three series, eight IFTAs and ever increasing viewing figures, gritty Irish gang series Love/Hate has proved to be RTE’s most successful home grown drama of all time. Starring Robert Sheehan, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Killian Scott, Lawrence Kinlan and the well known Sean McGinley, past cast members include Aidan Gillen, Ruth Bradley, Ruth Negga and Brian Gleeson, many of whom have gone on to great things by appearing in the show. Its success is not confined to Ireland as it is currently screened in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and The Middle East. Although it is already screened in Scotland, there are plans to bring the Irish smash hit to the broader UK audience. The third series (currently screening on RTE) has reached mammoth viewing figures and has unsurprisingly just been commissioned for a fourth season. The Irish World caught up with director David Caffrey to get his reaction.
“I realised it got 820,000 viewers, similar to The Toy Show, which was unprecedented for raw, home grown drama,” the director of Divorcing Jack, Grand Theft Parsons and BBC’s Line of Duty begins. “It doesn’t sound like big viewing numbers compared to the UK, you reckon a show doesn’t do well when it gets 2 million here but in Ireland, you’re taking up 50 per cent of the audience. That’s just a little bit shy of Ireland in the world cup final, which is great. When you’re working on a project that’s dealing with the subject matter that it is, it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s very satisfying that people are watching it for the drama and acting and great writing, but now that it’s become such a focal point and talking point at home, everybody watches it whether they like it or not.”
Transcending the clichés associated with it, the radical drama explores modern gang culture in Ireland and its depiction of violence has been the subject of some controversy with some suggesting it has escalated since the first series. Last week saw the slaying of crime boss, Eamon Kelly in Dublin so the characters, issues and events depicted in Love/Hate are certainly realistic even if it is the only programme with the balls to portray it: “It’s not gratuitous violence by any stretch of the imagination because all of the violence has consequences for any of the perpetrators or any of the victims within the story: It’s not just random acts of violence with no consequences.
“I think the trouble is if people watch an episode in isolation but overall if you look at the whole piece as an entity, you will see what the repercussions are and why the violence is depicted in the way it is depicted. If you look at Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, that is harrowing but the most graphic images are of water going down a drain. I’m not saying we strand off it as much as that but if you did want to break it down frame by frame, it is really the feeling and the effect you get from the thing that freaks you out (rather than graphic violence). If you study it more, it’s not as bad as it is made out to be.
“Every single piece of aggressive or violent behaviour in it is studied further during the course of the drama. It’s not like a shoot ‘em up, over 18s movie, we think as a genre piece it does have a sociological aspect to it. We don’t see it (the violence) as any more or any less than the first series. We just think that more people are talking about it now.”
As already mentioned, the show currently has eight IFTAs which it is sure to add to in February. Can David believe the phenomenal success the show has enjoyed? “Not really. At first myself and Stuart (Carolan, the writer of Love/Hate) set out to make a one-off but always in the back of your mind, you think: ‘We could do it again’. The first series got nominated for a lot of awards and Stuart won for his contribution but the other seven or eight of us that got nominated walked away empty handed: A really despondent evening. It’s a very weird sensation to go to those award shows as much as you say you don’t care. If you get a nomination but you know you haven’t a hope, you don’t care and you just enjoy the night. But if you actually go along and you think you’re in with a chance, the name is called out and you don’t walk up to the stage, it’s a hollow feeling really. It’s a reward in itself to be involved in something that’s good and popular and then awards come along, it’s kind of a cherry on the cake. You can’t read too much into them and their politics and everything that goes with award shows.”
Although many went home “empty handed” out of Love/Hate’s nine nominations in 2011, the show swept seven in 2012 including one for Caffrey’s direction, another for Carolan’s writing and awards for many of the cast, including Gillen and Vaughan-Lawlor. Ruth Negga and Ruth Bradley were both nominated for their roles in the show and both women have gone onto cement their careers with a part in Twelve Years a Slave opposite Brad Pitt for Negga while Bradley is filming The Sea with Ciaran Hinds.
For the full interview, pick up this week’s (Dec 15) Irish World