Fiona O’Carroll on the joys of working with her dad Brendan, and her new musical

 We first saw Fiona O'Carroll in Mrs Brown's Boys, and she says that hit show isn't so far away from her new role in Copper Face Jacks: The Musical 

Fiona O'Carroll plays Gretchen in Copper Face Jack’s, The Musical.

Performing is clearly in the blood for Fiona O’Carroll, daughter of the comedian Brendan, but before her dad became a household name, she enjoyed a taste of fame that cemented her career path.

“When I was ten, we were trying to raise money for my school in Ashbourne. I was in the school choir and we did a song called The Christmas Rapper, and I was the rapper. I think it went to number six or something in the chart. We were on TV and we travelled all over the country; I got to perform in the National Concert Hall and the Mansion House.” 

Her parents were very proud, she says, but it was clear her father wouldn’t be allowing her to get any notions.

“I think I was a bit of a pain in the arse. I’d be coming home, my dad would have been off working and he would say ‘go in and make me a cup of tea’, and I’d say, ‘ah Dad, I’ve been in the studio all day, I’m so tired’. He’d say ‘get up there you little fecker and make me a cup of tea’.” 

O’Carroll went on to star in Mrs Brown’s Boys, the phenomenally successful TV series created by her father. The show is very much a family affair, also featuring her aunt Eilish, her brother Buster, her sister-in-law Amanda and her stepmother Jennifer Gibney. 

O’Carroll recently finished up a tour of Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Live Show in Britain and has now gone straight into the role of Gretchen in Copper Face Jack’s, The Musical. She says the show, written by Paul Howard and inspired by the famed Dublin nightclub, is perfect entertainment for now.

“After everything that people have been through, comedy is very important, which is why I’m so excited about doing Copper’s. It’s not a million miles away from Mrs Brown’s in that aspect. It does what it says on the tin, you are there for a laugh and it’s guaranteed,” she says. 

“Paul has got funny bones. The script is fantastic — the one-liners are coming at you, they are brilliant. It reminds us all that it is important that we laugh at ourselves and that we don’t take things too seriously.” 

O’Carroll says that as a mother of four boys, ranging in age from six to 15, having the support of family, on stage and off, has been vital in sustaining her career but she is now relishing the opportunity to spread her wings.

“The beauty of working with my dad over the years was that it gave me an opportunity to do what I love, have great fun doing it but also to be a mum as well, which in our industry is a very hard thing to do.

"There is no other company that would allow you to take kids on tour. I was really looked after over the years but the kids are getting a bit older now, it’s time to branch out and do some new things, which the family is always supportive of.”

Mrs Brown herself made her first stage appearance in Cork, and Brendan O’Carroll has often spoken about the much-valued support of Cork audiences. Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Live Show had been slated for a slot at the Marquee in Cork in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic intervened.

“That was a massive disappointment for us all,” says Fiona O'Carroll. “It was a shock for everyone. There were tough times, and it’s ongoing. Even now when we’re on tour we have to be very careful. We can’t do our meet and greet with the fans after the show the way we normally would. That’s hard. But we all feel very grateful and blessed to be able to go back out there and continue doing what we do and still have an audience to play to. We are very lucky to have fans who have been extremely loyal.”

Johnny Ward, Fiona O'Carroll, Stephen O'Leary and Sarah Gordon in Copper Face Jacks: The Musical. Picture: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

O’Carroll has a busy time ahead; after Copper Face Jacks finishes, she will be recording the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas specials in October. She also has some other projects lined up which are under wraps for now.

“You will definitely be seeing me in other things that I am really excited about. They are very very different and completely out of my comfort zone. I even surprised myself that I said yes. That is the one thing that Covid hammered home for everybody, that we’re only here for a short time, you need to get out there and try new things. You can’t be living in fear, just get out there and give it a go.” 

Copper Face Jacks: The Musical is at the Olympia, Dublin until Aug 20; and Cork Opera House, Aug 23–28. 

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