By David Hennessy
Well known to Irish audiences as Debbie in RTE’s hugely successful crime drama Love/Hate, Dublin actress Susan Loughnane has now entered Channel 4’s Chester based soap Hollyoaks as Chloe, a serial surrogate mother, and the character has already had an explosive impact.
When asked how she’s settling in, Susan tells The Irish World: “It’s been brilliant. Liverpool is very similar to Dublin in a lot of ways, it’s just got a very similar type of people and similar attitude which I love. It actually surprisingly reminds me a bit of home.”
With the murder of Lynsey Nolan, imprisonment of Brendan Brady and departure of Brendan’s sister, Cheryl, Hollyoaks has lost a lot of its Irishness but this is something Susan is happy to be addressing: “I’m going to bring a bit more Irish back in which is good because I think that’s been quite a big part of Hollyoaks. At least it has been over the last few years. It’s great to keep the Irish in it.”
Surrogate mother of his baby, Chloe gave John Paul McQueen a shock when she first came to the village. Last week saw her return again, asking for John Paul’s help. After having Matthew for John Paul and his partner, Chloe is now carrying another baby for another couple but already spent the money given to her for the deed on a trip to Disneyland. Last week saw her clash with evil Sienna when she realised Sienna’s pregnancy was false. Sienna hoped to buy the baby Chloe was carrying but Chloe instead wanted hush money after rumbling Sienna’s dark secret. Sienna has already stolen Nancy’s husband Darren, had Nancy confined to a mental hospital with her lies and locked little Tom away when he threatened to reveal her secrets: “I think people are gonna like Chloe now just because of her tackling the one character that everyone seems to hate. I was really excited about that. Chloe discovers that Sienna’s not really pregnant. She just starts to manipulate her and blackmail her and while that would be a horrible thing to do if it was to a nice character, because it’s Sienna, it’s great. It’s like evil meets evil and I think that’s kind of nice, Sienna’s met her match a little bit.”
On telly every night of the week, are soap actors the hardest workers in the industry? “Absolutely, it’s unbelievable. I have so much respect for the regular actors on this show. They’ve got a tough gig and they’re brilliant at it, what they can do is very impressive: How quickly they can learn lines and how professional they all are. Coming from a background of doing crime drama and stuff where we had months and months to learn our lines and to research them and we knew exactly what we were filming weeks in advance, it’s just bizarre working here but it’s wonderful because after the first little stint I did, I observed it and I sort of thought: Well if I can do this, I think I can do anything.”
February saw Susan landing the IFTA for Best Supporting Actress, beating Ruth Negga and Deirdre O’Kane, on a night when Love/Hate swept the board: “It was amazing. It was just one of those moments where you want to pause time. Nobody can ever take that away from me, do you know what I mean? My whole career, no matter what happens now, I’ll always have that and that’s always something that I feel very proud of. As an actor and in any career, you have doubts about yourself: Am I good enough? What if I’m not good enough? And all that. It’s just sitting there on my parent’s mantelpiece and when I go home, it’s like: ‘Oh yeah, I have that,” she says with a laugh.
Debbie entered Love/Hate in series 2 as the girlfriend of Aidan Gillen’s gang leader, John Boy. Debbie always had a problem with heroin and with John Boy out of the picture has started selling her body to pay for her habit: “I’m still in shock from the day I got the call three and a half years ago, saying I got the part. It’s just been such a blessing. I really won the jackpot with that. It was just an unbelievable role to play and it’s still really exciting.”
Asked if we will see a fifth series of Stuart Carolan’s internationally successful gritty drama, Susan says with certainty: “I’d say there will be yeah. I don’t know whether I’ll be in it or what but there definitely will be, yeah.”
Difficult circumstances at home have led to Irish people leaving in great numbers but is it business as usual in Susan’s industry as actors have always come to the UK for the greater opportunities? “I don’t know, it’s hard to know. I think there was a lot more in Ireland before. Now there’s really only Love/Hate, I’m so lucky to be on it. There’s a lot of reality and stuff but there’s not a lot of drama being made.
“The country can’t afford it. The country can barely afford Love/Hate and other shows I think have been sacrificed because of it. I don’t know if that’s the case but there’s very little money and that’s the problem. That’s why we’re losing a lot of our best actors at the moment.
