Home Lifestyle Entertainment There’s no place like ‘home home’

There’s no place like ‘home home’

Elaine Cassidy told David Hennessy about her new drama Intruder and the joy of getting to film in Ireland during a pandemic.

In normal times, Easter would see the Irish actress Elaine Cassidy travelling home to Ireland with her husband, actor Stephen Lord, and children.

Although it’s not set in Ireland, Channel 5’s crime drama Intruder was filmed in and around Howth and Wicklow which is Elaine’s neck of the woods. Born in Raheny, Elaine grew up in Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.

Elaine came to prominence with early roles that included starring in Disco Pigs with Cillian Murphy and Felicia’s Journey with the late Bob Hoskins.

She would lead an ensemble American cast in CBS mystery series Harper’s Island.

More recently she has been seen on screen in Channel 4 police drama No Offence, the RTE and Acorn series Acceptable Risk and the supernatural A Discovery of Witches on Sky.

Other roles include The Others with Nicole Kidman, Property of the State which told the story of the Clare murderer Brendan O’Donnell and playing the wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu in Stephen Frears’ Lance Armstrong study The Program.

Elaine is also known for her stage work. In 2015 she starred alongside Dominic West and Janet McTeer in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and won plaudits for a role she stepped into at the last minute after Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey pulled out. She returned to the Donmar Warehouse in Brian Friel’s Aristocrats in 2018.

Like every other actor the pandemic threw all Elaine’s projects up in the air so to get to film Intruder in Ireland was an unexpected joy especially as it allowed her to see her family.

Elaine told The Irish World: “It was bliss. I’m happy anyway and I’m always really happy when I’m working and I was even more happy because to be working during a pandemic made it seem even more precious and to be working at home- That was the last time I saw my family. I don’t know when I’ll see them next and I hadn’t seen them since Christmas (2019) so it was a gift in so many ways.

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“We go home a number of times a year. Generally we would always go home at Easter, Christmas and then some time during the summer so we had booked to go home last Easter. Of course, that didn’t happen so we postponed it for the next mid-term break and of course, that wasn’t going to happen and we didn’t even postpone it into the summer because I think by then the magnitude of what we were in the thick of kind of hit home. Then I kind of realised, ‘I don’t even think Christmas is going to be realistic’.”

It was only two weeks into the shoot that it all looked to be under threat from Covid.

“But two weeks into filming, Ireland went into level five. When I got home from filming that day I was like, ‘Oh my God, am I going to be packing my bags and going back to the UK in two days’ time? Do I have a job? Will we get to finish this?’

“And luckily filming fell under manufacturing, an essential service, so we were able to continue but it didn’t feel like finding an unnecessary loophole because it was such responsible film-making.

“I found all the Covid rules that we had to abide by very interesting so when the country went into level five, it just made our set even safer so thankfully we were able to continue.”

Although it presented unique challenges, Intruder was shot without a single case of Covid-19 among the entire cast and crew.

“There was two weeks’ isolation before shooting which was fine for me because it felt good being home even though it was isolation.

“Covid reduces your productivity every day by 25%. That’s a lot. We had a tight schedule as it was. There was no extention of a schedule because of Covid. It was like, ‘No, you’ve gotta get this done’.

“I didn’t know how I would feel. I didn’t know how anxious I would be. I didn’t know if or how it was going to affect my performance. The first scene when you’re filming can always be a bit, ‘How is this going to go?’ You’re getting to know all these new people and you’re taking in so much. So in that regard it was the same and after the first day we very quickly got in a rhythm that worked.

“There was a scene where my character had to console her husband Sam so there’s an embrace. In the past that wouldn’t have been a problem. Every bit of intimacy became like a stunt that had to be choreographed. Even touching someone’s hand or putting your hand on their shoulder. That becomes a whole new thing and I was like, ‘How is that going to feel? My husband and my children are the only people I have embraced’.

“I went for walks with my mam. We had our masks on and I was more than two metres away in the fresh air. And with my sisters. And I hadn’t even hugged them so I was kind of, ‘How is that going to feel?’

“Once ‘action’ is said, you are just transported into that story and the mindset of your character and everything else disappears, but I didn’t know if that would still be the case. That’s what happens normally. Sometimes it’s freezing cold and then they say ‘action’ and you’re in the scene. And then they say ‘cut’, you go, ‘Oh my God, I’m freezing cold’. Or you’ll have a headache and once they say ‘action’, you are in that moment and nothing else but what’s going on in that moment comes into your head.

“It was the best distraction (from Covid). It was really therapeutic for that reason because my world opened up. I had escapism into Rebecca’s world and when you’ve seen all four episodes you’ll be like, ‘Really? You welcomed that escapism?'”

In Channel 5’s current drama Elaine’s character Rebecca and her husband Sam, played by Tom Meeten, appear to have the perfect life in their luxurious coastal home, until one night they disturb two teenage intruders.
As the boys try to flee the scene, Sam flies into a rage and stabs one of them in the back. The couple and their friend Angela, who’s visiting their house and is played by the Irish actress Helen Behan, quickly realise the killing could never be called self-defence.

