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The good doctor

Actress Tara Lee told David Hennessy how her character Dr Lynn Brennan is conflicted by seeing the cycling team harming themselves with performance- enhancing drugs, how she can’t remember being at the Tour De France in 1998 and that the Irish film and TV industry will bounce back after Covid.

Irish actress Tara Lee’s character Doctor Lynn tells Dom in one scene from the Racer, ‘You picked up a virus in Ireland. With a virus, you’ve just got to push through it’.

This line seems very prescient now as we have all been pushing through the horror of a deadly virus for many months now.

“That is so true,” she says. “I never even thought about that. I also thought it was funny because it’s that whole Irish thing of ‘You’re just tired, you just picked something up, you just need to sleep and you’ll be fine’.”

Tara’s character acts as the moral centre of the film. While she is there to look after their wellbeing she is horrified to see what they are doing to their bodies in the name of victory.

Tara’s previous credits include RTE’s Raw, The Fall, A Date for Mad Mary and a short stint on Eastenders.

“Apparently- because I was four when the Tour De France came to Ireland- Apparently I stood on the side of the road and watched it but I have no memory of that. I was there but I don’t remember.

“When I got the part I was talking to Kieron and I said, ‘I know nothing about cycling. I know nothing about the Tour De France’. And he was like, ‘Yeah but Lynn doesn’t either’.

“So as Lynn was learning, I was learning.

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“Louis is an incredible cyclist and athlete. He probably could go pro if he wasn’t so busy with his acting work. They’re in that world. They put their bodies through a lot anyway just to be athletes and I’m sitting there with my pizza, listening to the Backstreet Boys like, ‘What? This is your reality’.

“I think it’s easy to come at it from a natural place when it’s something I feel strongly about like, ‘Why would you do this to yourself?

“What I’ve seen on a smaller scale throughout my life is people literally putting their bodies at risk because they’re looking at the immediate future. They’re not looking at next week, they’re not looking a month away. They’re literally looking at the here and now like in the movie, ‘I need to take this injection right now so that I can perform really well in this race and I’m not going to think about later on tonight when I have to sleep with a heart monitor in case my heart stops. I’m not going to think about a few months down the line when that really starts to affect me’.

“And that’s the danger of something like that. It’s like what’s important is this race today and what’s really important just goes out the window.

“You see that in life with drugs, what people do to their bodies and it’s such a dangerous place to be, in that kind of immediacy.”

As a ‘domestique’, or a support rider, Dom is responsible for setting that pace, and getting his team’s leader into a winning position. Lynn’s character calls him, ‘a professional loser’. There is a funny scene in a pub where Dom explains to bemused people that his objective is not to win the race.

“I had no idea that this was a thing. I love that scene because they are normal people and this isn’t a normal job that he is doing. They’re like, ‘What’s the point of playing a sport or running a race if you’re not planning on winning?’ It takes someone who’s removed to really look into a situation. I like that scene because it’s his only experience with reality and with family.”

After getting close to Dom, Lynn is put in an awkward position when she is given the job of testing the team’s riders knowing they are on performance-enhancing drugs and she drops a test tube to give them a reprieve. Was this just an accident?

“Me and Kieron couldn’t really decide, ‘Does she do it on purpose? Does she do it by accident?’ I kind of felt in the end that her job is so important to her she is not the type of person who is going to like that throw that away to help this guy but in saying that I think she really cares about Dom and maybe subconsciously she did it on purpose.

“I feel like it wasn’t something she wanted to do and sometimes when we feel like that we do something whether we mean to or not. I see it as a bit deeper than, ‘Oops’.”

Tara, who lives in East London, believes Irish film and TV will recover quickly once the virus subsides: “I think it definitely will. I know of some amazing things that are in pre-production at the moment.

“We’re resilient people and the industry is resilient and I think even though it’s easy for it to be pushed away when the government are talking about what they see as necessities. What they don’t really think about is the amount of film and TV and music that has been getting people through the lockdown.

“There is a need for new content and I think as soon as things are a little bit easier, productions aren’t so terrified that they’re going to be shut down again things will start moving a lot quicker. I think it’s going to be okay.”

The Racer is in cinemas and on streaming platforms from 18 December.

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