“Even drama that is being made, like say there was some dramas made for TV3 and stuff, the actors got paid nothing, minimal amounts of money, that you can’t even live on. So while in the past, they would have been paid enough to stay in Ireland and live, now actors absolutely have to leave really. There’s just nothing in Ireland. Pretty much every actor I know in Ireland is on the dole, most of them. Here you can absolutely survive as an actor and have a decent quality of life. In Ireland I really don’t think you can anymore. It bothers me to be honest because I would love to live at home but I can’t. Then that’s the story of the world at the moment. I shouldn’t complain, at least I’m working.
“I think the recession has brought out some really good qualities in Irish people. While it’s also negative and it can be very hard at home, there’s some good things to have come from it. I think people are very ballsy, people are taking things into their own hands, trying to make something of themselves over here so that’s nice. There are Irish people who are very determined and very talented conquering the world and that must be seen as a good thing, mustn’t it? We’re representing ourselves really well again. Ireland has always represented itself really well in the arts when it comes to writing. Maybe if there wasn’t a recession, I would never have written anything and now I’m writing loads. I don’t know if I’m any good but if I am, I can certainly thank the fact that I became a lot more determined and self sufficient when I realised there was no money. There are good things to come from that.”
The Hollyoaks Academy
There have been several memorable Irish characters in Hollyoaks in recent years. Kris Fisher, played by Gerard McCarthy, was the first to arrive in 2006. Kris is remembered for his cross dressing and being involved in a bisexual love triangle. Since leaving Hollyoaks in 2010, Gerard has appeared in Vikings and Titanic: Blood and Steel.
Kris was then joined by his brother, Glen Wallace’s Malachy in 2007. Malachy is noted for being in the centre of a HIV storyline. Glen was recently seen in ITV’s The Guilty.
Cheryl Brady followed her friend Malachy to the village of Hollyoaks. After Kris and Malachy had both departed the show, Cheryl was still one of the show’s largest characters.
Cheryl was surprised by the arrival of both her brother Brendan Brady and friend from home, Lynsey Nolan (Karen Hassan) in 2010. Lynsey is remembered for being attacked by serial killer Silas Blissett who she then tried to expose but with no one paying attention to her for a long time. Brendan Brady is probably remembered most for the gay storyline that coincided with Kieran Richardson’s real life coming out.
Four of the actors named above: Bronagh, Gerard, Emmett and Karen have since appeared in BBC’s The Fall which stars Gillian Anderson on the hunt for Jamie Dornan’s serial killer.
Brendan Brady v Nidge
“He really gave us a good rep over here,” Susan laughs when reminded of the most memorable Irish character Hollyoaks has seen. Brendan Brady, played by Emmett J Scanlan was a bully and murderer although one who was fiercely devoted to his sister, Cheryl. We saw him confront his own sexuality and his abusive father before bowing out of the soap earlier this year.
Susan continues: “He’s brilliant, it was actually really nice to follow him. I was wondering would I have to have a moustache to play the new Irish person but luckily I didn’t have to stop shaving,” she says with a laugh.
“I’ve come across Emmett a million times in other ways. I met him at the airport just before I got the part on Hollyoaks actually. I didn’t even tell him I had auditioned for it but then I got it and I was like: ‘Oh God, he might be wondering why I didn’t mention that to him’. I see him around quite a lot funnily enough. I think we’ve a lot of the same friends as well.”
As Susan is moving from Love/Hate to Hollyoaks, we thought of someone who could go in the opposite direction and put it to Susan: How would Brendan Brady and Love/Hate’s Nidge get on? “Oh my goodness, that’s an interesting question. I don’t think they would get on. I think they would hate each other. I don’t think they would like each other.”
Who would Susan have her money on in such a contest? “That’s a really tough question. Oh my goodness, I don’t know. It would be a fight to the death. It would be like Gladiators.
“Part of me thinks Nidge because he’d have the back-up but Brendan Brady’s so cool and just so unpredictable, isn’t he? Both are very unpredictable but I’d say Nidge just because he’d have the back-up of all the lads and he’d have more weapons and stuff in easy reach, I suppose.
“Emmett would be good in it (Love/Hate). He’s such a good actor. He’s a fantastic actor.”
For the full interview, see the November 9 Irish World.
Look out for Susan in Hollyoaks in the coming months.
Love/Hate series 4 comes to DVD this month.