In a panic, they stage the scene to make it look as if the burglar attacked them but when family liaison officer Karen Bailey, played by Sally Lindsay formerly of Coronation Street, is assigned to the case she quickly senses something is not right.

“What I loved about Rebecca was when you first meet her, you think you know her. When I was reading the script I thought I knew her. I didn’t.

“The dynamic is that Sam messes up and Rebecca comes and saves the day. He’s the spontaneous, fun part of the relationship and Rebecca is more monotonous. She’s routine, she’s orderly. Building the house Sam would have had the mad ideas and Rebecca would have been the one who actually got them executed and he doesn’t really see that. She’s working in the background very quietly and Sam is the frontman.

“What happens with the intruder there is a bit of, ‘Ah for feck sake, here we go again. Okay, I’m going to have to clean it up’. Again she comes to the rescue. She realises what his actions’ repercussions could be so of course she has to step in and be part of this new story of what happened that night. It’s definitely onto a new level of her helping him out because the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been and I think everything happens so quickly there’s certainly not the time to see what the fallout could be.

“She’s definitely in shock and it’s not a situation she’s comfortable being in but it feels like it’s the best outcome when you weigh up what your alternatives are. He literally puts the knife in her hand and she takes it. They have no idea how it’s going to play out and what the next step in going to be.

“Obviously it’s not the right decision and not the honest thing to do but we all know that sometimes we don’t make the best decisions when we don’t think them through properly.

“You take a choice in your life and it takes you down a completely new path and you have got to keep walking down that path. It’s a lose-lose situation for them.”

Sally Lindsay, known for playing Shelly in Coronation Street, had some interesting real-life insight for her role.

“Sally Lindsay was saying that her parents are both retired social workers and she said within five minutes they knew who was the abuser and who was the abused. I think with Bailey something doesn’t feel right. Their instincts are so fine tuned to these situations so that does not help their situation and then the other thing that doesn’t help the situation is Helen’s character, Angela.

“It’s not just Sam and Rebecca included, there is a third wheel and she’s not really in the clique and that’s the bit of a wildcard because the more people that know about something that’s dishonest the bigger the risk. ‘Is someone going to buckle? Are they going to freak out? Are they going to let it slip?’

An investigative journalist, Rebecca acts uncharacteristically foolishly when she chooses to support Sam in his lie.

“I found that really interesting about Rebecca that she’s very considered and she thinks in a very linear way and she can compartmentalise. As clinical and as considered as she can be, this has pulled the rug from under her.

“It’s very unsettling. There’s so many parts to process. Ultimately, somebody has been in their home and that’s a very invasive feeling. It’s a very unsettling feeling. It’s supposed to be their safe place and what they have built together. It’s a world that they have created and not only that, somebody died in their home at the hands of their husband. She witnessed it and now she’s complicit.”

In 2017, Elaine played Sarah Manning in Acceptable Risk, an Irish crime drama about a woman whose husband is murdered. This was the last project that saw Elaine acting in her home country.

“It wasn’t that long ago and the time before that, I think it was eight years. I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, so much goes on in Ireland. You would have thought I would be home before now’.

“That was amazing. That was three months on Acceptable Risk. I lived with my mum when we shot that. I could have got a really nice place in Dublin but I knew it was going to be a special time.

“When I go home and I see my mam, it’s always really busy and the kids are there and my sisters and my dad. This was just me and my mam and how many people in adult life get to spend one-on-one time like that? I was working but in the evening or if I finished early I would get to spend some time with her. I didn’t need hindsight to know how precious it was, I was able to smell that in the moment which made it feel even more special because I was soaking up as much of it as I could. It’s still very vivid to me now and I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. Life’s for making memories and that is a really strong memory imprinted on my brain that will never go away.

“I’m so grateful for that. My job has been very kind to me. If I could get a few more gigs at home that would be amazing.

“Being honest, my phones are always Irish. I always say I don’t like boxes so I’m not defined by any one thing. I am a million and one things. Having said all that, I’m really proud to be Irish. Sometimes I will say, ‘I need to go home’. And I’ll be meaning where I’m currently living but then sometimes I’ll have to say ‘home home’ and ‘home home’ is Ireland. That’s ‘home home’. That will never change.

“Home is wherever my husband and kids are but ‘home home’ is always Ireland.”

Elaine speaks with such joy of her time at home that we have to ask if she sees herself living back there at some point in the future: “Do you know what? This pandemic has changed so much. Just in this last year I have not been to one meeting, they have all been on zoom.

“Up until this pandemic it has never made sense practically for that reason because I did it. Before I moved over to London, I was on a plane all the time: Getting up at the crack of dawn, getting home really late for a half hour meeting and all the time and the energy that went into all of that. So when I moved over and I had a meeting I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just have to get on the tube, this is amazing’.

“It’s something that could be more possible now. The kids are settled and there’s school but the life of an actor: we are gypsies. Being Irish, we’re gypsies. We roam the earth so I don’t know where I’m going to be hanging my hat next and I’m okay with that. It could be Ireland. Who knows? Never say never.”

Intruder is on Channel 5 this week at 9pm.

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