Charlene McKenna as Rose in Ripper Street which airs December 30
By David Hennessy
Well known to Irish audiences for her appearances in Raw, Pure Mule and Whistleblower, Charlene McKenna has been raising her UK profile in recent years with parts in Being Human, Misfits and Merlin. However parts in BBC’s Ripper Street, which will air over Christmas, and in the forthcoming series of Channel 4’s Skins will bring her to everyone’s attention.
“It’s been a good year,” Charlene tells us when we catch up with her on a rare day off. “I’m definitely going to enjoy my Christmas dinner this year. Thankfully all my ducks are lining up or whatever that expression is.
“We (Ripper Street) got our TX dates, we’re going out on December 30 at 9pm so we’re delighted to have a Sunday night slot. I’m playing Rose, she’s just amazing. She’s so much fun to play, she starts the series as a young prostitute in the local brothel that the pathologist lives in. He’s a bit of a shady character and he’s also partial to enjoying Rose, shall we say, and she him. Things get very skewed as the show goes on. She has a very interesting journey throughout the show.”
Charlene has lived in London for four years and does not miss the irony of having to relocate to Dublin to play an East End character: “It’s hilarious. I got the call: ‘It’s a five month shoot’. And I was like: ‘Where?’ ‘Dublin.’ I live in the East End as well.
“It was good for me because I got to go home, not that I’m from Dublin but it is totally a second home at this stage, certainly film sets and film crews are like family at this stage. The director was laughing, he said: ‘With all these big names in the cast, the minute we arrived in Dublin everyone wanted to know about you and what you were doing and when you were coming over’ which I thought was really funny.”
Originally from Monaghan, Charlene was studying music when she got a call that led to her first big taste of acting. The call was from none other than Neil Jordan who wanted her to audition for a part in Breakfast on Pluto: “I went and met him and he gave me the part there and then. The rest, as they say, is history. I haven’t looked back since. I always wanted to be an actress but I wasn’t sure how viable it really was. I knew I wanted it but I didn’t know if I could achieve it but strangely it came to me and it kept coming and thank God it keeps coming.”
Charlene shares her delight with the reception Jump has got from various festivals: “It did really well in Toronto. Unfortunately, I was filming. I couldn’t go to Toronto so I haven’t been able to follow it as closely as I would have liked. But it’s been doing the rounds and it’s been getting a great response.
It’s a lovely, funny, tight little Irish film with a great cast. It’s lovely to see Derry as the backdrop to an Irish film as opposed to Dublin or Belfast so I think Irish audiences will really enjoy it. I definitely hope it gets out there. I’m not sure where it’s at with regards distribution yet. I don’t know the latest on that.”
For the full interview see the Christmas issue (December 22-29) of the Irish World