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Bad teacher

Michael and Mary attend a funeral which Ophelia interrupts at Knockdara Church. Emmett J Scanlan as Michael in The Deceived.

Emmett J Scanlan told David Hennessy about playing the layered character of Michael Callaghan, the manipulative professor who has affairs with young students in The Deceived.

“He’s arrogant enough to think he can get away with his affairs. Where that ends is anyone’s guess,” the actor Emmett J Scanlan says of his character Michael Callaghan.

The professor looks to be stepping out of the shadow of his successful author wife with his debut novel when Roisin is suddenly and tragically killed in a fire. But was the fire just an accident?

“Michael is incredibly intelligent. Very good at his job. And yes part of his success is his charm, for want of a better word. He uses that charm to get what he wants. And he does, get what he wants. He’s manipulative. Narcissistic. Attentive. He’s weak. He’s vulnerable, ruthless and strong.

“He’s all these things and much more. There is the yin and the yang in everyone. If you can get scripts that show both sides you’re laughing. He’s not one thing or another. He’s complicated and it is always my utmost pleasure dancing on sets like these.

“Of course (his wife’s success bothers him). He loves his wife in his own way. He admires her, otherwise why would he have married her? The fact she’s more successful than him in an area of his life that he craves more success from is a bitter pill for him to swallow. If the spotlight ain’t shining on him in that way he makes sure it shines on him in other ways. The eyes of his students are that spotlight for him. But what happens when that isn’t enough?


“Sometimes people are just like that, and we try to compartmentalise their actions to better digest their actions. Sometimes they are who they are. But you can find a connection for sure. He feels inadequate in his own relationship so he makes a play for his students to feel that power, that success, that recognition and admiration.

“He’s very good at the game. But maybe he does fall for his students. Maybe he loves being with them. Or Maybe he just loves the chase. The game. The power. Maybe it’s all of those things.”

Michael is instantly attracted to Ophelia, played by Emily Reid, as he sees her as a match for him intellectually.

“Emily’s character is so important in making sure the heartbeat of the show stays true. She’s a fearless woman and an absolute breeze to work with.”

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How did Emmett like working with the man everyone is talking about at the moment, Paul Mescal of Normal People? “Pure gent. We had a good laugh together. I mean I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way the show blew up. But when you watch the series it’s not surprising. It’s beautifully acted, directed, written. So much space to let scenes breathe. It was a stunning show.”

Ophelia has her first tutorial with Michael at St Luke’s College, Cambridge.

Indeed, that seems to be the popular opinion as Paul was nominated for an Emmy for his work as Connell last week.

Before he pursued acting, Paul was a good centre back playing for Kildare at Under-20 level. Could Emmett give him a run for his money? “If I was allowed to foul him, yes. I was more into martial arts. But it’s a savage sport to watch.”

The Deceived was filmed in Cambridge and Northern Ireland. How did Emmett enjoy getting to film in Ireland? “Coming back home to work is fantastic. Not only because we make incredible work here but because I get to hang out with my family and friends. It’s happening more and more over the years. Women on the Verge was shot in Dublin, Krypton in Belfast, The Fall in Belfast. And I’ll be back over later in the year and next year to do a couple more shows. We’re a nation of story tellers and it’s beautiful to see the talent that comes out of it.

“Lisa was the driving force (for this). Like when I did Women on the Verge, I really wanted to work with Sharon Horgan, so I said ‘yes’ straight away. Working with Lisa was the same. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up and I hope to get to do it again.”

Is Emmett a Derry Girls fan? “Who isn’t? It’s a sensational show on every level.”

Emmett has also acted with Brendan Gleeson and Gillian Anderson to name just two, does he ever get star struck? “I don’t think star stuck is the right word. I’ve always enjoyed going toe to toe with brilliant talents, to dance with different artists. That’s always excited me. I’d have deep admiration for certain people, but there would be no room for fear.

Michael at a party with his wife Roisin.

“I think the closest I got to what I think you mean by “star struck” was Dara O’Brien. I didn’t work with him, and it was before I really got into this acting game, but he’s the one. Didn’t have the balls to go up to him and introduce myself even though I wanted to. Next time maybe.”

Emmett first came to the attention of many as Brendan Brady in Channel 4 show Hollyoaks. Playing a hard man with a violent temper who was also battling his own sexuality, Brendan was a complex role that Emmett caught the imagination with. After this, a role in The Fall would soon follow.

However, Emmett is not one for looking back on this or other roles: “I don’t look back on anything if I’m being honest. Don’t get me wrong, where I am now is a direct result of everything I have done before, the choices I’ve made and because of that I am so grateful for all my jobs. They’ve been invaluable teachers… But I don’t look back.”

The Deceived is on Channel 5 at 9pm from Monday this week.

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